Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

Tsutomu Nishioka

【#193】How to Interpret Ms. Park’s Anti-Japan Stance

Tsutomu Nishioka / 2013.05.16 (Thu)

May 13, 2013


      South Korean President Park Geun-hye visited the United States last week. While vowing to prevent North Korea from arming itself with nuclear weapons and resolutely resist provocations from Pyongyang, Ms. Park fell short of pledging to promote indispensable trilateral cooperation with the United States and Japan and repeatedly raised questions about the Shinzo Abe administration's historical perceptions. While the Abe administration has proposed that Japan and South Korea promptly hold talks between their foreign ministers and between their top leaders to build bilateral confidence, Ms. Park has put off the talks and criticized Japan's historical perceptions in a third country. Ms. Park’s unusual attitude is highly regrettable.

Three anti-Japan tides in South Korea
      There are three anti-Japan tides in South Korea. Japan must decide what to do while assessing which tide President Park rides.
      The first tide derives from the experience of Japan's rule before the end of World War II under which Korean cultures or traditions were denied. Their antagonism should have faded away as time has gone by. In fact, those who lived under Japan's rule are ambivalent between anti- and pro-Japan sentiments.
      The second anti-Japan tide has been created intentionally by North Korea and pro-Pyongyang forces in South Korea. They have insisted that the Rhee Syngman administration which failed to punish pro-Japan people lacked nationalist legitimacy and that the comfort women problem failed to be resolved because Park Chung-hee who was educated as Japanese solider under Japan’s rule took power through a coup. In the anti-Japan movements that have spread fast since the 1980s, supporters do not care whether their allegations are true or not.
      The third tide involves the majority of the people who have had no experience with the Japanese rule but influenced by the political maneuver of the forces that engineered the second anti-Japan tide. These people were made to believe that Japan has swung to the right without regretting its past. President Park’s predecessor Li Myung-bak seems to have believed that the Japanese military actually abducted Korean girls to serve as comfort women. This belief was undoubtedly behind his landing on the Japan-claimed Takeshima Islands and his impolite remark on the Japanese emperor last year.
      President Park has been targeted for attack as a daughter of pro-Japan President Park Chung-hee by the group of the second anti-Japan tide. Does she believe a pro-Pyongyang propaganda claiming that his father had given his loyalty to the Japanese army that made Korean women sex slaves? Or, does she attempt to stabilize South Korea’s relations with Japan after demonstrating her strong attitude against Japan in consideration of domestic public opinions and toning down it? No answer is known at present.

Conservatives calling for putting off historical issues
     The reason many South Koreans fail to depart from the third anti-Japan tide is that anti-Japan forces in Japan represented by the Asahi Shimbun have conducted groundless campaigns since the 1980s in a way to lead the Japanese government to repeat apologies and concessions without verifying facts. Different countries cannot share historical perceptions or territorial claims. Nevertheless, the Japanese government and mass media have allowed foreign countries to interfere in Japan’s domestic affairs. They are heavily responsible for bringing about the present situation.
     South Korean conservative opinion leader Jo Gap-je has made a noteworthy proposal that Seoul should put off historical and territorial issues and give priority to cooperation with Tokyo in dealing with Pyongyang, noting that the Abe administration supports South Korea’s “freedom unification” of the Korean Peninsula. I would like to keep close watch on whether the Park Geun-hye administration would accept Jo’s proposal to meet South Korea’s national interest or be caught in a North Korean trap to worsen South Korea’s relations with Japan.
Tsutomu Nishioka is Planning Committee Member, Japan Institute for National Fundamentals, and Professor at Tokyo Christian University.