[OUTLOOK]Blood runs true in JapanThe future of South Korea-Japan relations seems utterly desolate. After President Roh Moo-hyun’s statement about the Dokdo islets dispute, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan responded with a scornful remark that Mr. Roh’s stern stance would only harm his own country.
At Japan’s Foreign Ministry, people are reportedly saying that the relationship between the two countries has to be put on ice while Mr. Roh is in office. That is a logical assumption, because President Roh said that ties between South Korea and Japan could not be normal as long as Japan continues to glorify its wrongdoings in the past and to claim territorial rights on the basis of that past “glory.”
In July 2004, President Roh said, “During my presidential term, I will not raise Japan’s wrongdoings of the past again.” Now his position seems to have changed completely.
Ties between the two countries were once good, so what has worsened the relations these days? We can find an answer if we look at the family backgrounds of Japan’s three major political figures who are responsible for policymaking toward the Korean Peninsula: Prime Minister Koizumi, Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinjo Abe and Foreign Minister Taro Aso. At least we can have a better understanding of why they stick to a nationalistic stance.
Prime Minister Koizumi’s grandfather, Matajiro Koizumi, was a vice chairman of the lower house of the Diet and the minister of post from the 1920s until Japan’s surrender in 1945. He supported Hideki Tojo, the major architect of World War II in the Pacific, as a member of Taisei Yokusan Kai, or the Imperial Rule Assistance Association, a political group Tojo formed to cripple the Diet. The policies of the Yokusan Kai were the core of Japanese totalitarian and populist politics. Matajiro Koizumi was one of the prevailing political figures of “Showa fascism.”
Junya Koizumi, the prime minister’s father, was also a member of the Yokusan Kai. After the war, both men were forced out of their posts, but Junya Koizumi re-entered politics and later became minister for defense.
Shinjo Abe’s mother was the daughter of a famous politician, Nobusuke Kishi, who was one of the so-called “two ki and three suke,” central figures in politics and business in occupied Manchuria in the 1930s. The two ki were Hideki Tojo, the commander of Japanese forces there, and Naoki Hoshino, another senior Manchurian government figure. The three suke were Nobusuke Kishi, the vice minister of government administration; Yoshisuke Aikawa, the president of the Manchurian Industrial Development Company, and Yosuke Matsuoka, chairman of the South Manchurian Railway Company.
All of the three suke were from the same region, Choshu, and were also known as the “triangle alliance in Manchuria.” Mr. Kishi was a minister of commerce and industry during World War II and was later convicted of class A war crimes and imprisoned for three years. He also returned to politics, and served as prime minister.
Taro Aso is from a family that ran a coal mine in Iizuka, Kyushu, that was notorious for its cruel treatment of Korean conscript workers. According to the Ministry of Health of Japan, more than 1,600 workers were abused in Aso-owned coal mines. More than half of them either escaped or died in accidents or of starvation, or were beaten to death by supervisors. At present, Taro Aso’s younger brother is running the company. Foreign Minister Aso is better known as the grandson of Shigeru Yoshida, the first prime minister after the war. Mr. Yoshida was the consul general in Shenyang in the 1930s when Japan occupied Manchuria.
The trio of Koizumi, Abe and Aso, the descendants of major war figures, may have been born with the genes for fascism and nationalism. They seem to have nostalgia for the era when Japan occupied and controlled almost all of Asia, judging from their remarks about their visits to the Yasukuni Shrine or their views on many historical matters.
In 2003, when Prime Minister Koizumi visited the Chiran Kamikaze Museum in Kagoshima, his father’s home town, he shed tears. How can we expect him to accept our demand to stop visiting the Yasukuni Shrine?
To demand that they admit to their ancestors’ inhumane acts is a very tall order. The three men are not equipped with the global and cosmopolitan outlooks and intellects that would be the prerequisites for them to transcend their ancestors morally.
When Mr. Koizumi leaves office, Mr. Abe is very likely to succeed to the post. The strategies of the “Roh Moo-hyun doctrine” need to be accompanied by a psycho-historical analysis of Japanese politicians, including the three top leaders.
* The writer is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Young-hie