[EDITORIALS]Some good in Japan’s responseIn response to the new diplomatic policy toward Japan announced by the Korean government on Thursday ―which, itself, was a response to Japanese claims of territorial rights to Tokto islands, and to attempts to distort history in Japanese textbooks ― Japan has released a statement in Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura’s name. The nine-paragraph statement clarifies Japan’s position on the issues of Tokto, past history, textbook distortions and compensation to Koreans for damages inflicted under colonial rule. Reading between the lines of this statement, it seems to be true that Japan has agonized over these issues.
But on the issue of Tokto, which began the current conflict between our nations, Japan is still demonstrating an evasive, stopgap attitude. “It is not beneficial for relations between our two countries that an emotional confrontation is created over the Tokto issue,” the statement says. It describes the issue of compensation for the Korean “comfort women” sexually enslaved by Japan during World War II, and the Koreans who were sent to Sakhalin for forced labor during the war, as a “completely resolved problem,” even though they were not included in the Korea-Japan Basic Agreement signed in 1965.
The current conflict was provoked by Japan’s unreasonable claim to Tokto, which is our territory historically, in reality and according to international law. In this sense, we cannot accept Japan’s obscure statement on the issue. There can be no compromise where sovereignty is concerned.
At the same time, Japan has defined the compensation issue as fully resolved. On this matter, our government has proposed to share responsibility; it has said, “We will shoulder the burden that falls on our government under the basic agreement.”
But there is a discrepancy between the two countries over the protection of individuals’ rights. Whereas Korea wants to solve the problem in accordance with universal human ethics, Japan insists that no additional compensation is required. A clue to this problem’s solution can be found in the dimension of human morality, rather than in an inter-governental agreement. The statement from Japan said that “we regard the Korean people’s feelings about the past with a heavy heart,” and that “Japan humbly recognizes the historical fact that it has caused great damage and pain to people in Asian countries.” This is a positive response, because it makes clear the Japanese government’s will to draw a line between itself and the forces that are trying to distort history in Japanese textbooks.
We don’t want to say that all Japanese people are wrong or bad. We believe that majority of the Japanese people prefer peace and friendship. Rather, we are expressing our regret and disappointment over the attitude of the Japanese government that watched the imprudent behavior of a handful of ultra-nationalists with its arms folded, even though it realized what a diplomatic catastrophe it could cause. A centrury ago, Japan left extremists like these to their own devices. They proceeded to take over Japanese politics and, by colluding with militaristic forces, drove Japan and the whole of Asia into the tragedy of war.
We know full well that there are good things about Japanese history. It is simply difficult to understand how it will benefit Japan to try to beautify the bad things. There are some positive aspects to Foreign Minister Machimura’s statement. Taking note of these positive elements, we will look forward to hearing from the Japanese government its clear and firm position on the issues related to Tokto and the history textbooks. Until that time, we need to wait and watch, restraining our emotion. Although the statement from Japan was not satisfactory, we hope Korea and Japan will use it as a basis to resume dialogue.
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