A chart of 808 commonly used Chinese characters in China, Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK) were released on Tuesday at the ongoing ninth session of the Northeast Asia Trilateral Forum to promote communication among the three countries.
"As long as they know those 808 Chinese characters, people from the three countries can communicate without barriers," said Ji Baocheng, former president of Renmin University of China and initiator of the project.
Chinese characters are the common historical and cultural heritage of China, Japan and the ROK and are an important link in promoting cultural communication among the three countries, said Ji.
Representatives from the three sides have agreed to promote the list of Chinese characters in schools, tourism venues, important gatherings, city roads, public venues and even product specifications, according to Ji.
Sohn Jie-ae, former president of the Korea International Broadcasting Foundation, said she will learn these Chinese characters as a model for fellow Koreans.
"The chart should not only be promoted in universities, but should target younger groups, allowing ROK children to have more Chinese and Japanese friends," she said.
Some Japanese experts suggested the chart should be used in international sports competitions and meetings.
"The chart of commonly used Chinese characters should be used in the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics and the 2018 Pyeongchang (a city in the ROK) Winter Olympics," said Kitaoka Shinichi, president of the International University of Japan.
Ji posed the idea of publishing the list in 2010 at the fifth session of the Northeast Asia Trilateral Forum, a regional platform with political, business and academic experts from the three countries.
Scholars from the three countries finally reached an agreement in October 2013 to publish the 808 traditional Chinese characters.
"The characters chosen are frequently used in all three countries," said Zhao Tong, an assistant professor from the School of Liberal Arts at Renmin University of China.
Chinese characters are ideographic, meaning that even without knowing the language, people from different countries can communicate through the characters, said Zhao.
If they master the 808 characters, people can understand 80 percent of the billboards in the Chinese language in the three countries, he said.
China, Japan and ROK share unique languages using writing systems vastly different from Western alphabets. The three languages are deeply connected, and some characters are exactly the same across languages.
Chinese people who travel to Japan find that although they cannot understand Japanese when listening to it, they sometimes can guess the meaning when reading it, as some characters have retained their original Chinese meaning.
The Northeast Asia Trilateral Forum, co-sponsored by China's Xinhua News Agency, Japan's Nikkei news group and the ROK's JoongAng Ilbo, has been held alternately in the three countries since 2006.