A reluctance to change

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A reluctance to change


Kanbei Kuroda (1546-1604) was a legendary Japanese military leader of the late Sengoku to early Edo period.

When Toyotomi Hideyoshi unified Japan and declared that it would invade Korea, he discouraged aggression as a “thoughtless fight.” But after Japanese troops left for Korea, Kuroda suggested the “withdrawal of the entire army.”

Mitsunari Ishida, Hideyoshi’s closest aide, was displeased with this proposal and framed Kuroda, attempting to pressure him into killing himself for honor.

But Kuroda’s supporters dissuaded him from the honor suicide and he went back to Hideyoshi and told them that he needed to stay alive to discourage Hideyoshi from his reckless actions. He said that jumping off a cliff because of the lord was blind obedience and that discouraging him from leaping was loyalty. This is called the “advice of Kanbei.”

Over the indictment of former Seoul bureau chief of Sankei Shimbun Tatsuya Kato, center in the photo, for an article he wrote about President Park Geun-hye, the Japanese criticized that his punishment would never have been passed down if Park had a proper advisor. This may be true, but Japan is in no position to point fingers. There is no “Kanbei” who puts the brakes on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ultra-conservative swing, either. Only blindly obedient followers are rampant, while true advisors and strategists are missing.

Another trend we often fail to notice is Japanese society’s deep-rooted reluctance to change. For better or worse, Japan doesn’t alter. The same 10 percent of Japanese people dominate politics and business. But the rest, 90 percent, don’t express complaints because income distribution among regions and classes is reasonable.

Japan is a unique society where people support unreasonable arguments if a just claim accompanies major changes. After the devastating Fukushima nuclear accident, the anti-nuclear power group is considered a minority. It is structurally different from Korea, where people find drastic change refreshing.

Ironically, this calls for Korea to alter instead of Japan. When there is no advisor suggesting change and no general citizen wanting it, then it is reckless to say that Japan should reform. Such a demand only encourages our antagonism against each other. The key to diplomacy with Japan is not about whether to hold a summit meeting or not. It depends on whether Korea is ready to embrace the limits of the existing means of making “demands,” and if we are able to systematically draft strategies, tactics and plans with Japan as a constant.

*The author is the Tokyo bureau chief of the JoongAng Ilbo. JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 4, Page 34

by KIM HYUN-KI


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