Thursday, March 10, 2005

Letter from Japan: Shared Korean stance: Lasting anger at Japan

Norimitsu Onishi, International Herald Tribune, March 10, 2005

TOKYO The Japanese government seemed genuinely shocked when South Korea's president, Roh Moo Hyun, said during an Independence Day speech March 1 that Tokyo should fully apologize for its militaristic past and colonization of the Korean Peninsula. "To further develop relations between the two of us, sincere efforts are needed on the part of the government and people of Japan," Roh said. "They need to find out the truth about their past, reflect on it and make a genuine apology, as well as reparations if need be."

What's more, speaking about the dozen or so Japanese citizens who were kidnapped by North Korea in the last three decades, South Korea's president added, "I fully understand the indignation of Japan stemming from its citizens being kidnapped. But at the same time I would like to ask Japan to reflect on itself as well. I hope that Japan understands the indignation of the Korean people who suffered pain countless times as forced draftees and 'comfort women' during the 36 years of its imperial rule." What was going on here? the Japanese seemed to say. They were used to hearing such words from China and, of course, North Korea. But weren't relations lovey-dovey with Seoul?

After all, middle-aged Japanese women have given their hearts to Yon-sama, the South Korean heartthrob; kimchi has become Japan's favorite condiment; and record numbers of Japanese tourists have been visiting South Korea. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi reacted by saying that Roh "must be thinking of his domestic situation as well as friendship with Japan." Other politicians and most media picked up on the line, saying that Roh was simply pandering to South Korean nationalism. What they chose not to mention is that Roh's comments simply reflected the opinions of most people on the Korean Peninsula.-------------------

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