Regional unity still a dream

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Regional unity still a dream

Japan’s next prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, starts his official term today. We congratulate the launch of the administration by the leader of the Democratic Party, which succeeded in ending the ruling conservative party’s nearly 54 years in power. It is hoped that his emergence will contribute to bringing peace and prosperity across East Asia, including on the Korean Peninsula.

Hatoyama is often noted for his strong support of an East Asian “community.” If such a community - based on his personal motto, “friendship” - can be realized, few would oppose it.

But there are a slew of obstacles that stand in the way of making this dream a reality. There’s still residual hostility against Japan in both Korea and China over its wartime actions. For this reason, the wounds are constantly and repeatedly ripped open.

Europe achieved some sense of unity after Germany apologized for its atrocities and took some time for self-reflection. Japan should take a similar step. If it doesn’t, unity in East Asia will remain only a dream.

Hatoyama’s pledge not to visit Yasukuni Shrine, a contentious monument to Japanese war casualties, and to establish a government-run, non-religious war memorial should be closely watched. We advise that he utilize wisdom in handling the controversy over the two countries’ sovereignty claims to Dokdo Island. It is also hoped that he won’t forget about his promise to allow ethnic Koreans residing in Japan to cast votes in local elections.

We will also closely monitor the political reform pledges he has made. Given that Japanese voters are fed up with bureaucracy-centered state management and corrupt factions of the Liberal Democratic Party - which led to the power shift - whether or not he succeeds with this political experiment will have grave implications for Koreans.

Hatoyama pledges to achieve close and equal ties with the United States to improve bilateral relations between those countries. But his planned changes are in Korea’s interests, too. Some observers say that Japan has decided to maintain some distance from the U.S. to solidify its relationship with neighbors such as China.

We are well aware of his particular interest in Korea. The prime minister’s wife is known as a big fan of Korean entertainers and culture.

Time will tell whether that was just a simple gesture to win over the hearts and minds of the country.
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