The ghost fetus lives

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The ghost fetus lives


Lee Woo-keun

“Let all the souls here rest in peace for we shall not repeat the evil,” read the epitaph on the cenotaph at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. Whose evil does it refer to? Tadayoshi Saika, who wrote the epitaph, said it was referring to “our evil, the evil of the residents of Hiroshima who are also the citizens of the world.” It meant expressing remorse for the sins of Japan, which started the war.

The memorial was previously an old commercial exhibition center destroyed during the nuclear bombing; it was listed as a Unesco World Heritage site in 1996. The symbol of peace, which shows the wounds of the fearful nuclear bomb, is a paradox.

But many Japanese interpret the epitaph differently from its intention. Those that interpret it differently are the militarists who do not regret starting the war but losing it. They are dreaming of rearming Japan. They talk about “Yamato-damashii” all the time. Although the term actually means the spiritual and cultural values and characteristics of the Japanese people, it is also a slogan for the outdated ultra-nationalism of pledging loyalty to the Japanese emperor.

How can they burn with the spirits of Japanese subjects? Samurais cut open their stomachs. In the practice of harakiri, a Samurai disemboweled himself while his second cut the arteries of his neck from behind to assist in this cruel form of suicide. It is a ritual of group destruction of of extreme pain disguised behind calm and refined gestures that invite other people to commit suicide. Yukio Mishima, the author of “The Temple of the Golden Pavilion,” committed suicide via harakiri after his failed attempt to inspire Japanese soldiers to rise up in revolt. It is a cult of masochism inviting the spirit of death and a song in praise of death.

The members of the Kamikaze Special Attack Forces cut open their stomachs with knives shortly before their suicide attacks and crashed their aircraft into the warships of the Allied Forces. After the unit was created, 3,843 young soldiers were used in suicide attacks. Admiral Takijiro Onishi, the founder of the Kamikaze unit, also cut open his stomach and committed suicide immediately after the war ended.

Fanatics of death never die alone. They always take someone with them. The joint suicide is then honored.

Cultural anthropologist Ruth Benedict described the polite appearance and hidden instinct of destruction of the Japanese people with the contrasting images of the chrysanthemum and the sword. The cold sadism hidden behind the masochism, the instinct for war behind a pacifist Constitution and the antihistoric chauvinism in Japan’s history textbooks all represent the contrasting image of the chrysanthemum and the sword.

Ryotaro Shiba, a Japanese author best known for his novels about historical events, called the Taisho and Showa periods from the Sino-Japanese War to the Pacific War as a ghost fetus. Captured by the illusion of an immortal, divine land, Japan recklessly carried out its invasive wars and faced a destructive end with nuclear bombs. The militarism was a ghost fetus that must never be born and an evil spirit of death.

Today, the ghost fetus - called “gwitae” in Korea - is kicking again. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe came out declaring, “Call me a militarist if you want.”

He said, “There is no definition of invasion. It depends on which side you are seeing.” It is a remark worthy of the grandson of Class-A war criminal Nobusuke Kishi.

Even more unbelievable remarks by top Japanese officials followed. They said sexual slaves existed in all countries. They said Ahn Jung-geun was a terrorist. They said there was no massacre in Nanjing and the Japanese emperor became the living god of our time.

Their obliviousness to history and the progress of civilization appears to be madness. Are they trying to start another ritual of massive destruction with kamikazes chosen from the current youngsters of Japan, who have never been taught the reality of Japan’s military aggression? Abe’s Japan is running far away from the path of a normal state.

It is fortunate that conscientious intellectuals and civic communities critical of the ultra-right populism of Abe are making themselves heard. A group to defend Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, which prohibits Japan from having a military, was created. Opinion polls show that more than a majority of the Japanese people disagree abandoning the pacifist Constitution. There is still a possibility of Japan becoming a normal country.

An old pocket watch is displayed in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial. It stopped at 8:15 a.m., the time when the nuclear bomb dropped on the city in the morning of Aug. 6, 1945. The thinking of Japan’s leadership appeared to have stopped at the moment. If it continues its insanity, it’s hard to deny the possibility of Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Forces landing ships on Dokdo in a crazy military action.

We cannot sit and watch the rebirth of the ghost fetus. North Korea is not the only country with the need for a regime change.

Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily staff.

JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 24, Page 35

*The author is a partner at Hwang Mok Park, PC, and former head of the Seoul Central District Court.

By Lee Woo-keun
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