Translator wins first prize for travel essay written in Korean: Reflecting on “Peace” at the DMZ

by Miho Kuwajima, Staff Writer

Ayako Yoshida, 48, translator and resident of Asaminami Ward, Hiroshima, has received first prize in the Korean travel essay category of the Korea-Japan Exchange Essay Contest. The contest was organized by the Korean Cultural Center of the Korean Embassy in Tokyo, Japan. Ms. Yoshida wrote, in Korean, about how “peace,” as a word is understood based on its association to certain locations like Hiroshima and the Korean demilitarized zone (DMZ), for example. The DMZ divides the Korean Peninsula.

Ms. Yoshida’s essay focused on her feelings and experience while on the DMZ Peace Tour segment of an international exchange program held in Korea this past February. At the Unification Observatory in Gangwon Province (northeast South Korea), she was so moved by the beauty of the sea on the North Korean side, she found herself instinctively raising her arms in the air for a photograph. Later, a local guide told her not to take the DMZ site lightly. Ms. Yoshida immediately regretted this oversight, and in her essay shared a similar sentiment—she too, had mixed feelings about tourists making the V-sign while being photographed in front of the A-bomb Dome.

She also wrote about how she felt the word “peace” was deeply connected with the word “unification” in South Korea. And, how people in Hiroshima uniquely associate the phrase “the atomic bomb” with the word “peace.” She concluded her essay, saying, “There is something about a location and it’s people that you simply cannot learn unless you visit.”

Ms. Yoshida’s essay received high evaluation as “having sent a message of peace by comparing the pain of Japanese and South Korean histories,” and was chosen for first prize among 66 entries in the travel essay category.

Ms. Yoshida began her study of Korean eight years ago—an interest inspired by an appreciation of Korean TV dramas. During that time, she also studied for a master’s degree from Hiroshima City University, while concurrently working as a translator of Japanese articles into English with Chugoku Simbun’s Hiroshima Peace Media Center. The focus of Ms. Yoshida’s master’s, which she earned this spring, was the comparative study of English education in Japan and South Korea.

Though relations between Japanese and South Korean governments are tense now, Ms. Yoshida said, “What is important is the bonds people form with one another. To help facilitate such bonds, I’d like to share messages about Japan with Koreans in Korean.”

(Originally published on September 30, 2019)