Prime Minister Mori's Gaffe Over Tok Islet

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Prime Minister Mori's Gaffe Over Tok Islet

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori insulted the Korean viewing public by saying that Tokto, a pair of islets in the East Sea, is Japanese territory, but inexplicably the comment was not aired. In an interview with the Korea Broadcasting System (KBS) last week, with regard to the question about the Japanese government's position on the disputed islands, he answered unequivocally, "Takeshima is clearly Japanese territory, whether we judge it from historical facts or international law." However, this utterance was deleted from the program aired on the night of September 21, a day before President Kim Dae-jung's visit to Japan. KBS explains that Prime Minister Mori's remark was omitted because it was nothing new and also in consideration of the adverse effect it might have on the summit talks, as well as for the sake of national interests.
It is not the first time that a Japanese prime minister has made a reckless remark on the issue of Tok Island. All former Japanese prime ministers have told the the Japanese Diet the same thing. However, this case is different because the prime minister made his statement in an interview to be broadcast on national television, showing that his intention was to challenge the Korean public directly.
The attitude of KBS is problematic as well. Does the network actually know whether it would best serve the national interest to broadcast the Japanese minister's blunder or hide it from the Korean public? KBS was not in a position to judge whether there would be an adverse impact on the summit talks. Rather than the national interest, KBS probably cared more about the current regime's expectations of diplomatic achievements from the president's visit to Japan.
The government's response was no better. When the incident became controversial, the government just issued a comment through a diplomatic official--"The statement does not deserve even a moment's consideration."--and seems to feel that it has done all it should. If the network and the government had been thinking straight, Prime Minister Mori's words would have been aired as they were and the president would have personally taken issue with the prime minister's assertion when he met with him.
The government must come up with an effective plan for securing territorial rights over Tokto that will make the Japanese realize that their claim over the islets is meaningless and completely unfounded.

by Lee Jang-kyu

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