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Japanese PM needs to show courage to admit Japan’s past wrongdoings

Japanese PM needs to show courage to admit Japan’s past wrongdoings

Posted March. 02, 2015 13:39,   


In the March 1 Independence Movement Day speech, Korean President Park Geun-hye offered Japan to admit historical truth candidly and courageously, and hold hands with Korea as a partner for the future 50 years to open a new chapter in the history. “History is not selectively remembered at one’s convenience, and acknowledging history is the only path to progress,” said President Park in the speech citing Alexis Dudden, a professor of history at the University of Connecticut. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe must listen to this criticism from Professor Dudden, who recently led a group of U.S. historians to issue a statement against Japan’s attempt to whitewash its past wrongdoings in textbooks.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of Korea’s gaining independence from Japan’s colonial rules and the 50th anniversary of normalization of the ties between Korea and Japan. It also serves as a good opportunity to settle the unfortunate past and renew a fresh commitment for the future. However, in the survey conducted by the Dong-A Ilbo, experts responded the Korea-Japan relations remain at its lowest level, giving 3.85 points in scale of 10. Given the stability of North East Asian region and both nations’ economies, it is unfortunate that Korea and Japan have not held a summit since December 2011 under the Lee Myung-bak administration. President Park and Prime Minister Abe, who have failed to improve the strained relations for the past two years, must not spend this year for nothing.

After going through twists and turns, a Korea-China-Japan trilateral meeting between their foreign ministers is slated to be held in Seoul this month. If the meeting goes well, it can lead to the tripartite summit and Korea-Japan summit. Summits of three nations plan to pay a visit to the U.S. this year. Especially, attentions are paid to Abe’s visit to the U.S. and his address in the parliament. As U.S. President Barack Obama is encouraging reconciliation between Korea and Japan, a scenario can be expected Park and Abe decide a summit thanks to Obama’s intermediation. If Abe gains courage to admit Japan’s past wrongdoings to the world at his address in the U.S, the three Northeast Asian countries can make a breakthrough for reconciliation.

The U.S. needs collaboration with Japan to maintain stability in the Asia-Pacific region. U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman mentioned the Korea-China-Japan relations at a seminar convened by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on Feb. 27, saying, “Of course, nationalist feelings can still be exploited, and it is not hard for a political leader anywhere to earn cheap applause by vilifying a former enemy.” Sherman’s remarks may send a wrong signal, which is not on the same page with the mainstream view of the U.S. government. President Obama blamed the issue of sex slavery for Japanese military camps during World War II as terrible and severe human right violation. The approach to deal with the past history dispute based on the perspective that both the assailant and the victim are responsible for cannot help to resolve the tension among Korea, Japan and China.