[EDITORIALS]Japan must face realityIn a speech commemorating the 87th anniversary of Korea’s independence movement against Japanese colonial rule, President Roh Moo-hyun stressed, “If Japan aims to be a ‘normal state,’ and further, to be a ‘leading country of the world,’ it must regain the confidence of the world by acting with human conscience and principle, instead of pursuing law revision and military expansion.” Sixty years have passed since Korea was liberated from forced colonial rule by Japan and it has been 40 years since Korea and Japan normalized diplomatic ties, but the political leader of Korea still has to urge Japan to act with conscience and principle. We have to view this reality with sorrow.
However, who has to bear the responsibility? As President Roh stated, the responsibility lies with the contradictory attitude of Japan that shows a difference between speech and action. Regarding the unfortunate past, the Japanese prime minister says he apologizes but he also continues to pay homage at the controversial Yasukuni Shrine. Japan’s history books that distort history are having no problem getting official approval. The Assembly of Shimane Prefecture is commemorating the day when Japan forcibly conquered the Dokdo islets, under the name, “Takeshima Day.” Which is why we are left with concern that Japan may justify its history of invasion and domination and might then again pursue regional hegemony.
Japan must face up to the reality in Northeast Asia, which is arrested by the past and prevented from stepping forward to the future. China is fast emerging as the most powerful nation in economic and military terms, and the division of the Korean Peninsula will not last forever. Japanese leaders need to calmly deliberate on what the diplomatic isolation of today means to Japan’s future. If Japanese leaders, who have experienced war, fail to set the standard, the history issue may be transferred as an unduly heavy burden to the postwar generation of Japan, which has no experience of war.
We also have expectations that Japan would be treated as a leading nation that deserves its national capability in the international community and we expect Japan to serve a role that remains true to its status. To do so, the choice for Japan is self evident. With a consciousness of history and a sense of responsibility, Japan must clearly show by action its separation from its history of invasion and war. That is the only way that Japan will free itself from the bondage of history and be born again as a normal state and a leading power in the world.