visit of Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi to Korea
was an unsuccessful formal meeting. Each
leader stood their ground in issues that were most
important to them - with the main issue being that
of Koizumi's visits to the Yakusuni Shrine.
South Korean President Noh asked Prime Minister
Koizumi to stop visiting the shrine, which has
memorialized 14 "Class A" war
criminals. Also, he demanded the separation
of the war criminals from the soldiers who died in
Minister's answers were to refuse to stop visiting
the shrine and also he would consider separating
the war criminals from the other soldiers.
Although Koizumi stated he would consider a new
memorial without war criminals, it is very
unlikely he will.
Japanese don't understand the controversy.
Why are South Korea and China so adamant about
stopping the visits? A visit to the Yakusuni
Shrine is just like an American visit to the
Arlington Cemetary. Also, many Americans
don't quite grasp this issue. The simplest
way to describe this issue is to compare
relationship between Japan and the countries they
previously invaded (China and Korea in particular)
is very tenuous at best.
attempt to have a permanent seat on the UN
Security Council, an oil-drilling rights
disagreement, and the textbook controversy (which
hasn't gone away and won't for some time), China
has reacted with a vengeance. From Tianjin
and Beijing to Shanghai, the outrage has been visible
with anti-Japanese demonstrations turning
violent. The Japanese
though, aren't buying that these protests aren't
sanctioned by the Chinese government because there
were no attempts to stop the violence.
although peacefully demonstrating, are also upset
with Japan - there is call for boycotting all
things Japanese. In addition to their
dissatisfaction with Japan's nonchalance about the
war and the watered-down history in their school
textbooks, they're very upset about Japan's intent
to claim Korea's Tokdo Island as their own.
The crux of
the issue is that when Japan invaded China during
WWII, a path of murder, rape and
destruction was left behind...and they've never
apologized for it or acted truly repentant.
same can be said for Korea. They were dealt
the same blow by the Japanese, with their women
forced to be prostitutes for the Japanese soldiers,
as well as many other atrocities (slave labor, for
one), with no recourse
Now that China has a little more
clout with it's economy, it's not letting Japan
push it over...and Japan is not willing to let
China control them.
tension over the textbook controversy, in which
Japan glosses over it's brutal history in regard
to other countries, it seems they would be more
careful in their actions. But this was not
the case in August 2001, when Prime Minister
Junichiro Koizumi visited the Yakusuni Shrine ~one that honors
Japanese soldiers who died during war (for the
emperor), which includes numerous war criminals.
In an attempt to appease China and South Korea,
Koizumi didn't go on August 15 (the anniversary of
Japan's surrender in World War II), but made a
last minute announcement on the 13th that he was
going that day. This still incensed
China and South Korea, but to a lesser degree than
to the yearly ritual at the Yakusuni shrine,
another issue has been a thorn in Asia's
side. That of the Japanese textbook.
The textbook issue has been simmering for years,
with outcries of rage from China and Korea
regarding the glossing over of Japan's aggressive
invasions and subsequent brutality.
Japan feel that to have a "too dark"
view of history is not acceptable, whereas others
feel a true account of their past will help
prevent a re-occurrence in the
future. Of course, the countries
who citizens were killed, brutalized, maimed and
raped, think nothing but the truth is best.
light of hope for Korea is that Korean and
Japanese women's rights organizations have been
working together. Their goal is to develop an alternative history
book that details the truth about Japan's invasion
of Korea and its effect on the women, namely those
forced to be "comfort women."
Unlike the Japanese government approved textbook, this one will not
"whitewash" historical facts.
bring to light some very interesting questions
about Japan's motives. What is their reason
for honoring war criminals? What is their
reason for glossing over their history of
aggressively invading other countries?
For what reason, do they want to have a permanent
seat on the U.N. Security Council? What is their
reason for an unrepentant attitude?
some of the answers can be found within Japan
itself. The past few years have seen Japan
with a sluggish economy. Not only are they having
economic issues, there are personal and social
issues to be dealt with. The Japanese people
themselves are not happy with their lives and one
indication of this is that they have the world's
highest suicide rate. As with any country, there
is great nationalist pride. This pride has
seemed to diminish recently by lower than usual
school test scores by OECD.
matters worse, Korea is becoming a very popular
place for many Japanese to visit. Korean
melodramas are making a big splash in Japan, doing
more than any sappy political official meeting to
repair the breech between the two countries.
All things Korean (actors and actresses,
especially ~ Yonsama, anyone?) are beloved by
many of the public. Tours to Korea are
shocking everyone with their increased frequency
in the past few years.
China on the
other hand has become a force to be reckoned with,
economically and even more surprisingly,
politically. Just recently, China has
overtaken Japan as the third largest
exporter...and Japan won't take it sitting
does Japan have to be concerned with China, Korea
is knocking...rather knocking down...the door to
technological superiority. Samsung and LG
are becoming household names to many in the cell
phone sector. Hyundai cars are well-built,
well-warranted, well-priced competitors to Japan's
more expensive, albeit better branded,
counterparts. Japan's innovation has slowed
down, at a time when they can't afford it.
Instead of being on the cutting edge of electronic
technology and the automotive industry, they seem
to have been caught twiddling their
all this have to do with textbooks, war
atrocities, oil-drilling rights, and
shrines? Well, with the Japanese government
quickly losing face along with a lackluster
economy, they have to shift the attention from
themselves to others. Reuniting their people
and re-establishing a strong nationalism, without
diluting it with other Asian influences, might be
the end goal for the Japanese government.
This can be accomplished by bringing attention to
the distrust and wariness China and Korea have
How will the
Japanese government wield their power in the
U.N.? Many in Asia fear that the power will
be abused to further Japan's cause, whatever that
may be. Although Japan seems to feel 60
years is plenty of time to "get over"
the invasions, it's still too soon for
supporting Japan's inclusion, but I wonder at what
cost? Those lost at Pearl Harbor would
certainly question or doubt the sanity of a
government who seems to forgive so readily a
country who has an interesting history of
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