No more ‘an eye for an eye,’ please1.) “Does the United States consider a visit to the Yasukuni Shrine to be the same as offering flowers in Arlington Cemetery?”
The answer I found while working in Washington, D.C., is closer to no. Internationally, Yasukuni is not a mere religious facility but a religious facility that creates diplomatic problems. Now the Japanese need to come up with an answer.
That’s part of a Dec. 1 column titled “Is Yasukuni an Arlington?” by the Yomiuri Shimbun’s Washington correspondent. It is one of those rare editorials from the conservative Japanese daily I can 100 percent agree with.
2.) “Gwon Cheol, a Korean photographer who has been working in Japan since 1994, published a photography book on the life of a poet who suffered from leprosy and passed away at [the age of 87] two years ago. The winner of this year’s Kodansha Publication Culture Award began visiting the nursing home for Hansen’s diseased patients in 1997.”
The Dec. 2 issue of the Asahi Shimbun featured a heartwarming story of a Korean photographer. I felt shocked, as Gwon was my acquaintance, but I’d never known about this side of him. Reading Japanese newspapers is routine for a Tokyo correspondent. As Korea-Japan relations have grown tense lately, I’ve paid special attention to them. The Japan depicted in newspapers tends to vary depending on the tendencies of the media. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe worked hard for the state secret protection law, which can have public servants sentenced with a jail term of up to 10 years for disclosing certain secrets. Liberal media deem it “an evil law chocking the neck of democracy.” But the conservative Yomiuri criticized the opposition and defended Abe, arguing it was strange to deny the majority vote.
While views of Japanese newspapers widely vary, the distance in Korean media is even greater. Recently, Tokyo Electric Power Company used a robot camera to record the leaking of contaminated water from the reactor at Fukushima. The Japanese media reported that they were aware of the leak. However, some Korean media reported as if an unknown leak was newly found. Good news turned into a tragedy as it crossed the Korea Strait.
The difference in views between Korea and Japan is already big enough that we don’t need to take sensational journalism into account. If we get frustrated at these reports, we may fall into the trap made by rightist media. When a Japanese magazine criticized President Park Geun-hye for unsophisticated diplomacy, a Blue House official retorted, “Rough words and writing are shameful and regrettable for life.” While he is right, it would have been more discouraging for the weekly magazine if the Blue House just ignored them.
The author is a Tokyo correspondent for the JoongAng Ilbo.
By SEO SEUNG-WOOK