[FOUNTAIN]The irreversibility of historyIt was Ryuzo Sejima, a pro-Korean, whom Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone invited to his official residence on the evening of Nov. 30, 1982, only three days after he took office. Mr. Sejima was a mysterious figure, known as the person on whom a character in the novel “Barren Age” was based. A former top aide at the Japanese General Headquarters, which had led military operations in World War II, he spent 11 years as a prisoner of war after being captured by the Russian army in Manchuria when the war ended. When he returned to Japan, he joined Itochu, a general trading company, eventually becoming chairman. He became a symbol who had lived through the modern history of Japan in the 20th century.
Mr. Nakasone called in Mr. Sejima because he had access to Korea’s influential figures. Mr. Sejima advised President Park Chung Hee, his junior at the Japanese military academy, to pursue an export drive and rapid growth strategy, and President Chun Doo Hwan to host the 1988 Olympics.
Mr. Nakasone saw the normalization of relations with Korea as his first task after he came to power. With his visit to the United States ahead, he wanted to visit Korea first. Thanks to Mr. Sejima’s secret diplomacy, Mr. Nakasone became the first Japanese prime minister to visit Korea after the war and he met Mr. Chun in January 1983. Right after, he flew to the United States and met President Ronald Reagan. That’s how the conservative right-wing coalition was formed among Korea, the United States and Japan.
Before becoming prime minister, Mr. Nakasone was called a “weathervane,” since “he pointed to the direction of power” as he kept shifting his stance toward the power-holders.
Mr. Nakasone’s final choice was Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. He was crucial in appointing Mr. Koizumi, who had a weak political base but “similar genes.” Just as Mr. Nakasone visited the Yasukuni shrine in 1985 as the first prime minister to do so despite criticism from neighboring countries, Mr. Koizumi visits the shrine every year. Just as Mr. Nakasone carried out constitutional changes and rearmament, Mr. Koizumi enacted the Emergency Act and sent troops to Iraq.
The Chinese say, “The rear wave of the Yangtze River pushes the front wave.” The majestic flow of the Yangtze River points to the irreversibility of history.
by Oh Byung-sang
The writer is London correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.