Japan from the inside out

A bad idea whose time shouldn’t come

Posted by ampontan on Friday, September 14, 2012

AN excellent example of how the hammering of a hyper-chauvinist news media and the pandering of a corrupted political establishment can alter the public psyche was presented on the website of Ilgan Nyusu Gyeongnam (Daily News Geongnam) in South Korea late last month.

Here’s how reporter Chue Hyeon-shik began the article:

Japan’s continuous daily assault on all fronts on the Dokdo issue has created an atmosphere among Koreans in which more than half of the public thinks there should be a strong response if there is a military clash with Japan, a survey found.

Making “Japan” the subject of that sentence instead of the more accurate “Our” is a clear window into the state of South Korean journalism. Here’s why it’s inexcusably dangerous and not just the usual spitballing.

A South Korean company specializing in on-line surveys conducted a one-day poll of 105 adults using the Internet and smartphones on the potential Korean response to an escalation of the Takeshima dispute. Yes, it’s just an Internet survey, and yes, that’s a small sample size, but the pollster claims it has an accuracy rate of 95% with a standard deviation of ±9.56%.

Q: What should be the South Korean response if a military clash occurs with Japan over Dokdo?

* A strong forceful response: 56.2%

* A response in equal measure: 21%

* A diplomatic response with continued warnings: 22.9%

There is no word on whether the survey specified how the dispute was triggered. In the real world, Japan is as likely to be the first on the draw as a flock of geese is to fly upside down. After the South Koreans seized the islets by force in 1954, the only time concerns of a military incident arose is when the unbalanced Roh Moo-hyun gave his Navy permission to attack a Japanese survey vessel if it sailed too close. It happened when Abe Shinzo was prime minister, and he didn’t talk about it in public until a year or so ago. But back to the survey.

Q: What do you think of President Lee’s recent series of statements about Japan? (This includes the one about the Emperor.)

* Only natural: 42.9%

* Approve: 36.1%

Q: Did you know of Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko’s personal letter to President Lee expressing his regret for the president’s actions? (This is the letter Mr. Lee refused to accept.)

* Yes: 92.9%

Q: What is the best response to the letter?

* This must be responded to forcefully: 61.9%

* No particular response necessary: 27.6%.

Q: What is the reason Japan claims Dokdo and other countries’ territories? (Note the reference to the Senkakus and the Northern Territories held by Russia.)

* It’s effective for acquiring natural resources: 47.6%

* It’s political pandering for a domestic audience: 33.3%.

Let’s assume that the claimed accuracy and the margin of error are correct. At a minimum, nearly half of South Koreans are ready to start shooting over Takeshima, and at a maximum, nearly two-thirds.

We should hope this is just another wave of the bluster/hysteria that often washes over the Korean Peninsula, and that they’re only talking tough because they know Japan isn’t going to start anything.

That’s because if an incident did occur, it would be very unlucky for them indeed.

The islets have sheer cliffs on all four sides, so land armies wouldn’t be involved. And no, Japan’s Land Self-Defense Forces are not going ashore at Busan anytime soon. Any confrontation would occur in the sea and in the air.

South Korea would be severely outgunned, particularly at sea. They’d be facing the loss of most of their Navy. One Japanese source that I haven’t confirmed says the Japanese are ranked second in the world in the number of destroyer-class ships or above (3,000 tons plus). They’ve also got more Aegis cruisers.

Some South Koreans might object and insist that their patriotism and national spirit to defend the holy islets would overcome a numerical disadvantage.

That’s just how the Japanese thought they’d win the Second World War, too.

The problem with talking the talk is that if it gets to be a habit, people get to thinking they can also walk the walk. That would prove to be fatal in this hypothetical case.

If any news media/national political establishment combination behaves more irresponsibly in matters this critical than that in South Korea (or China, for that matter), feel free to offer your suggestions in the Comment section. OK, OK, outside of the Middle East.

Here’s a Youtube video made in Japan that most Japanese haven’t seen. It’s a rapid rundown of all the ships in the Maritime Self-Defense Forces. Here’s a list of ROK naval vessels for comparison.

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