[EDITORIALS]Wrong lesson from samuraiPrime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan has often mentioned the “Akaho warriors.” They were 47 samurai who took vengeance for the death of their lord and then committed suicide at the orders of the Bakufu, the ruling group in Japan, in 1702. Mr. Koizumi has visited the suicide site and called out the names of the 47 samurai one by one. The message was clear: Don’t forget your enemy and take revenge with bloodshed.
Mr. Koizumi yesterday visited the Yasukuni Shrine for the fifth time since he came into power. It sounds awkward to hear that he visited the shrine “in a private capacity.” That was a way around the Osaka Appellate Court, which ruled that official visits were unconstitutional.
He visited in a plain suit and paid silent homage only, but it is all the same: His visits to the shrine stir up neighboring countries. The shrine is the place where 14 Class-A World War II war criminals who trampled down Japan’s neighboring countries are enshrined.
We feel uncomfortable at seeing the Japanese prime minister paying tribute there. The wounds of the past begin to hurt again and the hostility and desire for vengeance that we suppressed begin to revive. It is an insult to retort to us, “Don’t interfere in our internal affairs.” The Korea-Japan normalization agreement in 1965 was nothing but a formality that concluded the historical past. It does not mean that the feelings of rancor in our hearts are also gone. South Korea extended a hand of reconciliation and peace toward Japan and even proposed a partnership for the future.
We all know that Mr. Koizumi’s visit to the shrine is a political event aimed at domestic politics. It is a populist approach to the Japanese public that is turning right. Of course, he may feel bound by his pledge that he would visit the shrine once a year. But it would be better for him to visit the shrine at night when no one can see him if he wants to insist on a visit in his personal capacity. Why does he reopen the old wounds of neighbors for domestic politics? Mr. Koizumi and Japan should be held responsible for that.
The South Korean government is considering canceling a summit meeting with Japan. But that is not important, because there are such meetings every year. The problem is that the relationship between the two countries, established with difficulty, can turn into hostility instantly after such blatant acts. Does Mr. Koizumi want to see Japan’s neighbors avenge their past sufferings with bloodshed as the Akaho samurai did?