Absolute victory is impossible
The author is a Tokyo correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
“Reasons why Prime Minister Abe does not trust Korea,” “All responsibilities with President Moon,” “Undemocratic Korea fallen into the bottomless pit,” “Blaming Japan for economic downfall.” This is the list of articles in the September issue of a Japanese monthly magazine known for its anti-Korean stance. They are in a series “Special: Korea on the verge of collapse.” You don’t even need to read them. The essence is self-complacence of the right-wing as it has become a fad among the Japanese bureaucrats and media to please the Abe government.
Extremists have things in common. Some Korean politicians and media share extreme claims and reports on Japan as well. They are irresponsible arguments with no interest in resolving the situation and instead try to find satisfaction from separating people of the two countries. Even the “sane” people in Japan who internally oppose Abe’s economic retaliation are surprised by these claims and become “enemies of Korea.”
Here, President Moon Jae-in’s Liberation Day address set the right direction. He not only urged Japan to talk but also was welcomed for saying, “As the world saw the ‘peace on the Korean Peninsula’ in PyeongChang, I hope the Tokyo Olympics will give hope for friendship and cooperation.”
Many Japanese said, “I thought Korean politicians and media were focused on making the Olympics a failure by raising the radiation issue. But it may not be the case considering what the president said.” A Japanese businessman in his 80s, who had served as a Seoul correspondent for a major Japanese newspaper in the 1970s, sent me a text message, “It was a dignified speech calling the Abe government to talk to resolve the trade discord by accurately analyzing the situation.”
In the diplomatic arena, 100 percent victory is nearly impossible. Asahi Shimbun’s editorial on Aug. 17 proposed, “The Abe government should restate its historical perspective on the Korean Peninsula in order to clear Korea’s distrust that Japan is passive in repenting the past.” While Korean media reported that Asahi took Korea’s side, it is distorting facts. Asahi actually claimed that Korea cannot be trusted if a promise made between countries is scrapped, even if it was made in the previous administration, and demanded President Moon reevaluate and respect the comfort women agreement.
If pursuing a victory of 60 to 40, or 51 to 49 instead of 100 to 0, how about Korea aggressively proposes a solution? It is to resolve the actual problem, move the public opinion in Japan and win support from the international community. Considering President Moon’s courage urging Japan to talk first, it may not be impossible.
JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 20, Page 32