[FORUM]Look toward the futureJapan has recently escaped a decade-long recession and is bustling with talk about the economic recovery. A new concept, “composite boom,” has been coined, and the public is repeating self-admiring slogans such as a “victory of quality, performance and credibility” and “the spirit of Japan that the world looks up to.”
Professors are busy analyzing the success stories of each firm, and research institutes are planning strategies for the bright future. Debate is raging on whether China’s rise will continue until the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008. Advances into the Indian and Russian markets are also a topic of great interest. All in all, the issues being discussed and debated in Japanese society are very different from those being discussed in our society.
Of course, Japan, too, is experiencing tumult with the general election and gloomy issues such as the conflict over the national pension reforms. However, the overall atmosphere is focused on tomorrow rather than yesterday, not on individual defects but on collective efforts.
One feels envious listening to the lively chatter of Japanese society. One feels irritated by the unceasing disharmony and discord in our own society.
For the last year, all we have been hearing are laments about the past, whining about reforms and “it’s all your fault.” The bout of “exorcism” performed to find the truth behind the illegal presidential campaign funds only left a mess behind. Mudslinging was at the preschool level. “You took it, too!” “I took less than you!” “How much did you give to them?” “Didn’t you give them, too?”
The schism in public opinion over the presidential impeachment is too painful to recall. We hoped that once the president was restored to office he would present a new vision for the future and provide a plan to unite national sentiment, but we were disappointed. The president is in fact leading the way in dividing people and showing belligerence toward his opponents.
Hearing the recent reports coming out of the Presidential Truth Commission on Suspicious Deaths, one cannot help getting angry and frustrated. To praise North Korean spies and militant communists as democratic fighters, which country are we living in? It is true that the torture and inhumane treatment they were subjected to was wrong and that their individual integrity in holding on to their beliefs is to be highly regarded.
But it is certain that they were not fighting for democracy but for the hostile takeover of the South by the North Koreans. What is the real intent behind the commission’s decision to bring up such a subject that would surely cause controversy in society at this particular point?
It is also incomprehensible why the government party leader has proposed that we reinvestigate the 1987 bombing of a Korean Air passenger jet that even North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has admitted responsibility for.
Reforms are important, and righting past wrongs is important, too. They are both foundations for a better society. But we do not have the leisure to cling to the past only. We must now change our society’s perspective. We must turn our eyes to more urgent matters.
Reading an article by Professor Hajime Karatsu of Tokai University has made us anxious. “The old saying, ‘Changing the morning’s law in the evening,’ has usually been used in a negative way, but in today’s world even that is too late. Japanese society is changing the morning’s law in the same morning. Lessons of the past are not valid anymore. Today’s reality is that today is a new day and there can be no looking back. We must rather go forward before the others.”
Even with its optimistic prospects for the future, Japanese society is urging itself to try harder. Are we going to sit around and eat the dust from their feet?
* The writer is the chief of the editorial page, JoongAng Ilbo.
by Heo Nam-chin