The Daily Manila Shimbun


INTERVIEW: Japan Olympic Minister Positive on N. Korea Joining Tokyo Games

November 8, 2018

Tokyo--Yoshitaka Sakurada, Japan's minister for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, has sounded positive on North Korea's plans to join the quadrennial sporting events.

"Generally speaking, it's desirable for the games to be participated by a number of countries," Sakurada said in a recent interview with media organizations including Jiji Press.

First, the International Olympic Committee, the North Korean Olympic committee and the Tokyo organizing committee for the 2020 Games will make necessary adjustments on North Korea's possible participation, Sakurada said, noting that the Japanese government will consider its response while keeping "a close tab" on the talks among these organizations.

Sakurada, who took up his current post in a cabinet reshuffle in early October, showed his hope that the issue of North Korea's abductions of Japanese nationals decades ago will be resolved before the 2020 Games.

"I hope that by the start of the Olympics, an environment will be created in which Japanese people are ready to accept North Korean athletes in an amicable manner," he said.

"The Olympic mood will be ruined if no Japanese clap or booing occurs" when North Korean athletes appear for the opening and closing ceremonies, Sakurada said.

"It's my dearest wish that the abduction issue will be resolved," he stressed.

The Tokyo Olympics are scheduled to take place from late July to early August 2020, and the Paralympics from late August to early September.

Sakurada said he will work on building momentum for the games and creating an inclusive society. Holding the second Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo, following the first games in the Japanese capital in 1964, will give a good impression to the world, he said.

"Also, I want to let the world see Japan strongly recovering from the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami," he said, noting that the coming Tokyo Games are dubbed the "Reconstruction Olympics and Paralympics."

Pointing out that Japan received support from all over the world for recovery from the 9.0-maginitude quake and subsequent huge tsunami that mainly hit the country's Tohoku northeastern region, the minister said that he wants people visiting Japan on the occasion of the Olympics and Paralympics to pay attention also to areas affected by the disaster.

In the disaster-hit areas, some people who are struggling to rebuild their lives are uncomfortable with the Reconstruction Olympics and Paralympics concept.

At a time when the whole of Japan is preparing for the Olympics and Paralympics, it is important to continue working for the games while being considerate of the feelings of people in disaster-hit areas so that they do not feel offended, Sakurada said.

Sakurada cited tourism as the ideal legacy of the 2020 Games, saying he hopes that Japan will continue to see a number of visitors from abroad after the Olympics and Paralympics.

"The opening and closing ceremonies will surely be exciting, but it's also important for Japan to make efforts for encouraging foreign visitors to tour regional areas and see the virtues of the country," Sakurada also said.

Noting that Japan won the race to host the 2020 Games by underscoring its readiness to treat visitors from abroad with the spirit of "omotenashi" traditional Japanese hospitality, Sakurada said, "I want visitors to feel that Japan has a great national character, Japanese people attach importance to civility and Japan is a country that deserves guests from across the world." Jiji Press