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The Japan Times ST dated May 26 carried an Essay, titled: Citizen diplomacy.

Kip A. Cates dwells upon his experience when he attended an international conference on English education. At the hotel restaurant, Mr. Cates met three participants, who turned out to be North Koreans. They had gotten special permission to leave the country. Mr. Lee was a linguist. Mr. Pak was a Shakespeare expert and Mr. Kim was a good English speaker.

Mr. Cates and his colleague then came up with an idea, a chance of citizen diplomacy. They invited the North Korean teachers and several South Korean teachers to a Korean restaurant.

Amazingly, the dinner was a great success and everyone became friends! It was successful because all the people involved belonged to the same profession and both sides were curious about the respective neighboring country.

Another factor was alcohol, as the columnist recalls, "All Koreans like to drink!" As we slowly got drunk, the barriers of politics, ideology and prejudice fell away." They all finished by singing an emotional version of Arirang.

"The world needs more citizen diplomacy to counter the voices of nationalism, prejudice, fear and distrust," Mr. Cates writes, adding that "All they want is a life of peace. Just lie us!"
(Note: All names in this essay are pseudonyms.)


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