Plunge Pontificates

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Monday, March 13, 2006

Time for Japan to Return STOLEN artifacts

Let's hope this is only the beginning of Japan return the 100,000s of artifacts it looted from Korea and other countries during the periods of occupation and war.

Early one morning last month, with little fanfare a padded truck pulled out from the warehouse of a South Korean museum with a precious cargo on the last leg of a 100-year journey home.

Inside was a simple 1,000-pound slab of granite whose rite of passage tells a lot about what's happened in recent years to relations among the three countries involved — South Korea, North Korea and Japan.

The monument, which celebrates the victory of a 16th century Korean warrior over Japanese invaders, mysteriously disappeared a century ago when the Imperial Japanese Army overran its home in what is now North Korea. In 1978, a Korean scholar found it in Tokyo, tucked away ignominiously next to a pigeon coop at the Yasukuni Shrine, the controversial memorial to Japan's military dead.

After decades of negotiations, the Bukgwan Victory Monument was driven through the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas on its circuitous journey back home. Because communist North Korea does not have formal relations with Japan, South Korean diplomats secured its return and then turned it over to their estranged neighbor.

It marks the first time that Seoul has formally intervened on Pyongyang's behalf to recover a cultural relic, and could set a precedent for the future.
What amazes me most was this was housed at Yasukuni shrine and that they were actually able to get it back. Truly amazing. But it is only a beginning.

Choi and his fellow Korean scholars say the Japanese were as bad as the Nazis in Europe: Imperial forces plundered treasures during an occupation that ended only with Tokyo's surrender to the Allies in 1945.

The items range from the exquisite — celadon vases, bronze Buddhas, gold jewelry — to the macabre. Among the latter are as many as 100,000 noses and ears that Japanese samurai sliced off Koreans as trophies during a brutal 7-year war in the late 16th century. The body parts were buried in a mound in Kyoto.

When Japan and South Korea normalized diplomatic relations in 1965, the Japanese returned more than 1,300 items. About 1,700 more have come home through private negotiations. Korean collectors have bought back some pieces on the open market, and some Japanese citizens have donated pieces. But Koreans say it is only a fraction of what remains missing.

"We believe there are over 100,000 items still in Japan," said You Hong-june, administrator of South Korea's Cultural Heritage Administration. "Under international law, the Japanese [government has] no responsibility for items in the hands of ordinary civilians, but we believe there is a moral responsibility."
This is just wrong. Oh, we know how sad and sorrowful Japan is for all the horrible things they did during that time, but to actually give back what they stole?!? I mean, come on now. It's one thing to feel remorse and quite another to actually back up the hollow words and statements. But, for anyone that has done even a cursory study of Japan's so called apologies, it is plain to see that there really is no remorse among the leaders of Japan. In fact, what there is could be construed as annoyance at having to fake any kind of sorrow and only because of the international pressure they face do they even pay lip service to atoning for the atrocities of the past. Here is just another example, in a long long line of examples, of their lack of concern for the pain and suffering they caused. What also is so appalling is it seems to be a small group in Japanese politics wielding such power and showing such disdain for their neighbors. People always complain about the emotionalism of Koreans, but it was that emotion that finally brought about democracy in Korea. Maybe the citizens of Japan could use a little dose of emotionalism to get rid of these embarrassments in government.