[EDITORIALS]Left With Obscure SolutionsJapanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visited Seoul on Monday for the first time since his inauguration. He stayed in the capital for seven and a half hours, during which time he visited Seodaemun Park, where there used to be a prison in which Korean independence activists under Japanese colonial rule were tortured. Mr. Koizumi expressed a feeling of heartfelt apology and repentance over Japanese colonial rule. At a meeting with President Kim Dae-jung, Mr. Koizumi expressed his stances on current issues, including the history textbook issue, his visit to the Yasukuni Shrine and saury fishing in the waters around the Southern Kuril Islands. However, his visit, which was carried out like a flash of lightning, has not met our expectations. We hoped that it would be a moment to restore friendly relations between two neighboring countries. People are perplexed why the government agreed to his visit.
The government explained that it allowed his visit since Japan promised to show a step-forward stance on various issues. However, Mr. Koizumi's understanding of history disclosed on Monday is similar to the expression offered by Obuchi Keizo, then prime minister, in 1998. He, too, insisted on the Japanese word owabi which is not quite the same thing as repentance.
We can partly understand Mr. Koizumi's diplomatic rhetoric. However, it is regretful that he skipped over the core of the problems, like history textbooks and his visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, and left us with obscure solutions. Although he disclosed plans to establish a joint council for history research and to prepare measures that would allow everyone to visit the shrine easily, we doubt if the plans can solve the problems once and for all. President Kim and Prime Minister Koizumi agreed to let high-ranking officials work out a solution to the urgent issue of saury fishing. However, we know that that won't end the problem because it was not the absence of a negotiation channel with Japan that caused the problem.
So, we wonder if Prime Minister Koizumi, taking advantage of a new international mood being delivered by anti-terrorism, visited in a very hurried manner Seoul and Beijing. He was trying to kill two birds with one stone. Mr. Koizumi has suffered from the diplomatic pressure of neighboring countries since his inauguration, which has limited his diplomatic space to move. He also seemed desperate to send his nation's military forces to foreign countries.
Mr. Koizumi wrote on the visitor's log at Seodaemun Park, "Think of No Evil," which appears in the Analects of Confucius. He should prove not by words but by acts that there is no evil in his mind. He should prove that he hopes the two countries develop a forward-looking relationship based on an accurate understanding of history.