[FOUNTAIN] Helmut Schmidt Was Right

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[FOUNTAIN] Helmut Schmidt Was Right

Helmut Schmidt, who served eight years as German chancellor from 1974, gave his view of Japan in his memoirs. "(The Japanese) lack the ability to repent for their sins of the past and to feel sorrow and shame. They not only lack friends all over the world - neighboring countries in particular - but also do not know how to make friends. Japan never showed that it understood other countries' criticisms and chose to do nothing. Therefore, Japan has no real diplomatic policy although a quarter of a century has passed since the end of World War II. Because they failed to regret and reconsider the invasion and wrongdoing by orchestrating a cover-up, Japan ended up having unnecessary difficulties building trust in its neighborhood."

In one chapter, Mr. Schmidt charges that Japan has failed to end its estrangement resulting from the conduct of its colonial period. He points out that Japan faces such problems because it refuses to face its guilt.

Mr. Schmidt, who is credited with laying the groundwork for German reunification, currently is publisher of the influential weekly magazine Die Zeit. In a lecture in Korea in 1999, he argued that China-Japan relations, the most important factor of stability in Northeast Asia, depended on Japan's attitude. He said the direction of Sino-Japanese relations would be determined by Japan's willingness to admit and apologize for its past.

The Japanese Ministry of Education recently approved the revision of a history textbook by a group called the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform. South and North Korea as well as China have registered strong protests against the book, stirring a diplomatic dispute. The revised textbook states that the Japanese victories in the early stages of the Pacific War inspired courage and a vision of independence for many peoples of Southeast Asia and India. It further claims that the goal of Japan in the war was liberating Asia from the rule of Europe and the United States and building the "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere." There are controversial inclusions and omissions regarding events on the Korean Peninsula. In November 1943, Japan summoned the puppet leaders of some Asian nations to adopt the "Great East Asia Joint Declaration," beginning one of the most infamous passages in history. Will the textbook writers commit an error of this magnitude?

Immediately after the Japanese defeat in 1945, the then-Japanese prime minister proposed that national repentance was the first step to rebuilding the nation. Notably, however, he avoided apportioning responsibility for Japan's war of aggression. Is the textbook issue a repetition of Japan's tired refrain that it bears no guilt or responsibility for its past?

by Noh Jae-hyun

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