[FOUNTAIN]Pregnant with Many Meanings

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[FOUNTAIN]Pregnant with Many Meanings

Earlier this year a rather comic minor altercation occurred between Germany and Japan. Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung magazine published a somewhat vulgar picture in its February 23 issue. Embla-zoned on the cover of the magazine were pictures of Japan's crown prince and princess. In yellow letters across the prince's crotch was the inscription "Tote Hose," which means "dead trousers."

Japan's Sankei Shimbun reported the incident but translated "Tote Hose" as "failure," according to a Yonhap News dispatch from Tokyo. The rightist newspaper softened the meaning by refusing to translate the phrase directly. "Dead trousers" in German connotes "impotence."

The incidents caused a huge sensation in Japan. How could someone dare to insult the crown prince? Japan's Foreign Ministry protested to the German ambassador in Japan, and a Sueddeutsche representative apologized, which settled the issue.

Crown Prince Naruhito and Princess Masako have not produced any offspring since they married in 1993, and this has been a source of anxiety to the royal family and the Japanese people. Naruhito's brother, Humihito, has two daughters, making way for the possibility that Japan may have its first empress in a long royal history that leads to the current 125th emperor, Akihito.

In December 1999, Japan was jubilant to hear of Crown Princess Masako's pregnancy, but she suffered a miscarriage. The Asahi Shimbun went under heavy fire for carrying the story of the miscarriage on its front page. People blamed the newspaper for reporting the miscarriage overhastily and speculated that the press frenzy for information about her pregnancy may have contributed to the loss of the baby by causing the princess stress.

Crown Princess Masako is reportedly pregnant again. Because of her past miscarriage, Japan is trying to remain calm, but on the news the value of the yen jumped and the value of stock in the Pigeon Group, a manufacturer of baby products, rose sharply. It has been predicted that the princess's pregnancy could increase the revenue of baby care industries by 10 percent and Japan's GDP by 0.1 percent. It is surely an auspicious occasion for the Japanese.

Sadly, Japan's neighbors are indifferent to the occasion. Because of the recent controversy over the distortion of truth in Japanese history books and provocative statements from leading Japanese officials, the countries surrounding Japan feel disinclined to offer their congratulations. Some people are even worried that the news of the crown princess's pregnancy could push Japan further to the right. Japan will face isolation forever if it gives up pursuing harmony with its neighbors.

by Yoo Jae-sik

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