President strikes a sharp tone on Japan

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President strikes a sharp tone on Japan

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President Lee Myung-bak and the first lady, Kim Yoon-ok, along with other national leaders, wave Korean flags at a nationally televised ceremony commemorating Liberation Day, marking the end of Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula, yesterday at the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts in central Seoul. [YONHAP]


Japan must acknowledge its past and teach “correct” history to its youth, President Lee Myung-bak demanded yesterday, in a departure from his Liberation Day address last year when he emphasized reconciliation, reflecting the lowest point in Korea-Japan relations thus far in Lee’s presidency.

Lee’s remarks were part of a wide-ranging speech at a ceremony televised nationwide to mark the nation’s independence from Japanese rule, amid growing public resentment toward its neighbor’s intensifying territorial claims over the Dokdo islets.

“Japan has a responsibility to teach its young generation the truth about what happened in the past,” Lee said. “By doing so, we can then allow young people in Korea and Japan to forge ahead into the new era with a correct recognition and understanding of history. This kind of cooperation will greatly contribute to the peace and prosperity of the world as well as Northeast Asia.”

The pain and suffering inflicted by the Japanese, Lee added, would be something that Koreans would never forget.

“For the sake of the future relationship, Korea will not be bound by the unfortunate past. But at the same time, the Korean people can never forget the history of the recent past altogether,” Lee said.

Lee’s comments on Japan were brief but notable for their strong - and deliberate - language, a senior Blue House official said.

“You have to pay attention to how he arranged his words, particularly the part that Koreans can never forget the history,” the official said on the condition of anonymity.

The president came into office in 2008 vowing to shift the national conversation toward a future-oriented relationship with its former colonial ruler. Last year, Lee renewed his calls for reconciliation “to develop a new kind of future.”

But relations between the two nations have soured dramatically in recent months, with Japan’s approval of new textbooks as well as its annual defense white paper that repeated its claims over the Dokdo islets. A day before Japan issued its latest white paper, three Japanese lawmakers protesting Korean control of Dokdo attempted to visit a nearby island but were barred from entry.

Lee, despite his sharper words for Japan yesterday, did not mention Dokdo directly, which the Blue House official said was not necessary to do “because what Lee said ... included his message on Dokdo.”

The aide added that the president had made his position clear on the disputed territory in an April press conference: “Even if heaven and earth upheaval happens twice, that won’t change the fact that Dokdo is our land.”

Yet the Democratic Party criticized the president for not being sterner on Japan in his speech yesterday.

“Lee’s position was nothing more than a lecture from an ethics teacher,” DP spokesman Lee Yong-sup said. “Maybe it is too much to ask of him to face the people’s requests that the time has come for the president to show the Korean people’s self-esteem over Japan’s distortion of history.”

In contrast to media speculation before his address, Lee only briefly touched on North Korea in his speech yesterday, despite expectations that the president would use the opportunity to send a message to the regime.

“Nothing can be accomplished through provocations,” Lee said, stressing the importance of building mutual trust. He also said that South Korea would continue humanitarian assistance for children and natural disaster victims in the North.


By Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]

한글 관련 기사 [중앙일보]

독도 언급 안 한 MB “일본, 올바른 역사 가르칠 책임 있다”


이명박 대통령은 이번 광복절 경축사에서 ‘독도’란 단어를 쓰지 않았다. 한·일 관계 전반에 대한 언급도 전체 연설문(7700여 자) 중 200여 자에 그쳤다.

 “우리는 (일본과) 미래를 위해 불행했던 과거에 얽매이지 않을 것이다. 하지만 지난 역사를 우리 국민은 결코 잊지 않을 것이다. 일본은 미래세대에게 올바른 역사를 가르칠 책임이 있다.”

 이게 대일 메시지의 전부였다. 다만 청와대는 “짧지만, 역대 가장 강한 메시지”라고 주장한다.

 일본을 자극하지 않는 ‘성숙한 외교’라는 기조를 지키면서도 과거사 청산에 대한 압박은 이전 8·15 경축사에 비해 강해졌다는 것이다. 실제 지난해 경축사에서 이 대통령은 “역사를 잊지 않고 기억하면서도 함께 새로운 미래를 개척하는 것이야말로 바른 길”이라고 외교 기조를 제시했다. 그러나 올해는 ‘과거에 얽매이진 않겠다. 하지만 잊진 않는다’로 어순(語順)이 달라졌다.

 독도를 언급하지 않은 건 이미 실효적으로 독도를 지배하고 있는 상황에서 국정 최고책임자인 대통령까지 재차 독도 영유권 문제를 언급할 경우 일본의 ‘국제분쟁 지역화’ 전략에 말려들 소지가 있다는 판단 때문으로 보인다. 김두우 청와대 홍보수석은 “(굳이 표현하지 않아도) 일본에 ‘역사 교육을 바로 해달라’고 한 데 독도 얘기도 다 숨어 있는 것”이라고 말했다. 이재오 특임장관이 건의했던 ‘한국해 표기 천명’도 이런 방침에 맞춰 경축사에 반영되지 않았다.

 ‘대북 메시지’의 비중도 줄어들었다. 이 대통령은 북한을 향해 “책임 있는 행동과 진정한 자세로 신뢰를 구축하는 게 가장 중요하다”며 “도발을 통해 이룰 수 있는 것은 아무것도 없다”고 말했다. 그러면서 “(북한) 어린이에 대한 인도적 지원과 자연재해에 대한 인도적 지원은 계속해 나갈 것”이라고만 덧붙였다.

 연설문 중 300여 자뿐이었으며, 기존 입장을 다시 한번 요약한 수준이었다.

 김두우 수석은 이에 대해 “(이 대통령의 발언은) 말보다 행동이 중요한 시기라는 것”이라며 “지금 나와 있는 문제도 원만하게 진행이 안 되고 있는데 경축사에 새로운 제안을 넣는 건 의미가 없었다”고 말했다. 북한이 천안함·연평도 도발에 대한 사과나 비핵화 논의에서 진정성을 보이지 않는 만큼 대북 메시지 비중을 줄였다는 얘기다.

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