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[Editorial] Government’s Contradictory Approach to History

[Editorial] Government’s Contradictory Approach to History

Posted August. 03, 2004 22:07,   


The Roh government’s contradictory approach to history is worrisome. Uri Party Floor Leader Chun Jung-bae, in an interview with NHK, the Japanese broadcasting company, said, “The colonial truth legislation is purely a matter of our nation and has nothing to do with the good-neighborly friendship with Japan.” It is in line with President Roh’s comment at the meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Junichro Koizumi, where he assured his guest that he would “not take issue with history” during his tenure for the future relations. It is hardly understandable that historical events are sometimes a matter of concern and sometimes are not, depending on arbitrary judgment of some government leaders.

Koreans` collaboration with the Japanese includes all acts of collaboration with Japan on the part of Koreans during Japan`s colonial occupation of Korea from 1910 to 1945. When the Korean collaborators are wrong, those who forced them to collaborate are all the more wrong. Still, the government requires the former to be investigated and redress the past while telling to the latter that it will not make an issue of the past. All this is for the future of the Korea-Japan relations, according to the government. This does not make any sense. History is not something than can be dealt with so conveniently that a government requests investigation and redress within the country and says outside the country that it does not mind the past for future’s sake.

If the incumbent government was right, the long-time efforts to make Japan to acknowledge its past wrongdoings should be stopped immediately. The request to the Japanese government to expiate itself and compensate the victims of the wartime sex slavery and the Pacific War should be retracted. Such demands would not be good for the future of the bilateral relations. What matters would be to seek Korean collaborators and make the public judge them. By doing so, the past would be redressed and the nation would be united. What logic! No wonder some say the current government’s policy framework is to catch Korean collaborators with the Japanese to address issues of the past and to pursue anti-Americanism and independence from the influence from the outside world to address issues of the present.

It is not understandable either that the government which is overly aggressive in investigating collaborators with the Japanese remains passive about the distortion of Goguryeo history by the Chinese government. The Roh government is seeking belated counter measures after the news reports that the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has deleted postings about Goguryeo history on its website, and that even university textbooks say Goguryeo was subjugated to the Chinese dynasty. However, the government does nothing more that asking for a correction. The current government already made a grave mistake by telling Japan that it would not make the issue of the past for the future. What could the government do if the Chinese government demands not to make the issue of the past for the future of the Sino-Korea relations on the ground of the Korea-Japan relations?

China is reportedly planning to include history with Buyeo and Balhae, two of the kingdoms built by the Koreans, into Chinese history. One can even imagine the whole ancient Korean history may well be included in the Chinese history by the Chinese. Notwithstanding the graveness of the situation, the government is talking about the Korean collaborators and the dictatorship only, which makes one worry about its myopic view and wonder why the government is trying to spawn conflicts regarding history.

History is not just a snapshot of a moment. It is a course that bears significance while various events influence each other. When looking at the past between Korea and Japan, the government should take a broader view based on the perspective of Northeast Asia beyond the finite scope of Korea and Japan. The Chinese government seems to support the groundless theory that Japan ruled some parts of the Korean peninsula for 200 years from the mid-4th century. The situation may deteriorate to the point where Korea’s own history is lost by China and Japan. Still, the government said that the truth finding legislation is only for the Koreans.

The government should not consider itself to be entrusted with the sole authority to interpret history. A government is mortal while history continues. It would be arrogant and disrespectful for a government that lasts only five years to rewrite a century-long modern history.