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Korean woman hugs in Japan to take heat out of ‘wasabi terror’

26 November 2016 No Comment

A Korean woman dressed in traditional attire has held her arms wide open for a hug in the middle of a busy street in Osaka, Japan, where anti-Korea sentiment has been running high recently.

A wooden sign in front of her read in Japanese: “I am Korean. Anti-Korea rally is taking place across the street. But I trust you. Would you like a hug?”

Her eyes were covered and nervousness was etched on her face.

Yoon Su-yeon stood on the street Monday to offer hugs to Japanese passersby.

A group of anti-Korea protesters marched behind her waving “Rising Sun” flags, a reminder of Japanese war crimes and imperial aggression during the Second World War. The use of the flag is considered heavily offensive in Korea, a Japanese colony from 1910 to 1945.

The video that captured the hugs ― released on YouTube on Monday ― showed curious Japanese people flocking around her. Nobody approached at first, but a young woman made the first move. Then, one after another, smiling people of all ages hugged her.

Her bold move got the attention of many, following long-running anti-Korea sentiment that has been increasing in Osaka in response to “wasabi terror.”

The incident unfolded in October when some Korean visitors accused a sushi restaurant in central Osaka of intentionally serving them excessive wasabi “to make fun of them.” The report sparked controversy on social media over whether the extra wasabi was a discriminatory and ill-intended act by the Japanese restaurant against Korean customers.

Other incidents followed in which Japanese allegedly attacked Koreans and damaged a Korean national flag by drawing cockroaches on it.

The Korean consulate general in Osaka even warned Korean visitors to be careful.

Meanwhile, the free-hug campaign to dispel such enmity was started by a Japanese man who also filmed Monday’s free hug. Koichi Kuwabara, 31, has been repeating the campaign across major cities of the two countries, including Busan in Korea and Kyoto in Japan, for the past five years. As the campaign grew, volunteers from both countries joined in. On his first outing in Korea in 2011, he reportedly hugged 100 people in three days.

The 2:30 minute YouTube video went viral on social media, with netizens commenting: “This is so touching,” “Love wins hatred” and “I feel grateful for their effort to bring the two countries together.”

The clip signs off with narration that resonates with both sides.

“Hatred doesn’t bring peace. We can stay together with smiling faces.

“Won’t you build our future together?”

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