[Letters] Averting another national tragedyI was an elementary student while Korea was under Japanese rule. We were required to read a history textbook that taught that the Japanese people had descended from a goddess. I also remember reading oversize newspaper headlines saying that the Japanese navy had exterminated the American armada in the Pacific.
Later after the war, we learned that the victories at sea that the Japanese press had touted were in fact Japanese defeats of apocalyptic proportions around the Ryukyu and Saipan Islands. It is regrettable that the habit of confusing history and myth, fact and fiction and truth and falsehood was not shed at the collapse of the imperialist state.
The post-war Japanese government’s persistent denial of well-recorded wartime crimes against humanity, including sexual enslavement of Korean women, conscription of tens of thousands of Korean men to slave labor, massacre of hundreds of thousands of innocent Chinese civilians in Nanking and use of live Chinese for medical experimentation, taken in light of its increasingly strident claims on neighbors’ territories on tortuous grounds, indicate that the habit dies hard.
What is also distressing is the inaudibility of Japanese citizens of conscience against the rhetoric of the Right. It would be a mistake for them to be silent out of disdain for the politicians seeking influence by appealing to lingering imperialist sentiments. They should remind themselves that silence and acquiescence of nationalistic citizens drove a Japan ruled by the military to suicidal misadventure barely a century ago.
South Koreans on their part should remind themselves that Korea’s lack of comprehension of its geopolitical position, unity, vigilance and preparedness invited a tragedy resulting in the national division they now live in.
* Kim Chin-tai Professor of philosophy, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH