Japan and Germany, two major Axis Powers of World War II, have shown completely different attitude toward their past. Asked about Japanese lawmaker Hodaka Maruyama’s thoughtless comments made on Saturday that Japan should claim the Dokdo islets by waging war, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said that he would like to avoid making particular remarks on an individual representative member. He showed a rather different response in May when the lawmaker claimed war with Russia is the only way to retake the Northern Territories. Back then, Suga insisted that the remark does not represent the Japanese government’s stance, telling Maruyama to be held responsible for his comment. A ceremony on Sunday to commemorate the Korean victims of a massacre, which occurred after the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake, was regrettably intervened by a demonstration by Japanese right-wingers just 40 meters away from the ceremony.
There are growing voices against anti-Korean sentiment even in Japan. Although they are a small number of people, they have pointed out their nation’s past wrongdoings while claiming that Japan should respect its neighboring nations. An assembly was held titled “Is Korea an enemy?” at the Korea YMCA auditorium in Tokyo on Saturday, Tokyo University emeritus professor Haruki Wada said that the end of peace-making Japan is nearing us as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe refuses to restore the relationship with South Korea.
In contrast, leaders gather in the Polish city of Wielun to mark the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier apologized in both German and Polish that German people pay condolences to the victims of the attacks on Wielun and other Polish people sacrificed by German suppression, begging for forgiveness. He also said that Germany will never forget the past, adding that he hopes it to be remembered forever. In response, Polish President Andrzej Duda said it was a moral compensation.
Sincere apologetic gestures enable wrongdoers and their victims to open up their hearts and reconcile. Bilateral partnership can be strengthened when the past is squarely looked at and true apologies are made to victims. It is hoped that the Abe administration will stop refusing its past wrongdoings by arguing it has been all done with Korea, and instead learn from Germany’s attitude.