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[EDITORIALS]Japanese Candidates and History

Apr 15,2001
All four candidates vying for the presidency of Japan's Liberal Democratic Party have pointedly expressed their endorsement of Japan's textbook authorization system. The four candidates, including Ryutaro Hashimoto, a former prime minister and the current head of the Administrative Reform Council, made arduous efforts at a joint news conference to highlight their differences on various issues facing Japan. But as soon as the textbook question came up, they were in unison - almost as if they had made previous arrangements to stand in unity.

They were in accord that the eight junior high textbooks, including the controversial one edited by the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform, posed no problems, because they had all passed through legal procedures, been screened by the Japanese government and duly approved, according to set criteria. They even remarked, "Korea and China are free to criticize, but we should not waver." One of them responded, "That this kind of question should surface in itself indicates that something is not right with the current situation in Japan."

We cannot help but have mixed feelings and lament when hearing such remarks made by political luminaries who are to guide Japan, which dreams of becoming a prominent leader in the international community equal to its economic might. Some contend that the responses were politically motivated to satiate the party electorate. But if people with the level of consciousness to tailor their positions on matters related to historical awareness according to political advantages and disadvantages compete as candidates for prime minister, Japan's future is worrisome. The four candidates' unified responses to the textbook question are further problematic in that they represent the general level of awareness among Liberal Democratic Party supporters. Is history something that can be embellished and concealed depending on one's taste and political necessities?

If the four candidates' declarations are reflections of their genuine tenets, the problem is even graver. Dismissing the fundamental question of how history is perceived and simply piping about the authorization system and contending that it is not problematic are self acknowledging actions that showcase their lack of qualification to become leaders in the international community. We cannot help but harbor concern for the future of Japan, which will be guided by a prime minister elected from people with that kind of consciousness. Shizuka Kamei, one of the candidates and policy chief of the Liberal Democratic Party, claimed at an interview, "If the U.S. forces in Korea are attacked, Japan should also exercise its collective right to self-defense and dispatch its self-defense forces to the Korean Peninsula." If this is what history warrants for Japan's future leaders, we cannot help but worry about Japan's future course once it rearms as a military superpower.

Let us have a look at Germany. Germany has acknowledged its past mistakes at their face value and frankly informed them to its descendants. They have knelt down repenting for their sins whenever the opportunity arose. Germany is where it is today because of leaders with historical consciousness. When such expressions as "I am proud to be a German" are heard, there is a president that breaks in and says, "We can be happy and thankful, but not proud." There is also a prime minister that asks for forgiveness and lays flowers on the tombs of foreigners sacrificed by the Germans during the Second World War. Japan is still far behind.



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