A magnificent trace of peace
Former Japanese Ambassador to Korea Masatoshi Muto returned to Japan on Oct. 20 after serving more than two years in Korea. Personally, I will remember Ambassador Muto for two reasons. He was fluent in Korean and he underwent a lot of trouble during his tenure. He mastered the language as he worked with Korea for nearly 40 years. Diplomats are busiest when the relationship between two countries is turbulent. All Japanese ambassadors to Korea have been busy, but the Korea-Japan relationship while Muto’s term was by far the worst.
On Dec. 19, 2011, a dinner was held at the ambassador’s residence in Seoul. The dinner was attended by Commissioner Seiichi Kondo of the Japanese Agency for Cultural Affairs and Kim Dong-ho, the honorary chairman of the Busan International Film Festival. Muto was in Kyoto, Japan, to assist the Korea-Japan summit meeting. Kondo used his residence to host the dinner while he was visiting Seoul for an event at the National Museum. But Muto unexpectedly came home around 9 p.m. because Pyongyang had announced the death of Kim Jong-il. He was exhausted. When someone asked him how the meeting went, he muttered, “It was intense.”
The summit meeting between President Lee Myung-bak and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda was an unprecedented, fierce verbal battle. Lee demanded resolution of the military sex slaves during World War II and Noda countered directly. The discord, including the controversies following President Lee’s visit to the Dokdo islets, had already begun at the time.
I see hope in the International Symposium for the Designation of Joseon Tongsinsa as a Unesco World Heritage held in Busan on Oct. 19. Joseon Tongsinsa was a massive goodwill mission to Japan, whose members included scholars, warriors and artists, which continued for more than 200 years from 1607 1811. Just like the Baltic Way, which is added to the Unesco Memory of the World Register, the passage from Hanyang (old name of Seoul) to Edo (old name of Tokyo) may be designated. This trace of peace embodies the wisdom of ancestors in both countries, and it is a symbol of two countries’ friendship as significant as the co-hosting of the 2002 World Cup. The task is too overwhelming for the people of Busan. The central government and the National Assembly need to join the effort. The Tongsinsa can be a key to solving the entanglement between the two countries.
*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By Noh Jae-hyun