Adolf Hitler, Kim Jong-un and slurs from Shinzo AbeThe recent slurs by Japanese rightist politicians like Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have caused a worldwide anger. They are provoking a strong backlash inside Japan too, but the rightist politicians don’t seem to know how to stop their ludicrous statements.
As a matter of fact, Japanese politicians have a long history of giving thoughtless remarks related to racism, historical distortion and territorial disputes.
On July 23, 1988, Michio Watanabe, chief of the governing Liberal Democratic Party’s Policy Affairs Research Council, triggered a diplomatic friction between Japan and America when he said, “Japanese people, facing bankruptcy, fly by night or think of a familial suicide, but blacks think it’s no such a big deal, saying, ‘Bankruptcy, and I don’t have to pay from tomorrow.’?”
On June 13, 2008, Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura said, “Obama is black and Hillary is a woman. I guess it would be difficult for them to win.”
On Aug. 28, 2012, Shintaro Ishihara, governor of Tokyo, said, “There is no evidence that the Japanese military coerced women into sexual slavery. In those hard times, prostitution was a very profitable business.”
Still in many countries, a lot of people are involved in racial, ethnic and religious discrimination and serious abuse of human rights. There exists no other ordinary country like Japan in which national leaders come to the front and center and unscrupulously make ridiculous remarks related to racial discrimination, history distortion and territorial dispute.
It was not by force but through an election that the century’s heinous murderer Hitler took power in Germany. The Germans faced enormous economic woes with the Great Depression, when Hitler instigated the Germans with superiority of the Aryan race and hatred against Jews to come to power. German people are not free from what Hitler played in the Nazi control of the country and the breakout of World War II. It’s why Germans repeatedly apologize for their past wrongs.
What about Japan?
The ludicrous statements lately made by rightist Japanese politicians are designed to deceive the people to win their hearts. In normal countries, those politicians are bound to be ousted from the political arena immediately. In Japan, on the contrary, such shameless politicians more often than not become popular and win elections.
In 2002, Foreign Policy magazine stated in a story titled “Japan’s Gross National Cool” that “Despite the 10-year-long economic depression, Japan has risen as a cultural superpower comparable to America in popular culture.” At that time, from J-pop, film, television drama, home electronics, architecture, cooking to fashion, Japanese popular culture was exercising huge influence.
This year, 11 years after, Japan as a cultural superpower has shrunken and is nowhere to be seen. The Japanese Wave has died down largely because Japanese have stuck to their league.
By contrast, Korean Wave has its distinctive quality. Escaping isolation, it represents universal ideas that the entire world may share and like. As Korean Wave rules out the local colors as much as possible and offers many things to share with cultures of Japan, China, Thailand, America and Europe, it has been able to gain traction around the world.
Japan has demonstrated a deep-rooted sense as the self-proclaimed “chosen people” in looking down on other Asians, blacks and Hispanics with their outdated mindset to “get out of Asia into Europe.” While Japanese people glorify their invasions and console themselves by saying, “Wartime sex slaves are prostitutes,” Psy of Korea creates a global sensation with his “Gangnam Style.”
We tend to find many similarities between the grandiloquence shown by Kim Jong-un and the ludicrous slurs by Abe in denying the history of Japanese invasion.
*Han Seung-bum, President of the Korean Wave Research Institute