New Japanese TV drama follows life, loves of UN refugee agency worker

28 May 2009

A new Japanese television drama hopes to reel in millions of viewers every week to follow the life and loves of a United Nations worker while also raising awareness of the world body’s work in assisting refugees around the world.

“Plastic Sheeting in the Wind,” to be broadcast on Japan’s public TV channel NHK in primetime on Saturday nights, will be shown over the next five weeks, beginning this Saturday.

It follows a fictional public information assistant named Rika Kudo, who joins the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) in a bid to improve the world and builds confidence in herself by overcoming obstacles and hardships.

She falls in love with and marries a UNHCR protection officer she meets on the job, only to part with him after he is reassigned to Sudan.

“I knew about refugees from TV news, especially on emergencies, but it was something that I would see as people suffering somewhere far away on the other side of the globe,” said actress Kazue Fukuiishi, who plays the main character.

“During the course of acting as UNHCR staff, I came to know much more about the people who are forced to flee and that there are refugees in Japan and that there is UNHCR – a name slightly difficult for a normal Japanese to pronounce – in Japan, trying to make people’s lives much better.”

The drama highlights the dangers that aid workers can face in conflict zones, as well as opportunities and challenges that asylum-seekers and refugees face in Japan, which is now UNHCR’s third-largest donor.

On World Refugee Day, marked on 20 June, the actors and film crew will take part in a UNHCR-backed event at UN University (UNU) in Tokyo, where the real UNHCR office is situated.

At the “No Home, Yes Hope” symposium, participants will discuss how they feel about dealing with refugee issues in front of an audience that will include viewers of “Plastic Sheeting in the Wind.”

According to UNHCR, Japan has been a key supporter of refugees since the major influx of Indochinese in the late 1970s. Last year, the East Asian nation announced it will become the first nation in the region to accept refugees for resettlement under a pilot programme set to kick off next year.

 

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