When it comes to Japan’s spirit of the development, Japanese believe in Iitokodori ― getting good things from others regardless of historical relations or cultural differences, only if they are beneficial to Japan. That suits an island country with few natural resources, and there is no doubt that Japan’s flourishing development is thanks partly to the inherent characteristics of Iitokodori.
The problem is, though, Tokyo has never been reluctant to take any actions against other neighboring countries in order to maximize its profits and practical interests. Even painful wartime cruelty can be considered a simple, changeable option for Japan. For instance, in the wake of the atomic bomb dropped on Hirosima in 1945, ironically, Japanese lionized General MacArthur as a national hero because they realized that they were not powerful enough to beat the United States. Furthermore, Japanese authorities of that time made the decision that it would be more advantageous to admit and adore the power of the U.S. than to resist further in spirit.
On the other hand, for its wartime atrocities from 1910 to 1945, Japan consistently twists the truth about their inappropriate actions. The most suitable example to show this is the sexually abused women in South Korea, China and other Asian countries who were used to “comfort” Japanese soldiers during Japanese colonial era. The Japanese government never stops denying this history, saying the women were whores or came of their own accord. Nevertheless, an official document by a Japanese captain in 1935 was recently discovered, saying a so-called “comforting house” should be established in China to raise army morale. Apart from this, there are countless other sources of dependable historical evidence and genuine pictures. Yet an actual apology from Japan is still not forthcoming.
Now, in Japan, there is a growing movement driven by some conscious educated Japanese like Guboi Norio, a public school teacher and old map collector, who proved Korean dominion over a group of islets in the East Sea known as Dokdo in South Korea by referencing several old Japanese maps. Other Japanese citizens are raising their voices, like Seino Dakuya, saying “Japan should try to make robust diplomatic relations with South Korea rather than claim the dominion of small islets.” However, these efforts fail because of the sabotage and pressure of Japanese ultra-rightist political community.
Of course no one is wholeheartedly willing to confess a fault. But why is Japan tirelessly trying to whitewash their wartime atrocities even though it has been a bone of contention in its relationships with some Asian countries it invaded? It is because Japan has to change their historical capstone. Japan must be afraid of that. It will hurt, but it is better to be righteous than hypocritical. Germany is a great role model in this!
During the Asia-Pacific summit of this year in Russia, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave weighty words to both sides of Korea and Japan. “I raised these issues with both of them, urging that their interests really lie in making sure that they lower the temperature and work together in a concerted way, to have a calm and restrained approach,” Clinton said.
This kind of action by the U.S. can be seen as trying to keep the peace in the Asian region by doing its best as a world arbitrator. Moreover, Washington can keep good relationships with two close ally countries and avoid dragging itself into a tricky situation by supporting only one of them. How clever!
Japan must have jumped with joy for the habitual arbitration of U.S., because Korea will be unwilling to put the tricky issue back on the table for the time being. Additionally, Tokyo earned a great amount of time to postpone compensation to the victims of its wartime atrocities, and to continue rewriting its history even more elaborately.
Japan should know this: Someday the victims will be gone, but the memory of pain will remain forever. For whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.
By Yu Seung-seok
Yu Seung-Seok is working as an English teacher at Avalon Institute in Seoul and writes columns. He has published his own e-book, “Jack&Paul’s Story,” with Amazon.com. ― Ed.