Distorting the past, twisting the futureWe all knew it was coming.
In its defense white paper released on July 21, Japan again claimed Dokdo as Japanese territory. Provocations via the white paper began in 2005 during the Junichiro Koizumi government and have continued for 11 years now.
It’s no surprise, but the proclamation this year is especially bitter. The 50th anniversary of the Treaty on Basic Relations Between Japan and the Republic of Korea on June 22, 1965, seemed to be improving the bilateral relations, which have just begun to decline again.
Dark clouds also began to gather earlier this month when Japan applied for Unesco World Heritage status for the industrial facilities it once used as sites for forced labor. Japan explained to the Unesco committee that Koreans were “forced to work,” but changed its stance back home, arguing that the phrase “forced to work” does not mean it was “forced labor.”
The climax of Japan’s arbitrary diplomacy related to its use of forced labor was Mitsubishi’s apology on July 19, to the American soldiers captured during World War II, who were used as slave laborers. Mitsubishi’s delegation visited the Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, but they said that they would not comment on Korean and Chinese forced laborers, as lawsuits were still in progress.
The Simone Weisenthal Center was established by Holocaust survivor Simone Weisenthal, who lost 89 relatives to the Nazis. The most well-known Nazi hunter in the world and the one who revealed countless war crimes in his life, Weisenthal would have kicked out the Mitsubishi delegation if he had been alive.
Another concern is that the address next month by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II is unlikely to include an apology for its colonial aggressions. A source knowledgeable on Korea-Japan relations lamented that all the efforts to improve bilateral ties are futile at this stage, and that relations at this rate are destined to be aggravated for years to come.
Backed by his right-wing supporters, Abe has long advocated for a “strong Japan.” But the adverse effects from that attitude are already apparent. Since the voting on a series of security bills that would allow Japan to exercise its right to collective self-defense, Abe’s approval rating has fallen to the lowest this term to 35 percent, according to the Mainichi Shimbun.
The author is a political and international news reporter.
JoongAng Ilbo, July 22, Page 29
by YOO JEE-HYE