[EDITORIALS] 2 Scholars, 2 Beacons of HopeLee Ki-jun, president of Seoul National University, and Shigehiko Hasumi, president of the University of Tokyo, criticized the Japanese government's move to approve the publication of school textbooks that distort historical truths.
Speaking during a commencement exercise at the University of Tokyo on Wednesday, Mr. Lee expounded the importance for the two countries to understand one another without prejudice to overcome their unfortunate past, saying, "While we may forget history, we will never be able to erase it." Mr. Hasumi also said, "We may gain temporary satisfaction by attempting to justify our past by distorting historical facts, but we will never have the courage to move forward."
The two university presidents' statements carry more than just a symbolic meaning. This was the first time the president of Seoul National University was invited to speak at the University of Tokyo's commencement ceremony. Furthermore, the two presidents represent the best and brightest of the intellectual world in Korea and Japan. The statements on Wednesday will certainly provide a clue to how we can solve the issues surrounding past history that prevent healthy development in relations between the two countries.
It was merely two and a half years ago when the two countries' heads of state pledged to promote future-oriented relations by adopting the "Joint Declaration on a New Partnership for the 21st Century." However, repeated slips of tongue by Japanese officials and Japan's nonchalance toward the matters of past history have provided a constant obstacle for improving relations between Korea and Japan.
In every respect, Korea and Japan are perfect complements of each other. We are not referring merely to the co-hosting of the 2002 Korea Japan World Cup. Unless Korea and Japan resolve their past history once and for all, true cooperation and friendship between the two countries are virtually impossible. In that sense, the two university presidents' statements on "cooperation and coexistence" and "the responsibility for the past conduct" present an alternative for resolving the issues of the past through a coalition of the intellectuals of the two countries. There are already moves toward fielding a common front toward the textbook issue in the intellectual worlds in Korea and Japan. We hope the two presidents' statements can work as a catalyst toward resolving past history through forming a common front against falsehood.