Jang Soon Kim, 1st Year European Politics BA
As a Korean, current threats from North Korea are not shocking, but the stark reminders of the “suspended” the Korean War, which has been paused for decades after the peace treaty in 1953. However, their current threats possess catastrophic warning to the world. In the age of nuclear war, their nuclear weapons as well as the ruthless dictatorship can cause the demise of the world. As the threats reach their momentum, forging a strong, mature partnership between South Korea and Japan is crucial to protect our shared values such as liberal democracy, people from both nations and ultimately the peace of the free world. However, the Prime Minister Abe or the Governor of Tokyo Yuriko Koike, who are the front-runners of the snap election of Japan, will only push Japan to blur its past, which brings grave harms to the partnership to protect our shared future. Therefore, Japan needs a new leader who can provide a new agenda of hope and reconciliation with its partners, especially South Korea.
Japan’s colonial rule over Korea is one of the darkest parts of our history. Although Japan Empire colonized numerous states in Asia for several decades, Koreans were one of the most affected people from their brutal, inhumane occupation. From 1910 to 1945, the Japan Empire forcefully stole our sovereignty, abused many Koreans, destroyed Korea’s unique culture. Although there have been several measures from Japan to recognize their deeds, the scars from the past between two nations are still evident due to their thorough damages. But, both leadership runners do not possess a fair historic view over Japan’s past with Korea. Their moves for the past few occasions only show their distorted, dangerous views on sensitive issues such as Korean sex slaves who were sexually exploited by Japanese soldiers during the Pacific War.
There cannot be any justifications for wrong-doings on the victims. Instead, the lessons from the wrong-deeds must only exist even after a fair recognition of the deeds. However, the Prime Minister Abe expressed his concerns to a Korean ambassador after the announcement of establishing memorials for the deceased victims of sex slavery. Did Germans express their concerns when the Polish established memorials for the Jews who were murdered under Nazi-Germany? Absolutely no. Instead, they recognized their past, resolved it sincerely and has commemorated it each year. Although the former Conservative government of Korea, which was in power from 2012 to 2016 made a ‘so-called’ historical agreement on the victims of sex slavery in 2015, the pact did not receive enough agreements from many Koreans. Regardless of its sensitiveness and absence of in-depth scrutiny, Abe simply agreed with the terms that were the grave targets of controversy within South Koreans. As a result, their embarrassing mandate on the rushed pact, therefore, can be the focus of scrutiny, which means renegotiation of the pact can be on the table. But, Abe and his administration reject any renegotiation, and further refuse to recognize the past as what it is. I admit that the agreement somehow embarked a meaningful, historic recognition to the past, but his attitude after the agreement as well as its contents are out of depth or sincerity. His insufficient attitudes toward the past destabilize the partnership through discomforting many Koreans who are still suspicious of the sketchy agreement and Abe’s spineless moves afterward.
What about the Governor of Tokyo Yuriko Koike, who is known as a rising star of Japanese politics? Her moves are not much different than Abe’s suspicious, shameful moves. Rather, she is even worse than how Abe’s government regards its pastoral history. She participated in the anti-protest against recognizing the Korean sex-slavery issue in the USA Congress back in 2007. Moreover, she had a lecture at one of far-right movements at Japan in 2011, denying forced abuses on the victims of sex slavery. Furthermore, regarding Korea’s territorial sovereignty, she is openly against its integrity by insisting that Dokdo, which is a small island on the outskirt of the Sea of East, must be included in Japan’s territory while there have been ample evidences directing that the island have belonged to Korea long before the colonial era. Even if she ousts Shinzo Abe, I doubt it will bring any hopes on the partnership between Japan and South Korea since they show no sincere recognitions on our shared history of tragedy. Her emergence as a new figure will only reinforce further anti-sentiments over the partnership between two nations.
As Winston Churchill said in 1965 at his radio speech, a nation that forgets its past has no future. For Japan, forging a bold, ambitious partnership with Korea is the important challenge to be accomplished with delicacy and accuracy in front of direct threats of North Korea and its allies. Moreover, we the Koreans want our neighbor to uphold our shared values; yes, most of us want to move forward the bright future between two nations. It is the task to open the future not only of Japan, but of all who endorse democracy as well as freedom as our shared values. Nevertheless, allowing another term for Abe or electing Koike are not the right solutions for Japan to achieve its crucial goals. Their elevation to the office will only bring more harms to the partnership with South Korea that is already on the verge of further deterioration due to their erroneous views on the past. Instead, Japan desperately needs a new type of leader, who has sincere, conciliatory views on history without distortions and mischiefs. Japanese voters need to aware that their votes will determine the future of two nations in front of the brink of danger.
DISCLAIMER: The opinions and views expressed in this opinion piece belong to the author and are independent of the Department of Political Economy and KCL Politics Society.
Photo Credits: KENT NISHIMURA/GETTY IMAGES