Mr. MURAOKA Tsugumasa Governor of Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan
TCS: Please introduce the current CJK trilateral exchange projects your organization is participating in (exchange details, annual budget amount, number of participants, etc.).
Governor MURAOKA: Yamaguchi Prefecture conducts annual exchange projects with Shandong Province in China and South Gyeongsang Province in Korea, provinces with which Yamaguchi Prefecture has signed friendship and sister agreements. Until now, exchanges have been promoted in various areas, including holding environmental symposiums, cultural exchanges for college students, sports exchanges for high school students, and traditional entertainment festivals between the three regions. These exchange projects are supported by the participation and cooperation of various local residents, including relevant organizations, companies, and students in Yamaguchi Prefecture.
TCS: Is there background or motive to promote the trilateral exchange projects?
Governor MURAOKA: Shandong Province and Yamaguchi Prefecture signed a friendly and sister agreement in 1982, while Yamaguchi Prefecture and South Gyeongsang Province signed a friendly and sister agreement in 1987. However, in 1993, Shandong and South Gyeongsang Province signed a friendship agreement, establishing a three-way relationship between Shandong Province, Yamaguchi Prefecture, and South Gyeongsang Province. In the year of 1997, which marks the 15th anniversary of the signing of a friendship agreement between Shandong Province and Yamaguchi Prefecture and the 10th anniversary of the sister agreement between Yamaguchi Prefecture and South Gyeongsang Province, Yamaguchi Prefecture decided to launch a joint exchange project to promote regional cooperation and policy cooperation between the three regions.
TCS: What are the changes brought to the exchange projects due to the spread of COVID-19 pandemic?
Governor MURAOKA: Until now, exchange projects have been carried out in the host nation of the year by hosting locally in the region. However, due to COVID-19, which has prevented travel abroad, a new form of online project implementation has been introduced. Although the contents that can be implemented are limited compared to the local hosting, there were also advantages such as making it easier for cooperation with related organizations participating in the project.
TCS: Is there any new trilateral exchange area or project that has not been done before that you would like to start?
Governor MURAOKA: There is no specific area per se, but we would like to promote exchanges more actively in areas that the three regions are interested in or the common tasks we are facing. One of which has been focused lately is the welfare sector for the elderly.
TCS: Is there any impact of the trilateral exchange projects had on the relevant cities / region directly or indirectly? (i.e. changes in perception of other citizens, number of tourists, diversification of visitors, changes in the population of study abroad students, etc.)
Governor MURAOKA: It is difficult to accurately assess to what degree the exchange projects affected the number of tourists and international students because we are also conducting other inbound (foreigners' travel business) related projects. However, the organizations that were involved in the exchange projects shared positive experiences, such as "I now have a new perspective by getting to know measures taken by other countries," and "I was stimulated by experiences that I couldn't normally have." In addition, I think it has contributed to securing the international perspective of local residents and improving their understanding of other cultures.
TCS: What role should the government and TCS have to support in promoting the CJK trilateral exchanges?
Governor MURAOKA: In carrying out exchange projects, there are many cases where projects of other local governments are taken into account. In particular, research reports compiled by TCS are very useful for this purpose. I would like to ask you to continue to provide such information in the future. In addition, to reinforce CJK exchanges in the future, I think it is necessary to create an environment that leads to the promotion of exchange activities not only among local governments but also at the private level.
TCS: Please briefly introduce the trilateral exchange projects planned for 2022.
Governor MURAOKA: As an exchange project in 2022, Shandong Province is planning to host youth music exchange using traditional local musical instruments. Whether it will be held in Shandong Province or online format will be decided in the future in consideration of the COVID-19 situation.
TCS: A variety of exchanges are held between the trilateral local cities / prefectures each year, how are the meeting agenda and exchange events decided?
Governor MURAOKA: At the working-level meeting held during the annual exchange, we are making suggestions and coordinating the contents of the exchange for next year. While the current format is exchange event being hosted in rotation among three regions, the three regions often discuss the details of exchange such as the timing and method of implementation upon the proposal of exchange contents by the hosting region.
TCS: Yamaguchi Prefecture has been participating in CJK trilateral local exchanges since 1997, is there any notable achievement since then?
Governor MURAOKA: In 2014, as part of the youth sports exchange project in Shandong Province, a table tennis friendly exchange match was held which received great acclaim. The following year, youth basketball exchange projects were planned in South Gyeongsang Province and in 2017, youth exchange projects were continuously held in Yamaguchi Prefecture, with traditional youth entertainment stage performances led by college students. As such, it is very important for the younger generation to interact in various fields to understand each other and develop an international perspective in the future to strengthen cooperative relationships in the three regions, and we intend to provide this opportunity through youth exchanges.
TCS: Our understanding is that Yamaguchi Prefecture has conducted trilateral exchanges since signing bilateral friendly/sisterhood agreement with Shandong Province in China and South Gyeongsang Province in Korea respectively.

▶ What benefits or advantages are there in expanding to trilateral exchanges?

Governor MURAOKA: Through simultaneous trilateral exchanges in the three regions and countries, I think there was an opportunity to experience more diverse cultures and global perspectives in a single trilateral exchange project, and I also think there were advantages such as expanding the project and the scope of exchange.

▶ Compared to bilateral exchanges, what difficulties are there in trilateral exchanges and how did you overcome them?

Governor MURAOKA: Compared to bilateral exchanges, trilateral exchanges are often more difficult to make compromises in determining the contents of the project and adjusting the schedule. In addition, it is difficult for three regions to share information at the same time when communicating by e-mail or phone, which can also easily result in differences in perception. Therefore, I think it is important to make concerted efforts to communicate and coordinate after considering each party's situation.
TCS: You mentioned that there is ongoing discussion regarding exchanges of elderly welfare. Could you elaborate on the details of upcoming projects?
Governor MURAOKA: Although the discussion has yet to explore the details of the project, we are planning to establish an open platform where we can exchange information on welfare policies for the elderly in the future. In addition, as soon as the COVID-19 infection situation improves, a visiting group, including private-related organizations, will be dispatched to inspect welfare facilities for the elderly in each region.