[Viewpoint] Japan’s double standardAfter President Lee Myung-bak’s visit to Dokdo, Japan has threatened Korea with bringing the Dokdo case to the International Court of Justice and suspending the currency swap. Lee said, “He is not welcomed in Korea if he would say something like ‘deepest regret’ again. If he wants to visit Korea, he should make a genuine apology to the Korean independence fighters who were killed in their struggle against imperial Japan.”
And the Japanese government has become extremely upset and called President Lee’s remarks “rude” when they were only just and fair. When the Korean government sent back the letter from Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, Tokyo claimed that it was a diplomatic discourtesy. And Prime Minister Noda demanded President Lee apologize for asking the Japanese emperor to apologize. Does Japan have any right to demand an apology for discussing its emperor when Japan murdered Empress Myeongseong?
In the early morning of Oct. 8, 1895, a group of Japanese assassins broke into Gyeongbok Palace, brutally murdered Empress Myeongseong and burned her body. The savage crime was directly ordered by Miura Goro, the Japanese minister to Korea. Many countries have invaded and occupied other countries, but Japan is the only one to murder the queen of an invaded country and burn her corpse. After assassinating Empress Myeongseong, Japan ravaged Dokdo, occupied the Korean Peninsula, started the Pacific War, forcibly mobilized men of Joseon as workers and soldiers, and took women as sex slaves.
The Japanese emperor at the time of the assassination of Empress Myeongseong, pillage of Dokdo and colonial exploitation was Meiji, the great grandfather of the current Japanese emperor. The Japanese emperor responsible for cruel colonial rule was Hirohito, the father of the current emperor. If they had ever reflected on the assassination of Empress Myeongseong, they could never dare to call for an apology.
Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visited the Kuril Islands twice. After the visit two years ago, Japan responded by expressing regrets and recalling the Japanese ambassador to Moscow. When Medvedev visited again in July 2011, Tokyo simply issued a one-page protest statement. On Aug. 15, 14 people from Hong Kong landed on the Senkaku Islands, the disputed islands also called the Diaoyu Islands in Chinese. The Japanese authorities arrested and repatriated them without going through a legal process. Japan is being submissive to Russia and China but maintains high-handed to Korea. When Taiwan proposed bringing the Senkaku Islands to the International Court of Justice, the Japanese government and media made no response.
Japan seems to have double standards for various issues. After the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986, the Japanese media reported that the radiation from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant explosion traveled 8,000 kilometers (4,970 miles) and began to pollute Japan. And Tokyo criticized the Soviet government for not making disaster and accident information public. Now, 25 years later, the Fukushima nuclear power plants have melted down, and Japan released polluted water exposed to nuclear radiation into the ocean without notifying neighboring countries. Japan and Chernobyl are 8,000 kilometers apart, but it only takes 1,500 kilometers for the radiation to travel from Japan to Korea.
I served as the head of the Korean delegation for the Korea-Japan free trade agreement talks in 2003 and 2004. When Japan did not keep its promise to open up the agricultural and fisheries markets, I suspended the negotiation. Then the Japanese government criticized the delegation and pressured the Blue House to resume the talks. On Feb. 2, 2006, when the negotiation for the Korea-U.S. FTA began, a high-ranking Japanese official tried to dissuade Washington, claiming that Koreans were not honest and not to be trusted.
As the Japanese economy has been struggling and Korea and China are emerging in the last two decades, Japan is feeling extremely anxious. When the athletes returned to Tokyo after participating in the London Olympic Games on Aug. 20, 500,000 Japanese citizens gathered for the parade. It was the largest gathering of citizens since sending off soldiers during the Pacific War.
Japanese society is becoming increasingly group-oriented and conservative since the devastating earthquake last year. Korea has to accomplish reunification and enhance its political, economic and military caliber to secure a position as a major power in the East Asian region as soon as possible. It is the only way to prevent Japan’s repeated provocations.
* Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily staff.
* The author is a former ambassador of Korea to the United Nations.
by Kim Hyun-chong