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[Letters] Japan may face its history

Oct 12,2009


Japan has decided to face its own past, and to reach for its neighbors in a joint effort to restore tragic facts as parts of a common history.

Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada called for joint history textbooks between Japan, China and Korea, confirming hopes raised after Hatoyama’s election (“Japanese foreign minister suggests joint history texts,” JoongAng Daily, Oct. 9, 2009).

Indeed, the time has come to set the record straight, and to silence for good ultra-nationalists from all sides, particularly after years of incessant provocations. From all sides?

Very much like U.S. President Barack Obama’s speeches denouncing choices made by his predecessor sucked arguments out of warmongers overseas as well as in the United States, Japan’s call for justice upon itself will expose the impostors who needed such provocations to fuel their own nationalist agendas.

If China is more than eager to cope with the Nanking Massacre, I’m not sure the Beijing regime is willing to abandon its own outright revisionist programs: English scholars recently mocked at China’s attempts of claiming (or rather “hanschlussing”) Goguryeo civilization: it’s as if England claimed Germany!

Korea itself hasn’t yet fully come to terms with its own darkest moments but keeps, as it should, investigating and correcting past wrongdoings.

Yet, not everybody is happy with this, and diehard nationalists keep lobbying against the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Doing so, they are actually undermining the nation’s efforts to emerge as a great nation on the international stage.

Because contrary to what they pretend, more revelations won’t bring shame but only pride, respect and praise from other nations.

As a French citizen, I’ve always felt at the same time an immense respect for Germany and the way post-World War II generations were educated about Nazi atrocities, and ashamed by how of late France started admitting its own contributions to the genocide, or its wrongdoings as a colonial power.

As a country accepts its past weaknesses, it strengthens itself for the future, and sends the best message to its youth and to the world. A nation respecting lessons from history is a great and future-proof nation.

As it welcomes an invitation for truth and reconciliation from Japan, Korea needs to support its own Truth and Reconciliation Commission more than ever.

And together, Korea and Japan must send the best message to the region and to the world, as role models for a new, peaceful Asia.

Stephane Mot, French author


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