Confronting the past

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Confronting the past

An apology should continue to be made until the other party accepts it, says Haruki Murakami, one of Japan’s best-known novelists, in a critical dig at the Shinzo Abe government, which has been unabashedly revisionist about history and evasive to the point of denying its past misdeeds.

“The issue of historical understanding carries great significance and I believe it is important that Japan makes straightforward apologies,” he said in an interview with Kyodo News. And Japan must apologize until “the countries say: We haven’t necessarily gotten over it completely, but you have apologized enough.

Alright let’s leave it now. His comments come across as a voice of conscience by the Japanese intelligentsia as Prime Minister Abe is reported to be considering dropping words like “invasion,” “colonial rule” and “apology” in a statement to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the World War II in August.

Some Japanese people have been concerned about Tokyo’s decisive shift to the right under Abe, who wants to amend the pacifist post-war constitution and build Japan’s military power.

The opinion of a respected writer might help Japan to frankly accept its past and make a sincere apology to restore the country’s reputation and prevent it from making wrong steps in the future.

Abe is the first person to take advice from the novelist. He must not forget that Japan was able to rebuild its nation from its bloody and heartless past based on cultural values led by its intelligentsia.

“Apologizing is nothing to feel embarrassed about,” said Murakami who added that the fact that Japan has invaded other countries can’t be reversed - but can be atoned for.

More Japanese should be bold enough to speak up about Japan’s current drift to the right as this year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. Japan’s neighbors still have vivid and bitter memories of Japan’s aggression. Asia truly cannot move forward without getting some closure on the past.

The conscience of the intelligentsia might keep the country from backtracking to the past. We hope Japanese society would find a balance and try to mend ties with its neighbors.

JoongAng Ilbo, April 18, Page 30
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