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[Opinion] Japan’s Quest for a New Constitution

Posted October. 11, 2005 03:02,   


The differences between Korea and Japan are visible even in their national anthems. The Korean anthem, Aegukga, starts with: “Until the East Sea’s waves are dry, and Mt. Baekdu is worn away,” while the Japanese anthem, the Kimigayo, begins: “May thy peaceful reign last long until this tiny stone grows into a massive rock and the moss that covers it is all deep and thick.” They are both hyperboles, but a tiny stone growing into a massive rock is a myth that runs against science and common sense.

Maybe it is possible in Japan where a good deal of volcanoes is still active that tiny stones melt in lava to become a rock. Still, the idea is very Japanese: a country of gods, where people take pride in their unity.

Another difference between the two neighbors is that Japan’s sacred Kimigayo was composed and arranged by two foreigners, Germany’s Franz Eckert and Britain’s William Fenton, along with other Japanese. However, there were no Japanese who protested foreigners creating their country’s song, which would have been the case in Korea.

Myth and practicality, two seemingly inconsistent concepts, coexist in Japan.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) of Japan recently drafted a new preamble to the Japanese constitution. A newly added phrase reads: “In beautiful islands, where waves of the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Japan break.” The words seem to have been changed to legitimize territorial claims on Dokdo, Korea’s easternmost islets, and the Senkaku archipelago (the Diaoyutais to the Chinese).

“We ensure our country`s independence through the efforts of Japanese nationals who love the country,” is another phrase in the draft which some are saying is language to legitimize the transformation of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces into a standing army.

Former Prime Minister Nakasone Yasuhiro, who heads a subcommittee for drafting a new constitution, proposed the preamble to the LDP.

Nakasone has always supported a revision of the constitution. He actually published a song about a constitutional amendment in 1956. The song is full of provoking lyrics like, “Upholding MacArthur’s constitution is being his servant”; “As long as the constitution exist, so does our surrender”; and “We accepted the constitution with tears, he threatened to end emperor’s reign unless we did so.”

Japan has maintained its pacifist constitution out of regret for waging a war that devastated Asia and brought destruction to its own people. But recently the young Japanese people seem to be forgetful of this. The LDP, with its landslide victory in the last general election, intends to gather tiny stones to build a massive rock: a new constitution. We hope that the rock will not cause woe for its neighbors.

Kim Chung-sik, Editorial Writer, skim@donga.com