Time to share the painIt is shameful that some Korean netizens are posting disgraceful messages on the Internet following the Thursday — and ongoing — large-scale earthquakes in Kumamoto, Japan. They claim that Korea must not help Japan because it tries to distort history instead of thanking Koreans who rolled up their sleeves to collect donations for the Japanese, whose lives were totally devastated by the cataclysmic earthquake and tsunami of 2011. Some netizens even clamor for providing aid to Ecuador — instead of Japan — which was also battered by recent massive earthquakes on the other side of the Ring of Fire. This is an utterly deplorable development.
It is true that Seoul-Tokyo relations have rapidly deteriorated since 2011, when the magnitude 9.0 undersea earthquake hit Japan. Despite an agreement last year between the two governments on the existence of sex slaves serving Japan’s Imperial Army during World War II, the nationalistic Shinzo Abe administration has consistently denied the fact that the Japanese government had been behind the forced mobilization of “comfort women” during the war.
Prime Minister Abe sparked outrage among Koreans by declaring that his cabinet would review the Murayama Statement, which apologized for Japan’s colonial rule of Korea. President Park Geun-hye also contributed to the strained relations by adhering to the principle that without resolving the sex slave issue, both sides cannot maintain normal relations.
Nevertheless, the refusal to help a neighbor in misfortune for political reasons or gloating over their suffering cannot be justified, no matter what. Surely, Koreans did not collect donations for the Japanese at the time of the Tohoku earthquake to hear Japan express their gratitude to us.
We must make efforts to enhance the dignity and happiness of humankind irrespective of race and nationality — particularly in times of natural disasters. Even when enemies are injured in the middle of war, soldiers treat them. That’s the spirit of humanity. Koreans must help their close neighbors in distress.
You can choose your friends, but not your neighbors. No matter how much hatred lingers in our hearts, Japan is a neighbor, and we must live together. Moreover, Japan is a country that shares democracy with us. That means both sides have many things in store for them to help each other with.
Hatred leads to hatred. The feelings of hostility and animosity clearly represented by our netizens’ posting of malicious messages only fuel Japanese people’s hatred toward Koreans. Even though Japan sometimes behaves in a disappointing manner, we must scrap such a narrow-minded, exclusive and ethnocentric mind-set.
JoongAng Ilbo, April 20, Page 30