Beyond refuting the Japanese rightTo the dismay and sadness of Japan’s Asian neighbors, the Japanese Right is acting out its imperialist impulse with little restraint. It is revising Japan’s recent history with striking urgency as if to restore its image feared unfairly tarnished. Prime Minister Abe is denying the applicability of “invasions” to Japan’s past acts of aggression. He may soon better his semantic maneuver by even denying the actual events called invasions, as his Right has indeed denied the historicity of the Nanching Massacre and the government-forced use of Korean, other Asian and European women as sex slaves to Japanese soldiers during World War II. Japan’s territorial claims also come under its revisionary historiography.
Japan’s continuing and intensifying provocations, directed at both Koreas, put the South in a dilemma. The South, in countering the challenge from the North, finds it uncomfortable to appear as an ally of Japan, the nation that brutalized Korea for 36 years, to the point of trying to eradicate the Korean language and culture; was indirectly responsible for the division of Korea; yet incredibly, with no remorse, persists in its aggressive and spiteful pose and demeanor toward Korea. The Japanese provocations carry an ill-concealed intent to mock the divided Korea.
South Korea needs a lucid and powerful narrative that not only exposes the falsehoods, distortions, fictions and illogic that the Japanese Right weaves but also appeals to the enlightened sector of the Japanese public to attempt a reform of the moral and political culture of Japan. Japanese friends of Korea should be reminded that the Japanese Right causes Japan’s isolation from the Asian, nay, even the global, community of nations including the United States, ally to both South Korea and Japan, visibly irritated by Japan’s accelerated rush to the right.
Even while appropriately handling the provocations from the Japanese Right, South Korea should not ignore the challenge of becoming a moral voice, lone as it may now be, calling the Asian nations to heed a ripe historic moment to build a family of mutually respecting and appreciative nations to prosper together, cultivating and sharing their rich cultural heritage and resources, to the benefit of all humanity.
*Kim Chin-tai, Professor of philosophy at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio