Curbing emotional opposition to Japan
Where is the East Sea? Foreigners often find this name in English confusing. When working for an English newspaper, the editors wanted to use “East Sea” together with “Sea of Japan,” and I was tired of getting complaint calls from the readers. But the editors said, “We have to be considerate of readers who don’t know what the East refers to.” They also insisted on using Dokdo and Takeshima together, but their firm stance was suddenly shaken. A middle-aged woman cut off her finger during an anti-Japanese protest and cried, “Dokdo is Korean territory.” The editors said, “What if they storm into the newsroom? Why is Korea so emotional?”
It is not that they don’t know about Korean history. They were veteran reporters trained in conflicted regions, and while they may not know what year the Eulsa annexation treaty was signed, they instinctively sensed the explosive nature of Korea-Japan discord. They advised, “It is a losing game for Korea if Korea acts so emotional.”
Unlike a man and a woman who can end their relationship, Korea and Japan cannot end their relations. A country cannot move away. In “The Art of War,” Sun Tzu wrote that fighting till death can get you trapped, and getting overly upset about insults was rash. Recklessly demanding a sincere apology from Japan or being flared up by the frequent slurs of rightist politicians do no good for Korea.
We can take a cue from Maria Altmann (1916-2011), a Jewish woman who lost her family and fortune to the Nazis during World War II. “Woman in Gold” is a film about her life and how she waged a fight with humor and grace. When she learned that the Austrian government, which owned her paintings, was waiting for the 90-year-old woman to pass away, she laughed and said she would live for 50 more years. After eight years of trials, she reclaimed $100 million worth of paintings from the Austrian government. It is a triumph of her persistent grace and strategy.
After Japan passed a bill to ditch the pacifist constitution in Thursday’s vote at the Lower House, criticism was poured on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. However, criticizing Abe at a Japanese restaurant, drinking Asahi beer, won’t scrap the bill. In order to make the comfort women victims another Altmann, we need to show a graceful smile while making meticulous strategies.
Psychologist Fred Luskin said that when one becomes a winner, not a victim, one would have the peaceful emotion of forgiveness. For our own peace of mind, we should seek victory not with an anti-Japanese sentiment but with a strategy of using Japan. Will I be condemned as a traitor if I propose “East Korea Sea” instead of “East Sea”?
The author is a political and international news writer for the JoongAng Ilbo.
JoongAng Ilbo, July 18, Page 27
by CHUN SU-JIN