Plunge Pontificates

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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Whitewashing the Past and Present

What a good time to decide to start blogging again. While perusing this mornings news and blogs, I ran upon this particularly repugnant posting at Japundit. Now, I'm normally a big fan of Japundit that is, unless Ampontan is posting. Ampontan seems to be the complete shill for the current regime in Japan and rightwing extremists. He most certainly buys into the party line of Japan good, anyone who disagrees with anything they do bad.

Today's posting of a interview he gave is the perfect case in point.

Let's have a look, shall we?

Q: Why do Koizumi’s visits to Yasukuni Shrine provoke such strong reactions among Chinese people, Koreans and other people in Asia?

A: It allows people to indulge their emotions. The Chinese public certainly has no other outlet for political expression. Also, it’s more satisfying than watching cheap television dramas because the element of nationalism gives them a sense of belonging to something greater than their everyday lives. So much of what passes for public opinion everywhere in the world is just emotionalism in disguise.

It has nothing to do with today’s reality. Imperial Japan no longer exists. It was annihilated, and everyone in Japan knows it. With the exception of a miniscule minority, no one in Japan is interested in reviving it. The idea held by some Koreans and Chinese that Japan is ready to do it again is fatuous.

Oh yes. Let's completely forget the past and what that abomination of a "shrine" stands for. No, let's not, let's take a look at the reality of what Yasukuni is and what it stands for!

We'll crib from Wikipedia.

The shrine honors as kami the spirits of those who have fought on behalf of the emperor. This includes about 1,000 POWs executed for war crimes during World War II. The main criterion for enshrinement is that a person should be listed as having died while on duty (including death from illness or disease) in the war dead registry of the Japanese government. The Japanese government lists all executed A, B, and C class war criminals as such for technical reasons to ensure that the remaining family members can receive a pension. On October 17, 1978, 14 Class A war criminals (according to the judgement of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East), including Hideki Tojo, were quietly enshrined as "Martyrs of Shōwa" (昭和殉難者 Shōwa junnansha), ostensibly on the technicality that they were on the registry. They are listed below, according to their sentences:

* Death by hanging:

Hideki Tojo, Itagaki Seishiro, Heitaro Kimura, Kenji Doihara, Iwane Matsui, Akira Muto, Koki Hirota

* Lifetime imprisonment:

Yoshijiro Umezu, Kuniaki Koiso, Kiichiro Hiranuma, Toshio Shiratori

* 20-year imprisonment:

Shigenori Togo

* Died before a judicial decision was reached (due to illness or disease):

Osami Nagano, Yosuke Matsuoka
So, we are visiting a shrine that honors scum responsible for MILLIONS of deaths. Nice. But wait, there's more!

More importantly, Yasukuni Shrine operates a museum on the history of Japan (the Yūshūkan, 遊就館) which outside observers have criticized as presenting a revisionist interpretation. A documentary-style video shown to museum visitors portrays Japan's conquest of East Asia during the pre-World War II period as an effort to save the region from the imperial advances of Western powers. Displays deny that events such as the Nanking Massacre took place and systematically portray Japan as a victim of foreign influence, especially Western pressure.

A pamphlet published by the shrine says: "War is a really tragic thing to happen, but it was necessary in order for us to protect the independence of Japan and to prosper together with our Asian neighbors." It also says that Japanese POWs executed for war crimes were "cruelly and unjustly tried" by a "sham-like tribunal of the Allied forces".

The shrine's English language website defends Japanese occupation and aggression prior to and during World War II, by stating the following: "War is truly sorrowful. Yet to maintain the independence and peace of the nation and for the prosperity of all of Asia, Japan was forced into conflict."
Do I need to say more here? This abomination is where Koizumi goes. The government has had the chance to build a secular shrine honoring their dead but, for some reason, they can't seem to get it funded. Seems that Yasukuni is perfectly all right for the majority of the Japanese government. That certainly sounds like a government that is working for peaceful and harmonious relations with the nations it raped and plundered not so long ago.

Let's keep going, okay?

Q: What is the significance of Shimane Prefecture declaring sovereignty over the “Takeshima/Dokto” islands?

A: For the people of Shimane Prefecture, it has an economic rather than a political significance. Fishing is very important for the livelihood of the prefecture’s citizens.

The prefectural government took the step because they were outraged at what they consider to be flagrant South Koreans violations of an agreement reached by the fishing industries of both countries regarding fishing in the area around the islands. This agreement addresses both the access of Japanese fishermen to the Korean-held islands, as well as Korean fishing practices. Though the Korean press (or at least the English language press in South Korea) has mentioned this aspect of the dispute, much of the Korean public seems disposed to ignore it. Perhaps that’s because it deprives them of an opportunity to indulge their emotions.

Q: Is this merely posturing, or could the situation continue to escalate?

A: The government of Shimane Prefecture thought this was the only way to publicize what they consider to be Korean violations of the fishing agreement. It is posturing only to the extent that any symbolic act by a government is posturing.

The situation has deescalated over the past year. Tempers occasionally flare over the years, usually on the Korean side, and then simmer down. The periods when nothing much happens last a lot longer.

Oh please. Yes, the rational Japanese just did it for fishing purposes. Excuse me, did you miss the boats they then tried to send to the island and the hoopla in the press about it? While the Koreans might have been the ones demonstrating in the streets, yes they get very emotional, trying to say this was all about a fishing dispute it completely disingenuous.

Q: Why do Koizumi’s visits to Yasukuni Shrine provoke such strong reactions among Chinese people, Koreans and other people in Asia?

A: It allows people to indulge in their emotions. The Chinese public certainly has no other outlet for political expression. Also, it’s more satisfying than watching cheap television dramas because the element of nationalism gives them a sense of belonging to something greater than their everyday lives. So much of what passes for public opinion everywhere in the world is just emotionalism in disguise.

It has nothing to do with today’s reality. Imperial Japan no longer exists. It was annihilated, and everyone in Japan knows it. With the exception of a miniscule minority, no one in Japan is interested in reviving it. The idea held by some Koreans and Chinese that Japan is ready to do it again is fatuous.

See my answer above. Am's responses are truly laughable.

Q: Do you think Koizumi’s visits may indicate that the current Japanese government fundamentally rejects the authority of the Tokyo Trials to pass judgment on war criminals?

A: I don’t know that there is a causal connection, but the visits may be one manifestation of that belief. There are Japanese who think that way. They are also well aware that the only judge on the tribunal who was an expert on international law thought there was no legal basis for the trials. The British, by the way, were not keen on that trial or the one at Nuremburg, either. They wanted to line the ringleaders up against the wall and shoot them. I sometimes think the Japanese might have preferred that solution themselves.

Yes, the British not only wanted to line war criminals up against a wall, but Churchill wanted to destroy certain towns and cities in retribution.

I also agree the war trials in Japan were not fair. Far too many war criminals got off easy with little or no punishment. An abomination in my mind.

Q: It is often said that Japan has made amends for wartime atrocities committed in China, Korea and other Asian nations during the Second World War. Furthermore, Japan has contributed a significant amount of ODA aid to China. What is at issue here?

A: Money and power. Japan’s ODA to China, including loans, totaled 3.3 trillion yen from 1979 to 2004. Some of this was considered to be a de facto war reparations payment. China was the largest recipient of Japanese ODA.

But the Chinese economy took off, and the Japanese decided to start reducing ODA when Prime Minister Koizumi took office. ODA reductions have continued, and China has fallen to third place in the amount of Japanese ODA received.

Prime Minister Nakasone paid an official visit to Yasukuni in the 1980s. The Japanese revise their textbooks periodically. Yet the Chinese displeasure with Japan’s actions grew more pronounced only after they started to receive smaller amounts of ODA and internal Chinese dissent grew. Perhaps this was not a coincidence.

Also, the Chinese and Korean pressure on Japan regarding events that ended more than 60 years ago is partly an effort to keep the Japanese in a position of continuously apologizing. This provides them with a means to try to gain the upper hand in bilateral relations.

Incidentally, the Japanese government reached an agreement with South Korea about reparations in 1965. Seoul wanted US$364 million as compensation for the conscripted laborers and comfort women during the period of the Japanese colonization. The agreement instead gave South Korea $800 million in grants and low-interest loans as reparations. President Park agreed as part of the deal that South Koreans would relinquish the right to make individual claims against the Japanese government. However, Park paid out only about $251 million to families killed by the Japanese and some more to owners of destroyed property. None of the South Koreans conscripted into the Japanese military or workforce, or the comfort women, received anything. Park spent the rest of the money on the Korean infrastructure. The South Korean public just found out about this deal and Park’s use of the money in January last year, by the way.

Naturally, the Japanese think a deal’s a deal. Some Koreans don’t see it that way, however. There was a meeting last year between academics of both countries to try to resolve the textbook issue, and the Korean side insisted that the Japanese also pay individual reparations. Of course the talks went nowhere, and will go nowhere as long as the South Koreans keep asking for money.

Doesn’t the South Korean approach to negotiations remind you more than a little of the attitude of their brethren to the north?

Also, there are reports that after the normalization of relations with South Korea, Japan tended to back down and give in during bilateral negotiations whenever South Koreans played the colonization card. Prime Minister Koizumi put a stop to that after he assumed office. I have to think that is one factor behind the behavior of the Roh administration toward Japan. They’ve lost their trump card and have to deal with Japan on more equal terms.

You know, foreigners sometimes like to misquote Douglas MacArthur and say that the Japanese act like a nation of 12-year-olds. (MacArthur was talking about international politics only.) But I sometimes wonder who the 12-year-olds really are.

Wow! What a mischaracterization of the treaty of 1965! If you read the treaty, not only was there no indication of remorse from Japan for the rape and pillage of Korea, but, the payments made were specfically for economic cooperation and NOT reparations. Japan felt it had nothing to apologize for and therefore reparations were not necessary.

Furthermore, Japan didn't even recognize the illegality of its occupation of Korea saying that while we consider the treaty of 1910 null and void now, we don't consider it illegal when it was made. Nice twisting of things there.

Also, let's consider the state of Korea when this agreement was signed. Korea was poor, dirt poor. Japan took total advantage of a horrible situation and now want to preen about it? That's just low and sick.

Q: The Tsukurukai history textbook downplays Japanese atrocities during the War, and also argues that Japan was responsible for the industrialization of Korea during the first half of the twentieth century. However, don’t all countries tend to produce textbooks that portray the nation’s history in a positive light? Or is that beside the point?

A: Reading this gives rise to a question of my own: Why focus solely on the Japanese? As I’ve noted before in Japundit, Chinese textbooks spend less than a paragraph discussing their military involvement in the Korean War, and ignore their military conflict with India in the 1960 and their invasion of Vietnam in the 70s. What do you think a Chinese textbook would say about the Tiananmen Square massacres, if it mentioned them at all? And there is no alternative to officially approved Chinese textbooks.

One poster to Japundit tried to dismiss this by saying that everyone knew the Chinese were terrible, but that’s just hypocrisy. Why hold the Japanese to different standards of behavior than the Chinese? It’s either a form of elitism on the one hand—asserting that the Chinese cannot be held responsible for their actions—or an excuse for Japan bashing on the other.

Also, I doubt that South Korean textbooks mention Japan’s role in their industrialization, though Korean historians are well aware of it. Nor are they likely to mention Korean collaboration with the Japanese, though Koreans know that former President Park served in the Japanese Imperial Army. There are photos of him in uniform. And now President Roh has decided the time has come for Koreans to discuss this collaboration more openly—after President Park’s daughter became head of the leading Korean opposition party.

Is it also a coincidence that South Korean complaints about Japan rose in conjunction with President Roh’s decline in domestic popularity? In politics, neutralizing domestic opposition by demonizing the foreigner is a very old strategy.

Speaking of the South Korean educational system, I’ll refresh your memory with this post from Japundit via Conbinibento:

These are photos taken in a South Korean subway station displaying school artwork. Children drew pictures in school of: the Japanese flag as a roll of burning toilet paper, a large pile of Korean excrement on Japan, Korea stabbing Japan, Korea stomping on Japan, a funeral service with the Japanese flag as the memorial photograph for the deceased, and Korea bombing, shooting, and stabbing Japan.

It is inconceivable that this would be tolerated in the Japanese school system, and the Japanese certainly wouldn’t display these pictures in public. And if they were displayed in public in Japan, everyone around the world would have known by now. It is interesting that few people outside of South Korea know about this. Perhaps the rest of the world expects more of the Japanese than the Koreans.

Really, the South Koreans have no basis to complain about the Japanese educational system.

Wow, where to begin. Let's start with Japan's textbook and his assertion that everyone should be held to the same standard.

Do you really want Japan's government compared to Chinas? Japan has a democracy, and elected government. They want to be the leader of Asia, hell I want them to be the leader of Asia. But when they allow this kind of crap to be used in their public schools, no matter how small the percentage, they show themselves to not be ready for such a lofty position. If Japan wants to continue to say China is no better, they are equating themselves with that repressive regime and deserve the belittling they receive for their actions. It certainly is not a form of elitism or an excuse to bash Japan, it is expecting a democracy to have higher standards than the dictatorial regime in China.

Oh, and there is great debate over whether or not Japan had a significant impact on Korea's industrialization, but recognizing that is difficult for someone trying to whitewash the past. It is imperative to try and find some good in the unimaginable suffering caused by Japan's past actions.

Next, the student display at a subway station. It was despicable and should never have been allowed. But it was just one class from one school. Isn't that the same excuse Japan is trying to use about the textbook? I soundly condemn the teachers and administration for allowing such pictures to not only be drawn, but shown in public, just as I soundly condemn Japan for allowing the abomination of a textbook to not only be used but approved in the first place.

Q: Or, has Japan acted in a way that can be considered outside the bounds of how normal, responsible nations should act? I’m thinking here of the argument that Japan was merely acting as though it were a European colonizer.

A: Well, the Japanese did behave as badly as the Europeans, but that’s no excuse for Japanese behavior. The Europeans don’t like to talk about it, but their colonization of part of Asia and intention to colonize the rest of it was to a degree responsible for giving rise to Imperial Japanese behavior. Then again, Japan paid a much harsher price for its efforts at colonization than did the Europeans.

Perhaps those people who want the Japanese to modify the few textbooks that whitewash Japanese actions in the 20th century could show us some positive examples of coming to terms with an imperial past from the textbooks used in England, France, Spain, and Portugal. Perhaps we could even see some Russian textbooks dealing with their colonization of states in the Baltic and Central Asia during the days of the Soviet Union. And the Chinese textbooks dealing with Tibet and their other ethnic minorities.

My hell man. Japan was one of the parties responsible for the largest war the world has seen. It was responsible for the deaths of untold MILLIONS of people. During the last months of the war people in Asia were dying at a rate of more than 250,000 a month. I think Japan got off easy for the crimes committed.

As far as textbooks go, I've never read a history book produced in England, France, Spain or Portugal. Anyone know how they treat their colonial past?

Q: Only three school boards throughout Japan (Tochigi, Tokyo Metropolitan, Ehime) have sanctioned the use of the Tsukurukai history textbook; the Asahi Shimbun reports that “0.04%” of Japanese students are using it. Even so, what sort of message is the Japanese government sending by approving these textbooks?

A: “The Japanese government will be the final authority in determining the content of the textbooks used in Japanese schools. It is not the business of the governments of China and South Korea.”

Yeah, the nations that were raped, murdered and plundered by Japan really shouldn't be concerned about a whitewash... *sigh*

It goes beyond that as well. Pop culture in Japan has a distinct anti-Korea / anti-China bent. We've discussed books and comics in the past that were racist in Japan, now there is a new one.

Yeah, it's a couple months old, but I wasn't blogging then. At that time, 360,000 sold, I wonder what the number is now?

Trying to portray Japan in the light of the gentile, calm arbator of the East is ludicrious. Racism runs as deep there as in any country in Asia. As well as the fact that there is a distinct lack of remorse for the horrific actions of the past.

Until Japan recognizes its past actions and corrects its current ones, it will never be the leader it wants to be, and that is truly sad.