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Japan picks 'North' as 2017 symbol amid N Korea threat

Kanji character for 'North' chosen as defining symbol of 2017, reflecting unease over North Korea's nuclear programme.

Seihan Mori

Japan has chosen the Chinese character for "North" as its traditional defining symbol of 2017 after a series of launches of North Korean missiles, several of which plunged into the Pacific Ocean near Japan's territorial waters.

Japanese TV stations on Tuesday broadcast the annual announcement, in which Seihan Mori, master of the ancient Kiyomizu temple in Kyoto, wrote the Kanji character on a white panel using an calligraphy brush.

Kanji are the adopted Chinese characters that are used in the Japanese writing system, along with other types of alphabets.

The choice of "North" as this year's defining symbol reflects unease over North Korea's nuclear weapons programme, the Japan Kanji Aptitude Testing Foundation, the event organiser, said in a statement. 

"It was the year in which people felt threatened and anxious by North Korea following repeated ballistic missile launches and a nuclear test," the statement said. 

At the end of every year, the general public votes for a Chinese character they think embody the key news and events of the previous 12 months.

A total of 7,104 people out of 153,594 voted for the character "North".

A 38-year-old woman from northern Fukushima prefecture who voted for the character said she was "constantly scared of North Korean missiles".

"Our generation never experienced war ... What if a missile actually falls on Japan? It is horrifying," she said, according to the organiser.

Last year, Japan picked "gold" to celebrate the success of Japanese athletes winning gold medals at the Rio Olympics.

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