The need to overcome Abe
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is scheduled to give a keynote speech at the Sasakawa Peace Foundation during his trip to the United States. Korean and Japanese media have called the Sasakawa Foundation “a noted organization promoting Japan in the United States.”
However, the true nature of Sasakawa is frightening: It’s named after Ryoichi Sasakawa (1899-1995), a right-wing figure suspected of systematic involvement in historical revisionism.
Sasakawa is widely recognized as a fascist. Before the Pacific War, he was an avid supporter of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. In 1931, he founded and headed the Patriotic People’s Party. In 1939, he went to Italy and met Mussolini. He contributed aircraft and facilities to the nation as a part of his patriotism campaign, and was elected to the Japanese parliament. He advocated the idea of “putting a life on an aircraft to destroy each enemy warship,” providing the theoretical basis for kamikaze suicide attacks.
After World War II, he was named as a Class-A war criminal by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. However, he was not indicted and was released after only three years in prison for criticizing the Hideki Tojo cabinet, which initiated the Pearl Harbor attack.
Upon his release, he became a business tycoon with motorboat-racing business, and from his wealth, he founded the Japan Shipbuilding Industry Foundation, the predecessor of the Nippon Foundation. The Nippon Foundation is the biggest nonprofit organization in Japan with a budget of 22 billion yen ($185 million) - the earnings from 266 billion yen in assets. In an interview with TIME magazine in 1974, Sasakawa openly said, “I am the world’s richest fascist.”
The Nippon Foundation engages in maritime development, humanitarian work and the general promotion of Japan, but it is considered as having initiated the whitewashing of Sasakawa’s war crimes and Japan’s wartime history, influencing intellectuals, scholars and politicians in other countries.
Most notably, the Tokyo Foundation, which is funded by the Nippon Foundation, published and distributed “The Nanking Massacre: Facts Versus Fiction: A Historian’s Quest for the Truth,” which denies this horrendous event. So Abe’s speech at the Sasakawa Foundation can only be interpreted as strengthening this support.
Japan has been systematically and consistently pursuing historical revisionism for a long time, using the private organization and private exchanges.
Abe’s denial of his country’s history during his U.S. tour has been thoroughly crafted.
It has been revealed that the Japanese government hires American PR and lobbying agencies to influence U.S. policymakers. Japan has enlisted the Daschle Group, a public policy advisory agency, as well as law firms Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld; Hogan Lovells and the Podesta Group. By hiring PR and lobbying firms in mainstream American society, Japan must have been advised with a means and networks to promote positive imagery to American lawmakers, policy makers, politicians, think tanks and media. Japan is likely to have directly penetrated the unofficial inner circle in order to sway the highest elite in the United States, rather than the Department of Defense or the Department of State, with whom Korea makes official contact.
In short, the Japanese government hired public relations and lobbying firms to aggressively approach America’s leadership, and the private organization created by a far-right - a self-proclaimed fascist agency - is spreading distorted historical perspectives in the United States. To counter these aggressive revisionist efforts, the Korean government and private groups have desperately denounced Japan’s organized historical distortions through statements, contact with public servants, rallies, letters of protest and newspaper advertisements. However, such efforts may have been insufficient to deter Japan’s penetration into the political heart of the United States.
Now, in order to protect national interests, we need to fundamentally change our contact with Washington. It may cost us, but we need solid PR and lobbying strategies to make official and unofficial appeals to those who wield control and influence in Washington.
Additionally, Korea needs to pinpoint influential figures and place them on the front lines of diplomacy. We should consider hiring foreign PR agencies, lobbyists, strategists and marketing firms.
Abe’s tour has shown that it is not easy to defend Korea’s interests against Japan, no matter how competent and loyal Korean diplomats may be.
JoongAng Ilbo, April 30, Page 32
*The author is an editorial writer for the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Chae In-taek