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Fourth Trip to South Korea and Lecture on Child Science at Chinju National University of Education

I recently visited South Korea for the fourth time. My first visit was in the late 1960s when I was an assistant professor at the University of Tokyo which was then wracked by student protests, and I attended a medical education seminar in Seoul hosted by World Health Organization. My second visit was in the early 1970s when, as professor at the University of Tokyo, I was invited to give a talk in Seoul on immunopathology of nephritis by the Korean Pediatric Society. For my third visit, I was again invited by the Korean Pediatric Society, but this time, I presented a lecture on primary immune deficiency disorders as president of the International Pediatric Association and later traveled to the southern part of the country. On my fourth and most recent trip, I went to South Korea, not as a physician, but to present the ideas of Child Science at the invitation of the Chinju National University of Education.

My first trip in nearly thirty years, I stayed for four days from May 25 in Seoul and the southern coastal town of Chinju. This opportunity started with a plan to establish a Child Science research center and foundation to support research at the Chinju National University of Education. In the course of conducting various surveys, the university learned of the International Center for Child Studies at Konan Women's University, most probably by the Internet, and contacted the institution which I had helped found, which then led to my visit. It was something that could only be possible in our age of information technology.

After retiring from my post as director of the National Children's Hospital in 1996, I began working to realize ideas that I had discussed at an international conference in Bergen, Norway in 1992. These included establishing an international network of researchers and practitioners in child-related fields, systemizing what I call "Child Science," and ensuring its wider understanding through conferences and other academic meetings. Amid these developments, for a short time after retirement, I had the opportunity to lecture on Child Science at Konan Women's University and to establish the International Center for Child Studies there. And interestingly, that led to the good fortune of my recent trip to South Korea.

As you know, the internet-based network that I had been advocating became Child Research Net, and the Japanese Society of Child Science has now become the venue for discussion of Child Science. And both are active in addressing children's issues from the perspective of Child Science and expanding its reception.

Regrettably I am not able to speak Korean, so I delivered my address in Japanese, and with the fortunate help of a very competent interpreter, it seemed to be well communicated. I stressed the necessity of Child Science for research and studies of child issues. Child Science is a human science that treats child issues in an interdisciplinary and comprehensive manner. Those of you who are familiar with CRN are already acquainted with this approach, and I hope that it will also be well-received in South Korea, too.

On this trip, I was most struck by the affluence in South Korea. With economic development, cities have become clean and beautiful and people appeared cheerful. During my trip in the late sixties, we were not allowed to leave the hotel at night because of martial law. Of course, in the 1970s and 1980s, the country seemed rich and the mood bright to some extent, but it was nothing compared to what I encountered on this trip. On my trip to the south in the 1980s, the highway that I took from Seoul to Pusan passed though Taegu, and this time it looked the same, at least, part of the way. From the car window, I could see small towns and villages nestled in green forests and the church crosses amid the red roofs. It was the same landscape as before.

Chinju is calm and quiet town with a population of 340,000 and a thriving, clean textile industry. It is also a very educational town with six universities. Chinju National University of Education is one of leading universities for education of elementary school teachers. It boasts a long history and tradition as a university of education. It began as a normal school during the colonial period under Japanese rule, and was established as a university in 1963 with a two-year program that was reorganized as a four-year program in 1983.

Chinju's relationship with Japan also has a long history involving two sieges of Chinju castle during the invasions of Korea by Hideyoshi. During the invasion, a Korean woman gave her life by wrapping her arms around a Japanese commander and plunging into the river from a high promontory. Her sacrifice is credited with leading to eventual victory and a bronze statue quietly marks the spot. I only hope that such tragedies of war will be never happen again.

During my travels to South Korea, I am always struck by its old buildings and towns and how similar they look and feel to those in Japan. That, of course, can be explained by history. This trip, I was very surprised that so many people came to speak Japanese well, in particular, university students, many of whom had studied in Japan. My trip made me often think of what Japan had done to the people of the Korean peninsula over a long period of time. I would like to see the relationship between the two peoples deepen through Child Science.

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