A group of Korean citizens is campaigning to have Tokyo dropped as a venue for the 2020 summer Olympic games, the Yukan Fuji (July 2) reports. The group, called VANK (an acronym for Voluntary Agency Network of Korea), has written to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and has also been circulating an online petition to thwart Tokyo’s selection.
VANK’s web site (http://korea.prkorea.com/wordpress/english/) describes itself as a “cyber diplomatic organization” with 70,000 members, who harbor “the dream of becoming cyber diplomats to let the world know about Korea and carry the vision of ‘Korea, as being the hub of Asia and gateway to Northeast Asia; along with being a country which shares its dream, friendship and business with all people around the world.’”
Via about 400 club chapters, VANK youth members claim to be achieving their goal “by teaching others about Korea through various activities.”
The Yonhap news agency and various Korean publications reported that in a letter sent on April 5, VANK appealed to the International Olympic Committee, raising the matter of anti-Korean demonstrations in Tokyo and Osaka by ultranationalist groups as prime examples of Japan’s “discriminatory” demonstrations, which it claims “contradict the IOC’s stated principles of Peace and Humanism.” The letter to the IOC included clippings of coverage on this topic by the New York Times, Washington Post and CNN.
VANK’s president, Park Ki-Tae, 39, was conferred with a presidential award in February of this year. Park denounced the demonstrations in Japan as “... fomenting the world’s fear of war, and evoking a revival of the imperialism that left behind wounds to people in neighboring countries that linger to this day.”
No less a figure than Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, when questioned during budget deliberations in the Diet, has expressed disapproval of the noisy anti-Korean demonstrations, saying “remarks that advocate the expulsion of a certain nationality or people from Japan are extremely regrettable,” and adding that “The Japanese people place importance on peace and are not xenophobic.”
Despite the campaign by VANK to eliminate Japan as host city for the Olympics, Yukan Fuji points out that on numerous past occasions, Korean athletes have been criticized for episodes of ill-mannered, unsportsmanlike behavior at international sports events, including the Olympics, World Baseball Classic and others.
Tokyo is now believed to hold the advantage in the selection for the 2020 games, due in part to the ongoing antigovernment demonstrations in contending city Istanbul. The IOC plans to announce its decision at its upcoming meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Sept 7, at which Abe is expected to deliver a final appeal on Tokyo’s behalf.
“South Korea believes it is superior to Japan both spiritually and culturally,” says Mitsuhiro Suganuma, a former official in Japan’s national security apparatus who is knowledgeable about Korean affairs. “For a while, when Samsung was on the ascendency and Japan’s major electronics firms were hurting badly, some sympathy was voiced by Koreans. But now it’s Korea’s economy that’s facing a crisis as Japan’s economy continues to recover under Abenomics.
“Since the Korean government has poured big funds into lobbying efforts,” Suganuma continues, “it exerts a certain amount of influence on international society.” He warns that efforts by South Korea to undermine Japan’s Olympics prospects might seriously impact the relationship between the two countries.
“Actually, one of the IOC committee members is North Korean, and even he is favorably disposed toward Tokyo,” claims Suganuma, who added, “The Japanese side ought to move quickly and contact him.”