Our morning began with an address from Mayor Moon Dong-Shin, who through a translator outlined the basic shape of our adopted city's history. Gunsan did not escape the notice of the Japanese during the 35 year colonial period, and the port was relied upon heavily for the export of great quantities of rice to Japan until 1945.
Mayor Moon spoke of his aspirations for the city and a desire for the area to move on from the past. Koreans have a very complicated relationship with the Japanese, the intricacies of which I could never hope to represent adequately here. It is fair to say however that the occupation continues to cast a deep shadow over the community - on more than one occasion I have had students launch into loud and lengthy tirades against the Japanese upon the merest mention of their eastern neighbours. With this in mind it was interesting that as well as the old customs house, the historical attractions chosen for the tour were a Japanese Buddhist temple and the Japanese-style Hirose House in Shinheung-dong.
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