[EDITORIALS]Anticipation and regretThe Korea-Japan summit last Saturday left both anticipation and regret. It was a positive change that President Roh Moo-hyun and Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, both of the postwar generation, maintained a future-oriented attitude unbound by the past. Yet even with the right attitude and direction, much was wanting concerning Korea’s diplomacy and Japan’s arrogance. The meeting, in short, left the impression that perhaps Korea’s good intentions were not fully reciprocated.
President Roh took a bold step in making no specific reference to the history between the two countries, as all past Korean presidents have done in meeting their Japanese counterparts. Considering sentiment in Korea and other Asian countries, it was also brave of Mr. Roh to state that he understood Japan’s new “emergency situation acts” as a “part of [Japan’s] process of normalization” and to appeal to the public “not to bind the future to the past.” He seems convinced that the two countries should move on in their relations.
Yet the desired effects of these bold statements were thwarted by Korean diplomatic inexperience and Japanese arrogance. Certain regrettable remarks about the colonial past from Japanese politicians just before the president’s arrival in Tokyo and the Japanese Diet’s passing the military bills on the day of his arrival are not to be regarded lightly. Had the Japanese government earnestly understood our sentiments, it should not have passed the law on President Roh’s arrival day. At the least, our government should have protested and asked for an explanation. It was also a serious diplomatic mistake to attend a state dinner with the Japanese emperor on Korea’s Memorial Day.
If Japan wants to become a responsible member of international society, it should not so easily forget its regrettable past deeds. One feels that our government let Japan off the hook too easily, when it really hasn’t changed its attitude. Korea and Japan should not be bound by the past. But an incorrect concept of history will only foster repeated mistakes. The Korea-Japan summit was future-oriented in the larger picture, but it may have given scope to Japan’s unrepentant right wing.