A step toward peace in AsiaFormer Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama knelt in front of a memorial for Korean independence activists to apologize for Imperial Japan’s aggression and excesses during its colonial rule of Korea. He visited the Seodaemun Prison in Seoul - where the Japanese government once held Koreans, and now a history museum - laid flowers and bowed his head. It was the first time an influential Japanese figure paid respects to Korean independence movement activists.
Such a gesture can help the goal of establishing lasting peace in East Asia. Peace can only be achieved when the Japanese look straight at their history of aggression and colonial rule and genuinely regret their past deeds. Displays of sincerity like Hatoyama’s could help put the Korea-Japan relationship on the right path for co-prosperity and peace. Hatoyama’s visit also shows that there are many among the Japanese people and politicians who regret the country’s past aggressions and are committed to pacifism and the future.
Hatoyama also joined four other former prime ministers - Naoto Kan, Morihiro Hosokawa, Tsutomu Hata,and Tomiichi Murayama - to protest security bills being discussed in the Upper House calling for expansion in the role of the Self-Defense Forces sought by their incumbent counterpart, Shinzo Abe. They drew up a statement to campaign for a war-free Japan and sent it to Abe.
The International Conference for Peace in East Asia held in Seoul, which coincided with the 70th anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Japanese occupation on Aug. 15, ended with a declaration calling on Japan not to undermine the legacy of its pacifist Constitution. It emphasized that Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution is a promise to the international community that Japan would never start a war and repeat its wrongdoings, and serves as the foundation for peace in East Asia.
Peace in a neighborhood is possible through the display and practice of respect among neighbors. Abe must be fully aware of the historical weight and ramifications of his words that will make up his address to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. The statement must reassure the world of Japan’s commitment to regional and global peace.
JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 14, Page 30