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[Editorial] Souls of Koreans Are Resting in Yasukuni?

Posted July. 19, 2001 08:11,   


It is absurd that 21,000 `souls of Koreans` are resting in Japan’s Yasukuni Shrine which is regarded as a stronghold of the Japanese right wing. This is because the Korean victims who were conscripted and drafted during the Japanese occupation are honored as the `spirits who sacrificed themselves for the emperor` at the place where the Japanese war criminals are honored. From the perspective of victims, it is the blasphemy of their spirits, and it leaves a taint in self-respect from the perspective of a nation Korea.

The Yasukuni Shrine is a symbolic place of Japan’s Shinto. Yasukuni enshrines about 2.46 million memorial tablets, including those who died for the emperor during the Meiji Reformation, the war dead during the Sino-Japan and the Russia-Japan war, 14 Class-A war criminals during the Pacific War such as Hideki Tojo. Among these tablets included 21,000 Korean memorial tablets and 20,000 Chinese and Taiwanese tablets.

It is natural that the Korean government demands that Japan return 21,000 memorial tablets of Korean World War victims. It is rather a belated regret since a group of bereaved families of Koreans and the related organizations have urged the Korean government for the last ten years. It is proper for the Korean government to appease the souls and to clear them from dishonor that they died `for the emperor`, when they died in a war under the colonial rule.

The government’s measure aims at the rightist leanings of the Japanese society which brought to the surface due to the issue of the Japanese history textbooks and the Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s plan to make an official visit to the shrine. It seems that the government highlights the Japan’s colonial rule as well as the war responsibility by raising the issue of the memorial tablets in Yasukuni Shrine where the Prime Minister Koizumi plans to pay a visit. Furthermore, the government seems to bring up the issue of the souls of Chinese and Taiwanese victims in China as well. This is a kind of `matching against` the Japan’s right wing.

Japan’s reaction is not tractable as well. The Japanese government argues that it cannot resolve the issue of the memorial tablets because the Yasukuni Shrine is a religious organization. The Japanese government also insists that because the Koreans had Japanese nationality when they were killed in action, it is the right of Japan to honor their souls. It also maintains that once a human becomes a god according to Shinto, a person cannot remove the tablet at one’s own will. However, the Japanese should resolve the issue since the Korean victims were sacrificed under the conscription and draft by the Japanese government. Moreover, since the relationship of aggression-dominance is over, should not the sacrificed souls recover the `independent self-respect`?