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Activity Report of Open Application Course vol11

SAKURA Exchange Program in Science in Kyushu: Building bonds between Japan and Korea

Report by Junji Shiraishi, Faculty of Life Sciences at Kumamoto University

"SAKURA Science in Kyushu" was held at Kumamoto Univ. School of Health Sciences from August 21 to August 28, 2017. Ten students and one faculty member were invited from the Department of Environmental Health Science at Korea University, a school which has an interdepartmental cooperation agreement with Kumamoto Univ. The program featured classes which enabled students to deepen their understanding of various radiation (medical, environment, and space) which surround human beings, and become familiar with related research.

1. Program overview

Korea Univ. is Korea's second largest private university, second only to Seoul National University.

An interdepartmental exchange agreement (consummated in 2010 and renewed in 2015) has been formed between the School of Health Sciences at Kumamoto Univ. and the Kumamoto Health Science University and the Department of Bio-convergence Engineering (currently the Department of Environmental Health Science) at Korea Univ. Almost every year, undergraduate students from Kumamoto Univ. participated in short-term programs at Korea Univ. Also, our university has accepted a total of ten students from Korea Univ. for short-term foreign study programs lasting one year.

For the recent program, ten particularly outstanding students were selected from the laboratory of Professor Honghyok Kim at the Department of Environmental Health Science. From the perspective of environmental health science and radiation technology science, Korea students learned about the theme of understanding "environmental radiation." Furthermore, Korean students confirmed the safety of studying at Kumamoto Univ. by actually seeing the status of reconstruction from the severe damage caused by the Kumamoto Earthquakes of April 2016.

2. Program results

Upon arriving in Japan, students from Korea Univ. were greeted at Kumamoto Airport. The group immediately boarded a chartered bus and headed for Kagoshima. The first half of the program was spent in the Kagoshima and Tanegashima areas of southern Kyushu. Environmental radiation measurement equipment brought from Kumamoto Univ. were used to measure the environmental radiation in each area. Students gained an understanding of how environmental radiation is affected by volcanoes, coastlines, and other differences in topography and altitude.

One the day that they arrived in Japan, the Korean students spent the night in Kagoshima. On the morning of the second day, they visited Sakurajima. None of the students had ever seen an active volcano before. The students were thrilled to see plumes of volcanic smoke rising high into the air.

Photograph taken in front of the Sakurajima crater

After obtaining samples on Sakurajima for use in measurement of environmental radiation, the students toured the island. In the afternoon, they took a high-speed ferry from Kagoshima Port to Tanegashima. Advance reservations had been made for a tour of Tanegashima Space Center on the third day of the program. Students had the good fortune of being able to tour the launch control room and the storage condition of the rocket launch pad that had been used about one week prior. After touring the Space Center, students acquired samples for measuring environmental radiation from the famous coastline area of Chikuranoiwaya.

At Tanegashima Space Center

On the fourth day, students departed their hotel in the morning and took a high-speed ferry from Nishi-no-Omote Port to Kagoshima Port. After arriving in Kagoshima, they boarded a chartered bus to head to Kumamoto, the location of our university.

On the fifth day, students took a chartered bus to the Mashiki and Aso regions of Kumamoto. In these regions, students confirmed the status of reconstruction from damage caused by the Kumamoto Earthquakes, and obtained samples for measurement of environmental radiation. In Mashiki, signs of damage could still be seen in some buildings and roadside structure. Reconstruction was proceeding well near the grounds of Mashiki Citizens Center and Aso-Nishi Elementary School, where students obtained samples. However, when students stopped for lunch as Aso Shrine, they could see graphic signs of damage at Aso Shrine. These sights caused the students to recognize the power of the Kumamoto Earthquakes.

Obtaining samples on the grounds of Aso-Nishi Elementary School

On the return trip from Aso, the group was treated to a spectacular natural panorama of Mt. Daikanbo. Since it was their first time visiting the Aso region, the Korean students were left speechless by the beauty and scale of the scenery.

After returning from Aso, the group visited the Kurokami region which is the site of Kumamoto Univ. The group received a campus tour from staff at the International Strategy Unit. Korean students looked at the exterior of the Memorial Museum of the Fifth High School and the Chemical Proving Grounds, which is a nationally-designated Important Cultural Property. These facilities are currently closed due to the effect of the Kumamoto Earthquakes. This concluded the fifth day of the program.

Mt. Daikanbo in the Aso region
Memorial Museum of the Fifth High School (Kumamoto Univ.)

On the morning of the sixth day, all research students gathered at the Isotope Science Center in the Honjo region next to the School of Health Sciences. At the Center, students conducted radiation measurement for samples which they gathered in regions throughout Kyushu and for sample stored at Kumamoto Univ.

During the experiment, Korean students were assisted by instructors from the Faculty of Life Sciences. Also serving as TAs (teaching assistants) were graduate students from the Graduate School of Health Sciences. Students from Korea Univ. divided into four groups. Each group conducted experiments based on their respective themes.

None of the measuring equipment at the Isotope Science Center is available at Korea Univ. Korean students used the precision equipment to take measurements and to visually confirm the images of radiation. This enabled students to increase their understanding of radiation, and to learn that unnecessary fear of radiation is not needed.

Conducting experiments with radiation equipment (1)
Conducting experiments with radiation equipment (2)

On the seventh and final day of the training, students gathered at a building of the Kumamoto Univ. School of Health Sciences. Based on data acquired from experiments on the previous day, students created slides for presenting results. In the afternoon, all students gave English-language presentations on environmental radiation. At the completion ceremony held after the presentations, Dean Yoshinaga (Education) presented each student with completion certificates and commemorative gifts. A certificate of gratitude and commemorative gift were also presented to Professor Honghyok Kim from the School of Health Sciences.

Student giving a presentation
Dean Yoshinaga and a happy student from Korea Univ. holding her completion certificate

Since the program had been so busy, students were given free time on the morning of the eighth day. Students enjoyed their free time and then caught their airplane back to Korea in the afternoon.

3. Future aspirations

After the program, we received letters of gratitude from students who had returned to Korea. All of the students truly enjoyed participating in the program. Several students wrote that they would cherish the memory for their entire life. One of the participating students has already been accept as a foreign student at the School of Health Sciences from next April.

In February, eleven undergraduate students from Kumamoto Univ. will visit Korea Univ. for a short-term training program. Although our universities have always had an outstanding relationship, the SAKURA Science has made our bounds even stronger. We look forward to even more active exchange between students and faculty in the future.

Korea Univ. is one of the finest universities in Korea. Spending time with students from Korea Univ. was a very meaningful experience for Kumamoto Univ. students. In addition to acquiring an international perspective, the training program was an outstanding opportunity for students to reflect on true Japan-Korea relations which cannot be grasped from television or mass media reports.

Through the support of the SAKURA Science, Korean students were able to fully experience the appeal of Kumamoto and Kyushu. Kumamoto Univ. will continue to actively hold these kinds of educational and academic exchange activities. We look forward to continuing to foster countless friendships between students from different countries.

Activity Report