- Speaking at the Border/Will These Words Reach . . .
Cho Haejoang’s First Letter
You are traveling again, Chizuko
The person I know you to be has always been traveling, or with women who are traveling. And I am one of those women who travels with you. It always makes me feel both happy and heavy to think of you as a “nomadic woman intellectual,” who as a woman, for women, engages in women’s writing.
I read the letter you sent from Croatia all at once. Even without having been there, I can hear what you will have said in the lecture you gave with the title “Hiroshima from a Feminist Perspective: Between War Crimes and the Crime of War.” I can also see you with all your senses alert as you strained to see the reactions of your audience. You, who are always giving public lectures as you travel all over the world, possess conviction and passion that are astonishing.
The world has really become such a mess that these days I’ve almost given up on giving public lectures. Instead, I go to very small meetings, at which I don’t have to scrutinize the reactions of the audience. When questions like the one in your letter are thrown out—“who on earth brought the world to this state that it is in?”—we are not at an age where we can dodge this arrow. I have taken to heart how difficult it is, even if I do decide to say something, for my words to have any effect, as they did in the old days. And so I have come to avoid public [End Page 56] lectures more and more. I am happy at this moment because I can write this letter in reply to you while I take in the morning’s energy and listen to Glenn Gould play Brahms’s Rhapsody in C Minor.
Yes, we met in the spring of 1988 at an international anthropology conference held in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, didn’t we? But to be honest, my memory of you from then is not that clear. The image of you that remains most vividly in my memory is rather from our second meeting in Tokyo, in the spring of 1990. It was a trip made possible by the Japan Foundation, which invited me on an all-expenses-paid tour of Japan, inclusive of an excellent interpreter, so that I could explore it to my heart’s content. I did hesitate a little—having grown up in a household with strong anti-Japanese sentiments—but I eventually accepted the offer. There were three things that I wanted to accomplish during my two-week trip: one was to visit Okinawa, another was to drop by Japanese elementary and middle schools, and a third was to meet feminists such as yourself.
At that time, you were teaching at a private college in Kyoto. You took me to a feminist bookstore in Kyoto and introduced me to Nakanishi, the teacher who led the Koreishakai o yokusuru joseino kai.1 In the evening, you took me to a small classroom on a university campus in the central part of the city. I remember spending that night at your home. I think it was a villa with high ceilings and an open study. You were living with a partner who played music and spoke of attending medical school, and that night I remember us all having a really delightful conversation. The fact is that looking at your living situation with your partner, I had the thought that Japanese women lived much more freely than Korean women.
Was it the next day that we took a train to your hometown, Kanazawa?2 I was doing research related to local self-government and “reinventing tradition,” and the “Foodtopia” local festival at Kanazawa provided an excellent case study for anthropological research. We also visited the girls’ high school from which you had graduated. Your principal and teachers greeted you warmly, and you told great stories to encourage [End Page 57] young students gathered...