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Last Updated: Saturday, 14 February, 2004, 15:28 GMT
Japanese sumo returns to S Korea
Charles Scanlon
Charles Scanlon
BBC correspondent in Seoul

An unidentified Japanese sumo wrestler lifts young boys in sumo outfits prior to an exhibition tournament  in Seoul
A near-capacity crowd of 5,000 watched the event in Seoul
Top Japanese sumo wrestlers have been performing in South Korea for the first time since the country was liberated from Japanese colonial rule.

For decades after the end of the occupation in 1945, performances of Japanese culture were banned in South Korea.

The two-day tournament follows a gradual lifting of restrictions on Japanese cultural imports.

From 1 January, Japanese pop music has also been permitted in South Korea.

Several thousand Koreans turned out at an indoor stadium in central Seoul to see the country's first sumo tournament in half a century.

Some came out of curiosity.

The sport is not well-known in a country that has long shunned cultural contact with its neighbour.

Others came out of nostalgia. One man in his 70s said he had last seen sumo in 1942 when Korea was still part of the Japanese empire.

Old animosities

Former prime ministers of the two countries were there to give official blessing to the tournament, an attempt to ease long-standing animosity through sporting and cultural links.

The gargantuan Japanese wrestlers began the contest with mock fights against Korean schoolboys.

South Korea has been phasing out long-standing restrictions on Japanese culture imposed because of anger at the years of colonial rule.

Japanese pop music has been selling well since the beginning of the year when an official ban was lifted, but for all the progress, old animosities persist.

Koreans still resent Japanese efforts to whitewash their colonial history and there is lingering tension over a disputed island halfway between the two countries.


SEE ALSO:
Korea's pop diplomacy
14 Nov 02  |  Asia-Pacific



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