The ever-escalating conflict between Korea and Japan over historical issues is expanding to the international stage. This means that the two sides will step up their publicity campaigns to win over international opinion.
It is no coincidence that in large measure, Korea’s campaign has been more successful than Japan’s, despite the wrongheaded Japanese right-wing leaders’ efforts to gloss over past wrongdoings. This is simply because the truth prevails.
To begin with, the Japanese government pressured the organizing committee of an international comics festival in France to scrap a special exhibition on the victims of Japan’s wartime military sex slavery. The organizers not only rejected the demand but also thwarted a Japanese group’s plan to set up a booth as a “countermeasure” to the “Flowers That Never Fade” exhibition. In contrast, Korea had a successful publicity campaign as it drew about 20,000 visitors. Another highlight was the attendance of Minister of Gender Equality and Family Cho Yoon-sun, a close associate of President Park Geun-hye.
Another case in point is that the Japanese Embassy in Washington was found to have unsuccessfully lobbied against the Virginia state legislature’s work on a bill to use both “the East Sea” and “the Sea of Japan” for the sea between Korea and Japan in the U.S. state’s school textbooks. The Japanese even hired a law firm. All those concerted efforts were of no avail, however. The bill has passed committees of both the Senate and House. It now awaits a vote by the full lower house of the legislature.
Another publicity boon for the Korean position came when U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-California) knelt down before a bronze statue of a girl in Glendale, California, to pay tribute to Korean former sex slaves. It was the latest in a series of gestures by U.S. politicians supporting the former “comfort women.”
What those cases tell us is that one of the most effective ways to pressure Japan is to stand firm, allow no compromise and work with all members of the international community to raise awareness about Japan’s shameful past and condemn its refusal to take due responsibility.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said last week that the Japanese government is considering taking its territorial claim over the Dokdo Islets to the International Court of Justice. This follows Tokyo’s decision to describe the Dokdo Islets as Japan’s territory in teachers’ manuals for middle and high school history classes.
Clearly, no one with a sensible judgment and correct understanding of Japan’s history with its neighbors would buy the Japanese argument.
Instead of reacting hysterically, let us ponder how we can go about waging another successful publicity campaign on Japan’s wrongdoings, past and present.