The need for historical accuracy
Of the 1.4 million people living in Hawaii, 23 percent are of Japanese descent. Also, a large portion of the archipelago’s tourists are Japanese, and some joke that even if you only speak Japanese, you can live in Hawaii without much problem.
But one place in Hawaii where you won’t hear people speaking Japanese is the Pearl Harbor Historic Site. On December 7, 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, killing 2,403 Americans and sinking 18 ships.
The battleship USS Arizona suffered the worst damage and the highest number of casualties (1,777), and as it was too dangerous to salvage the ship, it became part of the memorial site.
The museum next the USS Arizona Memorial presents the “View from Japan” as it delivered the devastating attack. About 20 percent of the museum is dedicated to this section, explaining the background of Japan’s planning of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
It shows, for instance, that the 1941 suspension of oil exports from the United States to Japan provoked Tokyo.
A museum official said it was a device to enhance historical objectivity rather than offering one-sided views by the United States.
A Japanese attendee who visited the site as a part of the East West Center program said, “before I came here, I was afraid I’d be a target of criticism as the sites would only feature opprobrium aimed at Japan.
But now that I’ve come, it’s even more frightening that the United States thoroughly planned the memorial site by adding objectivity.”
The memorial’s thoroughness peaks with it focus on the USS Missouri, which survived the Pearl Harbor attacks and entered Tokyo Bay after Japan surrendered.
Indeed, it was upon this ship that the surrender documents were signed. The USS Missouri was later decommissioned and is anchored above the location where the USS Arizona sank, a silent reminder of history.
How is Korea remembering history? On December 28, 2016, Korea and Japan reached an agreement on wartime sexual slavery, but aside from calling it “final and irreversible,” no specifics, such as compensation for the victims and memorial facilities, have been decided in the two months since.
On March 18, the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology is holding a review on approved textbooks, and there are concerns that Japan will reduce sections pertaining to comfort women.
Korea needs to move more promptly, calmly yet firmly pressing for memorial facilities and victim compensation from Japan. A blueprint for the memorial facilities should be prepared soon. It’s a critical task to build a place where we can objectively reflect upon history, and Korea needs to be swift and precise. Just as Pearl Harbor illustrates, records control memories.
The author is a political and international news writer
for the JoongAng Ilbo.
JoongAng Ilbo, March 18, Page 35