[FORUM]Roh’s Japan visit can prove muchAbout this time last year, some Western media raised questions whether the World Cup could be successfully held by South Korea and Japan. Concerns lingered over the possible conflict between the two countries ― wrapped in the history of an invader and an invadee that ended half a century ago ― during the period of their co-hosting the World Cup.
Nevertheless, the tournament was carried out so successfully that it left a strong impression on the whole world, all thanks to the mature civic awareness of the two nations.
Next week, a year after the event, President Roh will visit Japan. That he is scheduled to participate in a dinner hosted by Japan’s emperor on June 6, Korea’s National Memorial Day, has sparked controversy. There has been widespread criticism that “It is detestable even to imagine that the president elected by us meets the Japa-nese emperor and toasts him on Memorial Day. It is overly subservient and humiliating.”
It is common sense to consider all factors before deciding on the date of summit talks between two countries. Rumors spread that the former U.S. President Ronald Reagan had once arranged his schedule for summit talks with several major countries via his wife Nancy’s astrology charts. Such astrological decisions, presumably made by Mrs. Reagan, may have actually influenced in large and small ways the course of world history.
It is not exactly known how and through what process the Roh government made a decision on the date for the South Korea-Japan summit talks. Did his administration wrap up coordinating the schedule without even noticing Memorial Day? Or did it accept that day as an expression of confidence in overcoming the history of Japan’s colonial rule? Or else, was his arrival in Japan on Memorial Day unavoidable in an effort to elevate his working visit to a state visit? President Roh wished to meet Japan’s Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi before he leaves for the upcoming Group of Eight summit meeting.
Mr. Koizumi is now back in Japan after attending the U. S.-Japan summit talks at the end of last week and then visiting Middle Eastern countries. Ceremonial procedures regarding the state visit obliged Mr. Roh to have the dinner with the Japan’s emperor on Memorial Day, an unidentified report said. President Roh is planning to meet Prime Minister Koizumi ― who had summit talks with George W. Bush after Mr. Roh had met the U.S. president ― to coordinate their positions to deter North Korea from developing nuclear weapons, and then make a joint statement.
The leaders of both countries were born after World War II. Both men have weak political support domestically. Both are similar in that they are criticized as populists. But both respect the joint statement of South Korea-Japan Joint Partnership adopted at the summit meeting held in October 1998, and accordingly are expressing deep interest in building future-oriented relations between South Korea and Japan.
The declaration of the Joint Partnership paved the way for enhancing bilateral relations of Korea and Japan to rational and reasonable status. These days, new phenomena are emerging between the two countries: They urge each other to compete for constant mutual learning and self-reflection. They urge that they have to learn from their neighbor in the fields of politics, foreign policies and economic restructuring.
Both countries are preoccupied with dealing with corporate accounting irregularities, educational reform, judicial reform and decentralization. Coming up with ways for both countries to prosper together through competition and cooperation is the job of the two leaders. The two countries have increasingly been involved in active exchanges of musical activities, films, theatrical performances, sports events and academic research.
South Korea’s strong point is to challenge for change while consolidating its political and social foundations. Japan is well aware that Korea’s exuberant energy is its national strength. While paying respect to the martyred patriots at the National Cemetery on June 6, President Roh will fully feel the expectations of his patriotic ancestors and their bereaved families.
His visit to Japan should be an expression of Koreans’ confidence. We should not stick with a childish view of history surrounding his visit to Japan on the Memorial Day.
I would like to see the behavior of Koreans be based on a strong mind and spirit, proving that they have overcome the history of Japan’s colonial rule.
* The writer is a senior editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Choi Chul-joo