Beware the danger of overreaction

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Beware the danger of overreaction


A friend of mine arrived at Gimpo Airport in Seoul last week and witnessed a strange scene. That day, the female flight attendants of Japan Airlines were going through immigration in the lines reserved for airline crews and diplomats. Suddenly, an immigration officer stopped them, as the entry form filled out by one of them was incomplete. The immigration officer called to the Koreans in the line for regular passengers and told them to go to the reserved line. The Koreans moved at once, without knowing what was going on between the officer and the JAL flight attendants.

It is possible that the incident that day was somehow related to another recent incident involving K-pop group Beast, whose members were denied entry at Haneda Airport in Japan. Nevertheless, we can spot tensions reflective of the touchy relations between our countries.

As it turns out, the Beast incident, which created a great deal of controversy in Korea last week, was nothing to get worked up about. It seems to have been the result of a mistake on the part of the agency or event organizer. The incident happened on Aug. 16, and I asked a high-level official in charge of Korean affairs at the Japanese foreign ministry about the case. He was surprised to learn about the incident and called his subordinate to confirm it. The subordinate was not aware of the incident either. Though Japan was neither interested in, nor aware of the incident for two full days, Koreans were wasting energy on it and even speculated that it was done in retaliation for our government’s refusing entry to Yoshitaka Shindo, who led a delegation of Japanese lawmakers attempting to visit Ulleung Island.

In the meantime, there was a report that a Japanese television program showed a Korean female K1 fighter beaten up by three Japanese comedians. We also heard that thousands of Japanese demonstrated in front of a network that airs Korean programs. It seems like sensational and unfounded reporting.

Frankly, Koreans do not need to be concerned about the foreign policy of Japan nowadays. Since the prime minister changes almost every year, it is hard to expect a calculated and systematic foreign policy from Tokyo. We certainly need to be vigilant, but we can also laugh off trivial protests or provocations from Japan. Above all, we must remember that an overly sensitive response or overestimation of Japan in general may backfire on us instead.

*The writer is the Tokyo correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Kim Hyun-ki
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