Korean woman travels through Japan giving free hugs

Korean woman travels through Japan giving free hugs

Su-yeon Yoon (left) giving a hug with a big smile on the afternoon of November 4 on Kokusai Dori in Naha

November 5, 2019 Ryukyu Shimpo

“The Japanese people I saw in the media and actual Japanese people are different,” says Su-yeon Yoon, who came to Japan as an exchange student and also worked at a hotel in Okinawa.

Yoon has been engaged in a free-hug campaign travelling through all the islands of Japan for the sake of Japan-Korea friendship. On November 4, she reached her goal at Kokusai Dori in Naha, where she hugged Okinawans walking down the street.

Yoon first started giving out free hugs in 2015.

The Korean media tended to show Japanese people engaging in hate speech and harboring anti-Korean sentiment, but “when I actually met [Japanese people], that wasn’t the case,” she says.

After that, she started giving out free hugs all over Japan on and off. Her most recent free hug campaign started in Hokkaido on October 19, and she visited a total of 15 locations.

Yoon marched down Kokusai Dori wearing a chima jeogori and holding signs saying, “I am Korean. Can I give you a hug?” and “Free Hugs for Japan-Korea Friendship.”

Sometimes Okinawans walking by and people who knew of her activities from SNS stopped to give her a hug.

Her former co-worker, Yu Miyahira, 21, said, “At work, having Yoon there made me feel motivated. Yoon is able to turn her words into action. I want to learn from her.”

At 6 p.m. on November 4, Yoon, having finished her free hug campaign, said, “I had the support of many Japanese people.

I think that an important thing for Japan-Korea relations is for us to convey our unaffected emotions.”

She emphasized the importance of human connection amidst what has been said to be the worst state of Japan-Korea relations since the end of World War II.

(English translation by T&CT and Sandi Aritza)

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