MANY South Koreans continue to reveal in word and deed their lack of interest in better relations with Japan, and their antipathy to the idea itself. It doesn’t make any difference what the Japanese do — they’re not going to change.
The photo above shows one of several organized groups of demonstrators in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul last week. The demonstration was to protest the content of Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party’s election pledges released on the 21st.
The LDP isn’t calling their promises a manifesto (British style). After the ruling Democratic Party congratulated themselves for bringing manifestoes to Japan, and then used theirs as toilet paper once they took office, manifesto has now become a dirty political word. But back to the story.
It was reported in South Korea that the LDP campaign pledges would “return Japan to a war criminal state that included far right-wing views which will completely repudiate (what today’s Koreans consider to be) the fact that the Japan-Korea merger was a war of invasion.”
I visited the LDP website and read the Japanese version of the document. (It’s not in English yet.) Under the Education category, the LDP promises to encourage students to take pride in traditional culture, to improve and revamp textbook screening, and to remove the “neighboring country clause” adopted in the 1980s for including considerations of the wishes of neighboring countries when editing textbooks.
There’s nothing in there about any repudiation of a “war of invasion”. (Which is not to say that there shouldn’t be, if that is cited in history textbooks.)
But telling the truth would deny a significant portion of South Korean society its favorite pastime. They just aren’t happy unless they’re unhappy about Japan.
Then again, this same element thinks Prime Minister Noda is also of the “extreme right”. That eliminates any possibility the Japanese will take what they say seriously.
No other governments at the time seemed to think it was a war of invasion, by the way. U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt even thought it was an admirable example of the yellow man assuming the white man’s burden. Here’s an old map in English you’ll never see in South Korea. (It’s also worthy of note to compare the borders of China then with those of today.)
Here’s an excerpt from an Chosun Ilbo editorial that appeared on 22 November.
“The Liberal Democratic Party’s promise to elevate Shimane Prefecture’s Takeshima Day into a national event is proof that Japan has lost its reason. There are now concerns that if this is accompanied by a promise to deny the government coercion of comfort women, it will be impossible for Japan to return to a normal path. It is clear that this denial will not only anger China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia. There is no one in Japan who can put the brakes on this. The LDP promises include the stationing of personnel on the Senkaku islets, which are the subject of a territorial dispute with China.
“The first South Korea-China-Japan trilateral summit was held in Fukuoka in December 2008, and it has continued every year since then. But if LDP President Abe becomes the next prime minister with these campaign promises, it will not be possible to continue these summits. The next prime minister, the next Korean president, and the Chinese prime minister will not be able to discuss together the future of Northeast Asia.”
* Hysteria is the only word that can be used to describe this.
* Taiwan, The Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia will not be angered by any of this, because they haven’t been before. In fact, the Indonesians years ago told the Japanese human rights hustlers trying to establish the same comfort woman scam there to get lost. The only countries to get angry are the two trying to use historical issues for rent-seeking.
* What Japanese government personnel are stationed on what part of Japanese territory is certainly not the business of the Chosun Ilbo. But then this is from a country that can’t get it up to do anything when another country sinks its naval vessels or unleashes an artillery barrage on its territory, killing military personnel and civilians both.
* The three leaders will not be able to discuss the future of the region as long as two of them insist on reopening and discussing past issues that were resolved by treaty decades ago.
There has been for many years an official Japan-South Korea Legislators’ League to promote ties between the national legislators of both countries. Former Prime Minister Mori Yoshiro was particularly active in the group.
The position of chairman on the Korean side has been vacant for six months, which is an unusual state of affairs. They finally got around to naming a new secretary-general, who is responsible for the actual liaison work with their Japanese counterparts.
The new man is Kang Chang-il, an opposition member of the assembly. In May 2011, he indulged in the Korean version of gesture politics by visiting the Northern Territories, the four small islands illegally seized by Russia after the Japanese surrender in the war.
And these are the people who are supposed to be most interested in creating stronger and friendlier governmental ties? With friends like these…
Now comes word that a Korean group in Detroit wants to erect a comfort woman memorial in that city, and are waiting for final authorization from the city to proceed. In addition to wondering who among the people remaining in that dying city will much care about it, one also wonders what the Koreans think they will accomplish other than poisoning bilateral relations into the future.
The only way to describe this is to say that some people seem to enjoy being aggressively obnoxious. That isn’t a good strategy for creating friendly relations with anyone. Even if people not directly involved aren’t the immediate object of that obnoxious behavior, they realize on some level that it could just as easily be directed at them someday.
The Japanese Cabinet Office released the results of their periodical survey of the public’s views of foreign affairs. Here are some of them.
Do you feel friendly to South Korea?
Yes: 39.2%, down 3.0 points from the previous survey
No: 59.0%. This percentage is higher than the one for yes for the first time since 1999.
How would you characterize bilateral relations?
Bad: 78.8%, a 42.8-point increase
They also asked the same questions about China.
Do you feel friendly to China?
Yes: 18.0%, down 8.3 points from the previous survey. It is the lowest percentage since the question was first asked in the poll in 1978.
No: 80.65, a record high
How would you characterize bilateral relations?
Bad: 92.8%, a 16.5-point increase
Good: 4.8%, down 14 points.
There are at least two conclusions that can be drawn from these results.
The first is that one out of every 20 people you encounter might as well be living in a different galaxy. They sure aren’t paying attention to events in this one.
The other is that the Japanese are reaching, if not past, their limit of tolerance for Korean and Chinese behavior.
As this previous post indicated, new varieties of the Korean alcoholic beverage makgeolli have become popular in Japan in recent years, mostly among women. South Korea shipped 39,000 tons of the hooch to Japan in 2011, an increase of 2.5 times from the previous year.
That isn’t happening this year. South Korean customs reported that makgeolli exports for the January – September period so far this year totaled 21,743 tons. That’s a 28.6% decline in volume from the same period in the year before, and a 28.0% drop in value.
South Korean attitudes and behavior aren’t leaving a good taste in people’s mouths. It’s getting harder to get makgeolli past the throat in those circumstances.
NHK-TV has decided not to invite any K-pop performers for its famous New Year’s Eve musical program, Kohaku Uta Gassen. Three groups appeared last year, and those three are still performing in Japan, but the network decided they would not be conducive to creating a relaxing and pleasant atmosphere for the holidays.
The big attraction this year will be actor/singer Tachi Hiroshi singing a medley of the late actor/singer Ishihara Yujiro’s hits. As a young man, Mr. Tachi was associated with Ishihara’s production company, Ishihara was the leading male star of his generation, and he was the younger brother of Ishihara Shintaro.
Here’s a video of cluelessness on a level approaching that of Joseph Biden. A South Korean man is performing parlor tricks with alcoholic beverages for the amusement of an international audience. He gives the tricks the generic title of “bomb liquor”.
About three minutes in, he performs what he calls the Hiroshima trick. It forms a boozy mushroom cloud. The Japanese ambassador is in the audience.
Then again, maybe it isn’t Bidenesque. Biden is a cloth-headed demagogue. This guy just doesn’t care.