Japan from the inside out

Shimojo Masao (18): Excerpts from a panel discussion

Posted by ampontan on Thursday, November 15, 2012

ON 14 September, Prof. Shimojo Masao, author and professor Ikeda Nobuo, and LDP upper house member Katayama Satsuki filmed a panel discussion for broadcast on Nico Nico, a website for videos in Japan similar to YouTube. The subject was Japanese-South Korean relations. Here are some excerpts.

Shimojo: Liberal Democratic Party members in the Diet repeatedly asked (Deputy Prime Minister) Okada Katsuya and (Minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry) Edano Yukio whether they thought South Korea has illegally occupied Takeshima. They answered that they would not make a clear statement because it was not in accord with the national interest. They refused to say that Takeshima was illegally occupied. It seems somehow that, in some underlying way, they think Takeshima belongs to South Korea.

The Democratic Party of Japan has absolutely no understanding of the history of their own country, and no view of where they want to lead the nation. The politicians are not looking at their country, they’re looking at their own election districts. They’re putting their own lives first. (N.B.: That’s a play on words using the party’s slogan of “Putting the People’s Lives First”.)

… South Korean President Lee Myong-bak not only went to Takeshima, but also was disrespectful of the Emperor. He did that because there is a member of the Japanese Diet who wanted to make a deal with South Korea and resolve the historical issues by having the Emperor go to South Korea and apologize.

Ikeda: What?

Katayama: No!

Shimojo: Yes, it’s true. It’s Ozawa Ichiro. He visited South Korea in December 2009, going by way of China. During the morning he gave a talk at Kookmin University in which he said the Emperor’s origins were in the Baekche Kingdom. He also offered the theory that Japan was conquered by a tribe of horsemen. At a news conference after his talk, he said, “The government decides the Emperor’s visits to South Korea,” and “We can make the Emperor visit South Korea.”

On 31 August this year, the Dong-a Ilbo reported that during his talks with President Lee during his 2009 visit, Mr. Ozawa told him, “When I become prime minister, I’ll recognize Takeshima as South Korean territory to defuse the hatred of the South Korean people.” In other words, he told them that he’d give them Takeshima. This was reported based on the statement of a “high (South Korean) government official”.

The Dong-a Ilbo was asked whether they had made a mistake, but they’ve never printed a retraction. The government claims it is a mistake because they didn’t identify the informant….

…First, we must recognize that the culture, civilization, and history of Japan and the Korean Peninsula are completely different.

For example, as we recently saw again, there are anti-Japanese demonstrations and violence in South Korean and China. In contrast, Japanese seldom take actions of that sort. Some people say that’s because Japanese young people are lazy and apathetic, but it’s really because the civilization and culture are different.

Though Japan is part of the same Confucian cultural sphere, it had a social structure characterized by regional authority. The culture that developed among the townspeople in the castle towns and the culture of the samurai created clearly separate roles in society, and everyone knew their role.

On the Korean Peninsula and China, however, it is always a relationship between the rulers and the ruled. A person will be buried unless they constantly express themselves. That’s why they are always so self-assertive…

…Historically, there is a tradition in Korean society of (literally) “being opposed to the correct”. There were three dynasties on the peninsula — Silla, Goryeo, and Choson — and each successive dynasty created their “correct history”. In other words, they created the “state history”. These histories always held that the previous dynasties were “evil”, and correct history began with the creation of a new dynasty.

Therefore, (on the Korean Peninsula) “correct history” does not always align with historical fact. There is instead a distortion of history to constantly justify oneself. There has been a long tradition of maintaining one’s legitimacy by making others recognize that they are correct.

Today, the South Korean presidents lose their power at the end of their term, and his successor often sends him to prison. That’s how they make people recognize their legitimacy. That’s the culture.


* Note again the distinction between that which is “correct” and that which is not. That’s because the Koreans were traditionally Sinocentric culturalists of their own.

* What the South Koreans consider an Imperial apology is not simply a public statement, but getting down on one’s hands and knees in the manner of Willy Brandt in Warsaw. That’s the reason for the Times Square billboard.

* Was Mr. Ozawa being a statesman with his offer, or did it have anything to do with his mother’s family being ethnically Korean? (Jeju, apparently). No, I did not see her family register. Yes, I have it on good authority.

* For the record: Mr. Ozawa denied the story when it appeared in the Dong-a Ilbo.

2 Responses to “Shimojo Masao (18): Excerpts from a panel discussion”

  1. Tony said

    While the story Shimojo tells about Ozawa fits nicely with the narrative often on this blog, it also comes from the Korean media (Dong-a Ilbo) which, as you have pointed out numerous times, often invents facts and events to suit its purposes. As such, one should be skeptical of this story’s voracity.

    Plus Shimojo’s armchair description of Japanese and Korean cultural differences is so stereotypical and simplified that it is basically useless.
    Prof. Shimojo has lived and worked in South Korea for 16 years, is fluent in Korean, is married to a Korean woman, visits regularly, and owns property there. His academic specialty is the comparison of Japanese, Korean, and Chinese intellectual history.

    Based on your extensive experience in the country, could you tell us what is so “stereotypical” about it?


  2. Tony said

    You always say that an expert’s academic credentials are meaningless yet when someone questions one of your experts you bring out their credentials.

    As for stereotypical: “In contrast, Japanese seldom take actions of that sort” Hmmm….I guess Shimojo never lived in Japan during the 1950’s and early 1960’s.

    Yeah, he’s an expert all right!
    If your intention is to spitball and avoid explaining, based on your extensive knowledge of Korea, why his views are stereotypical, you’re succeeding brilliantly.

    As for seldom taking actions of that sort, try reading the next sentence. He is talking about contemporary affairs.


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