[EDITORIALS]Foot-in-mouth disease“China and South Korea will regret that they said they wouldn’t attend summit talks because of my visits to Yasukuni Shrine,” Japan’s Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said on April 25 at a press conference commemorating his five years in office.
He was answering a question about whether he planned to visit the Yasukuni Shrine on August 15, a memorial to Japan’s war dead, including war criminals.
That comment is unbelievable. Is this a proper thing for a prime minister of a civilized country to say? What does he mean by “regret”?
Does he mean that he will teach us a lesson? Is he sharpening a dagger in his mind for revenge? How can he say such terrible things, as a child does at the conclusion of a schoolyard quarrel?
There is an expression in Korean that talks about a dagger hidden beneath the smile. Should we prepare for that? Now we can find some evidence for the characterization of Mr. Koizumi as a “samurai in a western suit.” The problem is not just his words. He has repeatedly expressed his regrets and given apologies for the bloody and divisive history that Japan and Korea share. But he doesn’t miss a chance to visit the Yasukuni Shrine, a symbol of Japan’s wars of aggression. Critics are constantly commenting on his inconsistency.
It is not that we want to pick a fight with him. His harsh remark convinces us even more that we are correct in surmising why Mr. Koizumi keeps visiting the shrine.
The prime minister’s remark seemed to be a counter to Korea’s President Roh Moo-hyun’s change toward a strong and stern stance on the Dokdo islets dispute.
Still, there are things you can say out loud, and other things that you need to swallow.
Former President Kim Yong-sam’s blunt remark, “I will teach Japan manners,” caused tremendous harm to Korea-Japan relations. Not only South Korea but also Japan should have learned a lesson from that unfortunate comment.
If one says things without deep consideration of the listener’s sensitivities and probable reactions, he might feel good momentarily. But we should know that bitter words can turn into poison and come back to harm us eventually.
In particular, when relations between South Korea and Japan are as tense as they are these days, the words spoken by leaders should be meticulously controlled and discreetly chosen.