APEC Junior Conference begins full-scale discussions

by Junji Akechi, Staff Writer

With the participation of youths from the APEC member economies, the 2010 APEC Junior Conference in Hiroshima began its full-scale discussions on the second day, February 21, at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.

The 37 participants first learned about the damage wrought by the atomic bombing in Peace Memorial Park, and then listened to the keynote speech offered by American poet Arthur Binard. Referring to a Japanese "Rakugo" comic story and an American children's song, Mr. Binard spoke with good humor about the fun and power of language. He encouraged the participants to see through the deceptive language of politicians as well as use their imagination and explore a way of expression that rises from deep within their own hearts in order to pass on past experience, like the atomic bombings, to future generations.

Following the keynote address, the participants divided into four workshop groups and each group engaged in discussion on a particular topic. The topics were: the environment; education; intercultural communication/understanding; and trade, food and poverty. Minh Le, 16, from Vietnam, shared the situation of education in his country, saying, "Some schools have only desks and chairs but nothing else." He suggested that national budgets should provide funds for education, which is the foundation for the future.

The groups will continue their workshop discussions on February 22. They will also visit Miyajima Island in between these sessions. In downtown Hiroshima, the APEC Senior Officials' Meeting will also be held on February 22 and 23.

(Originally published on February 22, 2010)

APEC Junior Conference participants stunned by horrific devastation of atomic bombing

by Junji Akechi and Miho Kuwajima, Staff Writers

The young participants of the 2010 APEC Junior Conference in Hiroshima toured Peace Memorial Park to learn about the damage wrought by the atomic bombing. In the late afternoon of the same day, the participants of the APEC 2010 Senior Officials' Meeting I in Hiroshima, which will start on February 22, also visited Peace Memorial Museum.

Upon their visit to the museum in the afternoon, the 34 participants of the Junior Conference looked at the exhibits which include paper cranes folded by Sadako Sasaki, a girl who experienced the atomic bombing at the age of two and died at 12 due to leukemia induced by the bomb's radiation. Students at Funairi High School in Hiroshima gave them a guided tour in English around Peace Memorial Park.

Michelle Sim, 17, from Singapore, commented, "I was moved by the story of Sadako, who folded paper cranes believing she could get better. Her story has motivated me to do something for the cause of peace." With a grim look, Lin Jo-Hsuan, 17, from Chinese Taipei, said, "Visiting the museum made me feel as if I myself had experienced the atomic bombing." According to Ms. Lin, his grandmother has a relative who died as a result of the bombing of Hiroshima.

After the tour of the museum and the park, the participants listened to the testimony offered by Keijiro Matsushima, 81, in total silence. Mr. Matsushima described the devastation after the bombing in English. Pornpipat Kasemsap, 17, from Thailand, commented, "His message that nuclear weapons should never be used has touched my heart. I would like to share this experience with my family."

Among the participants of the Senior Officials' Meeting, 108 government officials and others from 14 member economies visited the former municipal baseball stadium where paper cranes are displayed as well as Peace Memorial Museum. Muhamad Noor Yacob, 58, executive director at the APEC Secretariat from Malaysia, remarked, "I have realized that peace is something people must make efforts to build. I would like to think about how to achieve prosperity, an important element for achieving peace, for the Asia-Pacific region."

(Originally published on February 22, 2010)

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