Amid the ongoing trade and diplomatic disputes between South Korea and Japan, a “Statue of a Girl of Piece,” symbolizing victims who were forced to work in Japan’s brothels during World War II, was withdrawn from international art exhibition “Aichi Triennale” Sunday. The decision came in two days after Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga ordered the removal of the statue by mentioning subsidies for the event. Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura also pressured the festival’s organizers to shut down the statue, which he said breaks the hearts of Japanese people. This shows that Japanese society has increasingly turned rightist since Prime Minister Abe took office.
It is only natural for a country, which was under Japan’s colonial rule, to recall the nightmare of the past looking at the Japanese government’s brazen denial of historical facts. Still, Japan’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Masahisa Sato on Friday said that President Moon Jae-in’s comments that South Korea will not sit idle and watch the perpetrator trying to go its own way were “undignified” and a “discourtesy.” Yet, what is truly a diplomatic “discourtesy” is to make reckless comments about a neighboring country’s leader. It is also worrisome that Tokyo’s senior officials are churning out inconsiderate remarks that provoke anti-Korean sentiment domestically and anti-Japanese sentiment in South Korea.
Unlike Tokyo, which is being regressive in its perception and acknowledgement of the history, Germany has repeatedly reflected on the country’s wrongdoings during wars. “I would like to ask the Polish nation for forgiveness,” said Germany’s Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs Heiko Maas said at the 75th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising against Poland’s Nazi German occupiers Thursday. “The common European identity will only be complete when we bring together our various historical memories and experiences.” The two countries also agreed to set up a memorial for Polish victims in Berlin. As such, Japan should learn from the example that it cannot write a new future of Northeast Asia if it only tries to erase the history of its past wrongdoings.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has consistently disavowed the 1993 Kono Statement, which had acknowledged the involvement of Japanese troops in the comfort women issue, as well as the 1995 Murayama Statement, which admitted Japan’s invasion and colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula. Tokyo’s attempt to create a new order in the region without a candid acknowledgement of the past and self-reflection will only annoy its neighboring countries and be of no avail.