Abe’s dangerous battlefield tours
This year is expected to emphasize peace because it marks the centennial of World War I. More than 10 million people were killed in that war, and its aftermath led to World War II. It is a symbol of a foolish cycle of aggression. Europe will mark the anniversary with educational events and prayers.
According to the Financial Times, Mons, Belgium, will be the center of the centennial ceremony. The “Christmas Miracle” of 1914 occurred in Ypres, Belgium. British and German soldiers had voluntary, unofficial cease-fires on the western front on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. They came out of their 27-mile-long trenches, shook hands and sang carols together. The British newspaper Mirror reported, “Our men went out and brought the dead in and buried them and the next thing, a football kicked out of our trenches - and the Germans and English played football.”
The Daily Mail reported that the theme of the British government’s World War I centennial event for peace, which will cost 80 million pounds ($132 million), will be a football match commemorating the Christmas truce. The English Football Association and the Youth Football Association will co-host the event. Two student ambassadors and one teacher from public middle schools and high schools around the country will go to the site of the battle to learn about the danger of discord and confrontation and the need for empathy and peace. Nearly all European nations, including Germany, will send delegations. In order to not repeat the folly, Europeans constantly teach their children of the events even after 100 years.
Korea needs to stay alert this year. Japan has heralded unexpected news. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced a plan to visit several South Pacific islands, where the Pacific War was fought. It’s the first visit to the islands by an incumbent prime minister in 29 years, and Abe wishes to promote events honoring the war dead and the exhumation of the remains.
It could be considered as another provocation after his visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, where 14 Class-A war criminals - who were executed or died during trial, imprisonment or who were paroled by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East - are enshrined. While Europe seeks harmony by re-enacting the Christmas truce, what is Abe’s goal?
Regarding Abe’s Yasukuni visit, the spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Steffen Seibert, said, “In general, all nations must honestly live up to their role in the horrible events of the 20th century. Only on the basis of this honest accounting is it possible to build a future with former foes. This is a conviction Germany takes to heart and which in my opinion applies to all states.”
*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By CHAE IN-TAEK