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Editorials from Dailies
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(EDITORIAL from the Korea Herald on Aug. 5)
Icy ties with Japan
Japanese politicians urged to reflect on history

There are few signs of a thaw in Korea’s frozen relations with Japan as Aug. 15, the anniversary of liberation for Koreans and that of surrender for the Japanese, approaches. On the contrary, the bilateral ties are worsening with leading Japanese politicians ruffling the feathers of Korean people by making senseless remarks and taking ill-conceived actions.

   A case in point is the aftermath of the July 28 soccer match in Seoul, during which South Koreans unfurled a banner that read, “There is no future for people that have forgotten their past.” Not many would say the action that alluded to the denial of Japanese wartime atrocities by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government was appropriate for a sports event.

   Even so, Japanese Education Minister Hakubun Shimomura went too far when he criticized the Korean soccer supporters. In referring to the incident, he called into question the level of the Korean people’s consciousness while turning a blind eye to thoughtless Japanese soccer fans waving wartime rising-sun flags during the same match ― a symbol to the Korean people of Japan’s militarism and colonialism.

   Before taking issue with the Korean people’s level of consciousness, the Japanese education minister could have wondered aloud at what level of consciousness Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso was when he reportedly said, while referring to the Abe government’s move to amend the constitution: “(The Nazis) did it in a ‘let’s-keep-it-quiet’ manner, and the Weimar constitution was changed almost before people realized it. Why don’t we learn from the method?”
Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party is seeking to revise the Japanese constitution, focusing on war-renouncing Article 9. By changing the article, the proponents of constitutional revision argue, Japan as a normal state should regain its right to collective self-defense. Indeed, collective self-defense is an “inherent right” of a state, as is stipulated by the U.N. Charter.

   Still, the Korean people have a great deal of apprehension about Japan’s move to amend the constitution, all the more so given Aso’s remarks that remind them of the colonial occupation of Korea by Japan, a nation that was allied with Nazi Germany as a member of the Axis powers.

   Those who believe the Korean people’s apprehension is misplaced are urged to draw their attention to a remark made by Abe that there was no established definition of invasion, either academically or internationally. This remark, though retracted later, alluded to his denial of the colonialist Japan’s aggression against Korea and other Asian nations.

   One of the latest moves to offend the Korea people was the polling of opinion among Japanese on the rocky Korean islets in the East Sea, Dokdo, whose outcome the Japanese government released last week. Did it mean to justify its claim to Dokdo just because a majority of Japanese, 60.7 percent to be more precise, saw it as Japan’s territory in terms of history and law?

   After all, the advice from the South Korean soccer fans was not fundamentally misplaced, although it might not have been suitable for a sports event. As advised, Japanese leaders will do well to reflect on history.

  (END)
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