Lee Myung-Bak, South Korea’s president, offered a response to the complaints from Japan about his short-notice visit last week to the Dokdo islands, a disputed territory between the two nations. Lee commented that the major reason tensions between Japan and South Korea have endured unresolved for so long is because the Japanese government has made no sincere attempts to apologize or address the injustices felt by Koreans after their colonial rule from 1910 to 1945. The visit to the uninhabited islands, which Japan calls Takeshima, prompted an immediate protest from the Tokyo government, as they maintain their claims of ownership.
Lee’s visit to the disputed territory was the first to be made by a South Korean president. According to Korea’s Yonhap News Agency, the leader said on his August 10th visit that Japan needs to apologize to his country, as they are responsible for starting the war, and pent-up grievances will not be resolved otherwise. Lee added that his Dokdo/Takeshima visit was not intended to provoke Japan, or create a standoff situation, but the country has not done enough. He also pointed to the example of Germany having apologized for its atrocities committed during World War II.
It is interesting that there is no mention of a long list of documented cases when various Japanese leaders have issued apologies for their acts of war, not just to South Korea, but to China and Taiwan as well, with the first coming from the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Shiina Etsusaburo, in 1965, stating that their actions were regrettable and the nation felt remorse. Many more have followed throughout the 80s, 90s, and well into 2010, coming from Kiichi Miyazawa, Chief Cabinet Secretary in 1982; Taro Nakayama, Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1990; Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa in 1992; even Emperor Akihito expressed his remorse in 1996 at a dinner with Korean President Kim Dae-Jung.
I’m not trying to “cover up” what Japan did in the past, or say that what happened during war should be forgotten, but maybe South Korea should state specifically what is needed to soothe their grievances. Let Japan give one final, concrete apology and be done with it. No more claiming every few years that there has never been an apology. It’s time to allow both countries to move on.
[via China Daily]