[FORUM]Heartfelt relations with JapanA Korean film, “The Way Home,” has been running in 20 cities in Japan since last month. The movie was first released in theaters located in the center of Tokyo and found its way into major cities nationwide. Its popularity soared owing to the fact that the storyline, which surrounds an illiterate woman, gently touched the hearts of Japanese movie fans. What kind of impression do Japanese movies released in Korea have on Koreans?
Although Korea has eased its ban on Japanese films, only a few Japanese movies have touched the hearts of Korean audiences. This is not because the Japanese make bad films.
We can assume that Koreans and Japanese will show similar responses to a film, play or piece of music, but we should not jump to conclusions. Korean actors and actresses are cast in major roles for the play “Rashomon,” based on the film by the Japanese director, Akira Kurosawa, and also for a Korean play, “Oh, Beautiful Moon!” which features the lives of ordinary Japanese citizens in the late 19th century.
In order for Japanese plays to appeal to Korean, Korean actors and actresses must open Korean hearts to accept Japanese sentiments and emotions by playing their roles with passion.
One roadblock could be that Japan has never officially used the word “apologize” in expressing regret for its crimes committed during its occupation of Korea. The Japanese word owabi used in the 1998 South Korea-Japan summit talks has a meaning closer to “sorry.” At that time, Japan refused to use the Chinese word sajoe, meaning “apologize for one’s crimes,” and insisted on using owabi. But Japan accepted Koreans’ translating owabi as “apologize.”
Japan never used the word owabi when the United States, in 1988 and 1998, expressed regret over its expulsion of Japanese Americans and Latin Americans of Japanese descent from the mainland during World War II. Japan used sajoe. Japanese leaders refused to use sajoe when addressing their crimes committed against Koreans, because they were afraid of the historical and political interpretations of joe (crimes), but they demanded that the United States apologize for its crimes.
Japan also continues to avoid using the word “indemnity” in referring to paying for the losses and injury it brought down on Korea and other Asian nations. Instead, Japan uses “compensation.” Indemnity means recompense for injury or loss resulting from the infringement on others’ rights. When asked to correct its history textbooks, Japan did not officially use the phrase “review positively.” Japan used the word “review with forward-looking manner.” The phrase “forward-looking manner” is weaker than the diplomatic term “to review positively.”
The use of phrase “building future-oriented relations” reveals a deep gap between President Roh Moo-hyun and other Korean political leaders and their Japanese counterparts. In using “future-oriented,” Japan tends to mean “The past should pass away like flowing water,” whereas Korea tends to believe, “Forgive but never forget the past.” How can the hearts of the leaders of these two nations be opened?
We were truly impressed when Masahide Kaneyama, the former ambassador to Korea (1968-1972), who passed away in 1997, requested in his will that half his body be buried in Korea and the other half in Japan and prayed that the two countries might rebuild their relations.
Quoting the adage that “When new leaves begin to bud, old leaves are bound to fall,” Ryojo Snobe, another pro-Korean former Japanese ambassador to Korea (1977-1981), was eagerly looking forward to the emergence of the generation that would carry out the future programs of the two countries. We know well where the pitfalls for Korea and Japan lie. They are imbedded in our closed hearts.
* The writer is a senior editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Choi Chul-joo