[EDITORIALS]Will Japan stay in denial?President Roh Moo-hyun will meet with Japan’s new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe soon after the Chuseok holidays. Both Koreans and Japanese hope that Mr. Abe’s appointment as prime minister can help thaw the recent frosty relations between the two countries. Considering the level of economic as well as the social and cultural exchange between Korea and Japan, it is highly undesirable that the leaders of the two countries continue to boycott meeting each other.
Prime Minister Abe referred to Korea and China as “extremely important neighboring countries” in a speech at the Japanese Parliament last Friday and emphasized the importance of honest and open talks oriented toward the future. His words are seen as part of Japan’s efforts to patch things up with Korea and China. We welcome Mr. Abe’s determination to set things right with Seoul and Beijing. However, several of the policies that the new prime minister has endorsed in the past could cast a negative influence on Japan’s relations with Korea and China. Concerning the issue of the Yasukuni Shrine, where 14 World War II war criminals are enshrined, Mr. Abe last visited the shrine as recently as April and has yet to announce whether he will continue to visit it now that he is the prime minister. Nevertheless, his call for a future-oriented talk with Korea should not be dismissed.
Korea-Japan relations have on several occasions suffered from the reckless behavior of certain right-wing politicians in Japan who do not acknowledge the wrongs of Japan’s invasion of its neighboring countries in the last century. The former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s latest visit to Yasukuni Shrine was a great setback to bilateral relations. There is a clear reason Asian countries, including Korea and China, are wary of Japan’s denial of its past war crimes and its military rightist movement. The denial or justification of Japan’s invasions in the past by certain Japanese rightist groups could ultimately lead to the repetition of a militarily aggressive Japan. Of course, it is unlikely that Japan would again become an invader country after the changes that it has gone through in the past half-century. However, the activities of the rightist groups and political leaders in Japan are doing nothing to alleviate the fear of Asian people that Japan could turn rightist again.
We hope that the “beautiful Japan” Prime Minister Abe aims to build is an honest and fair Japan that is able to build its relations with its neighboring countries based on reciprocity and equality rather than force.