Regret without an apologyJapanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe plans to make a statement to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II a day before our Liberation Day, Aug. 15. The Abe statement will have great significance as it offers a chance to look into the hard-line Abe Cabinet’s official positions on Japan’s shameful past and its future course. Though we look forward to a turning point in ties between Seoul and Tokyo that have deteriorated, that appears to be wishful thinking.
An advisory panel comprised of 16 experts commissioned by the prime minister to draft the statement Thursday submitted a report on the results of their discussions to Abe. It mentioned “Japan’s colonial rule and aggressions” and said, “Japan is born again through deep regrets over the past war.” But nowhere can the word “apology” be found. This is in contrast to the 1995 Murayama Statement, which used “apology” together with words such as “colonial rule, aggressions and remorse.”
If Abe makes a statement based on the panel’s recommendations, he cannot avoid criticism that the Japanese government’s acknowledgement of its historical sins has retrogressed over the last two decades, which contradicts Abe’s earlier pledge to uphold previous administrations’ statements and apologies.
Omitting an explanation about the lead-up to Japan’s forced annexation of the Korean Peninsula, the advisors’ report only said that Japan’s colonial rule got crueler from the late 1930s. The report also took for granted “imperial powers’ universal design to civilize barbaric people around the world,” shirking Japan’s responsibility for its harsh rule of the peninsula. That suggests Abe has no intention of apologizing for colonial rule.
The report also attributed the deterioration of Korea-Japan relations to Seoul’s inconsistent policies toward Tokyo over the last seven decades. That’s a perfect example of trying to find fault with others instead of taking time for introspection. It is wrong for Japan to deny its wrongdoings of the past by reneging on the Kono Statement, which accepted Japan’s forced recruitment of sex slaves in Korea. Tokyo has repeatedly rubbed salt in our wounds by sending politicians to the Yasukuni Shrine, distortions in history textbooks and countless derogatory remarks about Koreans.
Regret without an apology doesn’t wash. The Japanese government must sincerely apologize for the pain it caused. If Japan really wants to become a “normal country” that contributes to the international community, Abe must apologize.
JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 8, Page 26