In Germany, lessons for Japan

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In Germany, lessons for Japan

When I visit Berlin for business trips, I get to pass by the Holocaust Memorial at least once a day. Located about 200 meters (218 yards) from the Brandenburg Gate at the center of Berlin, the memorial is easy to find.

You cannot miss the vast site, which is three times the size of a soccer field and covered with 2,711 gray concrete slabs of various heights. The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe resembles a cemetery in the middle of the German capital, and the gigantic space of repentance reflects a deep apology.

Germany’s federal government has been is adrift for more than three weeks now. The general election was held Sept. 22, but a new government has yet to be formed. Angela Merkel of the Christian Democratic Union is negotiating with the Social Democratic Party to form a coalition government, but it is not likely to happen this year.

However, there are not many concerns in Germany and in the international community. The atmosphere is quite different from when Italy couldn’t form a government for two months earlier this year.

Back then, people were concerned about the economic crisis, but now, not many expect political unrest due to Germany’s coalition-building. When the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats formed a coalition government in the United Kingdom three years ago, it was severely criticized for lacking a clear direction.

Two months after the Fukushima nuclear accident in May 2011, the German government announced a plan to phase out nuclear plants. Among the country’s 17 reactors, eight are inoperable and the rest will close by 2022. While the price of electricity increased 10 percent over the past two years, few want to reconsider the policy. People share the common understanding that they need to pay the price to reduce the risk.

Germany has emerged as a threat for France and the United Kingdom. The economic hegemony of Europe lies with Germany, as it is playing a crucial role to settle the crisis in the euro zone. German sociologist Ulrich Beck wrote in his book “German Europe” expressing concern about the “Germanification of Europe,” not the other way around

Germany’s political and social stability is overwhelming. However, instead of boasting about it, Germany calmly pursues its interests. While England and France have trade friction with China over the Dalai Lama, Germany quietly invites Chinese leaders.

While neighbors sometimes pick on its “original sin,” the rebuke approach is not effective since Germany is even harsher on itself. Germany is the model student with good grades, great physique and wealthy background who completely overcame a violent past.

Compared to Germany, Japan is a vicious neighbor that continues to make trouble. However, it may be a good thing for us. It is simply eerie to imagine Japan suddenly building a memorial for comfort women next to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, its prime minister visiting the Jeamri Church and seeking forgiveness, and becoming a model nation that abandons nuclear plants out of concern for its people and neighbors.

*The author is a London correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

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