Now, it’s too late

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Now, it’s too late

Chun Su-Jin
The author is head of the Today & People team of the JoongAng Ilbo.
March 11 marks the 10th anniversary of the Tohoku Earthquake. On that day, 15,894 people died from the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan, according to the Japanese National Police Agency. Miyagi Prefecture had the most fatalities at 9,541. Among them was Yasumasa Abe, husband of Chae Myung-sin, a Korean resident in Japan.
Abe drowned while trying to protect the couple’s Korean restaurant. A moving story on the restaurant that Chae had struggled to reopen was published in the Asahi Shimbun. I called the restaurant to interview her, but it didn’t go through. A Japanese search site showed that it was closed.
In another case, my interview request was rejected by Tamotzu Hozumi, an elderly publisher — who has introduced Korean picture books in Japan for nearly half a century — in time for the publication of “Children’s Books and Writers of the World.” He politely turned it down, saying, “I’m afraid of creating an unwanted misunderstanding considering current Japan-Korean relations.”
While governments of the two countries use each other to score points in domestic politics, public sentiment has deepened. Fear and damage remain for the Korean residents in Japan and Japanese people who are friendly to Korea.
President Moon Jae-in’s speech marking the 102nd anniversary of the March 1 Independence Movement was great. It is very appropriate to say that the two countries should be considerate to each other for the future. What if he had delivered that message last year? If Moon had valued the relationship with Japan, his 7,619-word speech should have mentioned the earthquake on the 10th anniversary.
The earthquake is an ongoing trauma in Japan, but not a single word mentioned the earthquake while 17.7 percent of the speech was devoted to Korea-Japan relations. I would have liked more consideration for Japan.
I also had bitter feelings over the sudden mention of “cooperation for a successful Tokyo Olympics” while the Korean government has been raising the issue of polluted water from Fukushima through the Foreign Ministry. The Moon administration can hardly forget the magic potion called the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games for inter-Korean relations. I read the hidden intention that the Tokyo Summer Games could be his last resort.
I could not erase the feeling that the sudden change in attitude was made because the Biden administration in the United States emphasized a Korea-U.S.-Japan cooperation structure. I asked former Mainichi Shimbun Seoul bureau chief Katsumi Sawada how he felt about the speech. He vaguely said, “The message is right, but the president’s actions in the future are more important.” Even a person who is knowledgeable about Korea cannot really feel 100 percent sincerity from Moon’s speech.
Suddenly, I was reminded of “Il Est Trop Tard,” a song by Georges Moustaki. It means “it’s too late.” The lyric goes, “We fought, but I don’t know. Time goes by, and not much time is left. Time passed while I dreamed. Now, it’s too late.”
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