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[ED] Lessons for Japan

Tragedy will repeat if past remains unresolved


Tomorrow is the 74th anniversary of Korea's liberation from the 1910-45 Japanese occupation. This is also the day Imperial Japan surrendered unconditionally, ending World War II.

On the eve of the Liberation Day, there was a symbolic event showing how long Japan has been ignorant of the Korean colonization victims and its wartime past.

Former South Korean "comfort women," victims of wartime sex slavery by the Japanese military, held their 1,400th weekly rally near the Japanese embassy in Seoul, demanding a sincere apology from the Japanese government. There were also rallies in support of the victims in 34 cities from 10 countries worldwide. In honor of them, President Moon Jae-in vowed to strengthen international cooperation to seek a proper resolution of this issue.

The Wednesday demonstration, which began in January 1992, was already listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the world's longest rally on a single theme in March 2002 when the 500th event was held. The record has since been renewed every Wednesday.

Their demands are simple. They want the Japanese government to acknowledge the wartime sex slavery and apologize. Japan, however, has never shown repentance in a true sense. "Enough is enough" is Japan's usual reaction to such demands for apology now. The Korean sex slavery victims are often treated as "prostitutes" by Japanese far-right figures in public speeches and media interviews.

Sex slavery is only one of the wrongdoings Japan committed on Koreans during the colonial era. In 2015, the governments of South Korea and Japan signed a political deal to conclude this case "finally and irreversibly" despite some victims' objections. The current South Korean government under President Moon discarded it in light of the victims and demanded a new deal that can satisfy them most of all.

As such, the legacy of the unresolved past is still haunting the relations of the two countries. Distorted views of history are prevalent in Japan's mainstream society. The problem has become even more serious under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose grandfather Nobusuke Kishi was a Class-A war criminal but later pardoned to become Japan's prime minister.

The root cause of the Korea-Japan bilateral disputes over history is lack of proper resolution of Japan's shameful past. The wrongdoings it committed in many countries have been forgotten and ignored. Basically, Japan sees Korea through the window of distorted history.

South Korea cannot avoid responsibility for what Japan is today. Seoul signed a diplomatic treaty with Tokyo in 1965 without proper considerations of the harm Japan did to Korea and the Korean people. It is notable that Japan cited the treaty as an excuse to avoid responsibility for the comfort women and other problems in conflict, including the conscription of Koreans for forced labor in Japanese firms during World War II.

The ongoing trade row between the two countries should be understood in this context. This is basically a history war, not a trade war. The Abe government started it in apparent retaliation of the South Korean court's ruling last October that ordered Japanese firms to compensate surviving South Korean victims of forced labor. It came more than five years after a lower court's ruling was made in favor of the victims. It has been revealed that the previous Park Geun-hye administration and then-Supreme Court chief Yang Sung-tae exerted influence to delay the forced labor ruling at the request of Japan. This case is now under investigation.

Japan should face up to history. This has become a cliche, but we have to repeat it because it has refused to learn lessons from its shameful past. The tragedy should not be repeated in the future.


Tragedy will repeat if past remains unresolved


Tomorrow is the 74th anniversary of Korea's liberation from the 1910-45 Japanese occupation. This is also the day Imperial Japan surrendered unconditionally, ending World War II.

On the eve of the Liberation Day, there was a symbolic event showing how long Japan has been ignorant of the Korean colonization victims and its wartime past.

Former South Korean "comfort women," victims of wartime sex slavery by the Japanese military, held their 1,400th weekly rally near the Japanese embassy in Seoul, demanding a sincere apology from the Japanese government. There were also rallies in support of the victims in 34 cities from 10 countries worldwide. In honor of them, President Moon Jae-in vowed to strengthen international cooperation to seek a proper resolution of this issue.

The Wednesday demonstration, which began in January 1992, was already listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the world's longest rally on a single theme in March 2002 when the 500th event was held. The record has since been renewed every Wednesday.

Their demands are simple. They want the Japanese government to acknowledge the wartime sex slavery and apologize. Japan, however, has never shown repentance in a true sense. "Enough is enough" is Japan's usual reaction to such demands for apology now. The Korean sex slavery victims are often treated as "prostitutes" by Japanese far-right figures in public speeches and media interviews.

Sex slavery is only one of the wrongdoings Japan committed on Koreans during the colonial era. In 2015, the governments of South Korea and Japan signed a political deal to conclude this case "finally and irreversibly" despite some victims' objections. The current South Korean government under President Moon discarded it in light of the victims and demanded a new deal that can satisfy them most of all.

As such, the legacy of the unresolved past is still haunting the relations of the two countries. Distorted views of history are prevalent in Japan's mainstream society. The problem has become even more serious under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose grandfather Nobusuke Kishi was a Class-A war criminal but later pardoned to become Japan's prime minister.

The root cause of the Korea-Japan bilateral disputes over history is lack of proper resolution of Japan's shameful past. The wrongdoings it committed in many countries have been forgotten and ignored. Basically, Japan sees Korea through the window of distorted history.

South Korea cannot avoid responsibility for what Japan is today. Seoul signed a diplomatic treaty with Tokyo in 1965 without proper considerations of the harm Japan did to Korea and the Korean people. It is notable that Japan cited the treaty as an excuse to avoid responsibility for the comfort women and other problems in conflict, including the conscription of Koreans for forced labor in Japanese firms during World War II.

The ongoing trade row between the two countries should be understood in this context. This is basically a history war, not a trade war. The Abe government started it in apparent retaliation of the South Korean court's ruling last October that ordered Japanese firms to compensate surviving South Korean victims of forced labor. It came more than five years after a lower court's ruling was made in favor of the victims. It has been revealed that the previous Park Geun-hye administration and then-Supreme Court chief Yang Sung-tae exerted influence to delay the forced labor ruling at the request of Japan. This case is now under investigation.

Japan should face up to history. This has become a cliche, but we have to repeat it because it has refused to learn lessons from its shameful past. The tragedy should not be repeated in the future.




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