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Why Japan Is Still Not Sorry Enough

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Army photo / Getty Images

December 1947: Former Japanese prime minister and minister of war Hideki Tojo (1885 - 1948) takes the stand to testify in his own defense at the war crimes trial in Tokyo. Tojo was convicted and executed.

Keen observers know that Japan’s ugly territorial disputes with its neighbors aren’t really about fishing grounds or oil and gas reserves or ancient historical claims. What they’re about is that the Japanese still – still – won’t admit they did anything wrong during the Second World War or during their long colonial rule in Asia.

That’s how the neighbors see it, anyway. And it explains why arguments with China and South Korea over  islands of questionable value have turned into volatile confrontations. Armed ships are conducting rival patrols around the Senkaku (Diaoyu) Islands, which Japan controls but are claimed by China; Japan and South Korea are in a bitter feud over Dokdo (Takeshima) Island, which South Korea controls but which Japan claims.

(MORE: Japan: A Wave of Patriotism)

Now comes author Thomas U. Berger to explain why Japan is viewed as so unrepentant. Some 20 million people died and millions more were subjugated and oppressed during Japan’s half-century of war and colonial expansion, which ended in 1945.

Cambridge University Press

In a new book, War, Guilt and Politics After World War II, Berger says a complex web of culture, politics, geography and shifting notions of justice have made it more difficult for the Japanese to apologize for past transgressions than other societies. That’s particularly true compared to Germany, whose crimes outstripped even those of Japan, but which has largely reconciled with former victims.

Berger is an associate professor of international relations at Boston University and a frequent traveler to Japan; he is currently lecturing at Tokyo’s Keio University.   I chatted with Berger about his book via email this week. Here are excerpts:

Why did you decide to write this book?

I had done research previously on the impact of historical issues on defense and foreign policy in both Germany and Japan. So when disputes flared up in the 1990s over how Japan was dealing with its past, a number of my friends thought it would be a natural topic for me to look at. I wrote a couple of essays and thought I could spin off a quick book, but it took close to 14 years to get it out.

Why so long? 

As I worked on the topic, I became convinced that political scientists and policy makers do not have a very good handle on what drives the politics of history. I was forced to read a lot of material from different fields to help me make sense of it.

(PHOTOS: China: Island Dispute Spurs Anti-Japan Protests)

Also, on a more personal note, I found myself talking often with my parents about their experiences. My mother lived in Germany during the war, experienced bombings, lost many of her school friends and eventually was driven out of her home. My father came from Vienna, and though a Christian, was of Jewish background and therefore was forced to flee after the Nazis annexed Austria in 1938. Their experiences brought to life for me the reality of the times, and how individuals had to try to deal with the aftermath of the war. I hope it didn’t damage my objectivity – I don’t think that it did. But it did help make it a very personal project on a certain level.

What did you find out? Is Japan as unrepentant about its past as its neighbors claim?

Yes. But it’s not as simple as that.

It’s true, Japan has not been as repentant as Germany or other countries that have faced up to the darker sides of their past. Japan has apologized for waging aggressive war and oppressing its neighbors, but those apologies have fumbling and awkward, and often been undercut by revisionist statements from senior politicians. Japan has offered relatively little compensation to the victims. And to this day there are no nationally sponsored museums or monuments that acknowledge Japanese aggression or atrocities.

But Japan has been far more repentant than is often credited. Prime ministers have repeatedly offered apologies for their country’s misdeeds. Japan has sponsored joint historical research with both South Korea and China. Most Japanese school textbooks deal with issues like the Nanjing massacre and the colonial oppression of Koreans in a fairly open manner. Opinion polls suggests that most Japanese feel their country did things in Asia for which the country should apologize.

So why can’t the Japanese just say, “We were wrong. We’re sorry”?

Apologizing is a costly business for leaders of any country, and requires the investment of a great deal of political capital. Apologies tend to be given when there is a belief that those apologies will be accepted, at least in part, and that dialogue between the two sides will be advanced.  So unless there are strong reasons to do so, most leaders avoid it.

American readers may recall how difficult it has been for us to come to terms with the legacy of slavery and institutionalized racism. Issues like the atomic bombings of Japan and the massacre of insurgents in the Philippines remain difficult for American politicians to address — if they are aware of them as issues at all.

The problem is, in China and Korea there has been very little readiness to accept Japan’s efforts to promote reconciliation, and as a result, those efforts have tended to founder.

So it’s all Japan’s fault?

No, the Koreans and the Chinese bear a large share of the blame. With the Koreans, there has been an unwillingness to help the Japanese find ways of reconciling when the Japanese have tried to do so. This was most apparent with the Asian Women’s Fund, which the Korean government did not support and in fact subverted by establishing a separate, rival support system for the former comfort women. This has been made worse by the tendency of Korean politicians to score cheap points by very publicly taking out their frustrations with Japan — as when President Lee Myung-bak went to Dokdo/Takeshima recently.

There is good reason to question whether the Chinese really want or care about reconciliation.  When Jiang Zemin went to Tokyo in 1998, he hectored the Japanese about the past in ways that prevented the Japanese from offering the kind of written apology that they gave South Korea President Kim Dae-jung that same year.

Chinese leaders have preferred taking a hard line on Japan. This has been especially so when there are divisions in the Chinese leadership, and on a deeper level may have something to do with the Chinese leadership being deeply worried about their legitimacy. While Korean leaders are frequently unpopular, there is strong support for the Korean political system and pride in its democratic institutions, but Chinese leaders need to strike a nationalistic tone in part because there is greater internal skepticism about one-party rule.

Most other countries in Asia seemed to have moved on, haven’t they? Why are things different China and Korea? Was it because the occupations lasted longer, or because more people were killed there?

A lot of people died in Indonesia, Vietnam, and elsewhere, too. But Southeast Asians have been generally willing to forgive the Japanese. And the Japanese were in Taiwan even longer than in Korea, but anti-Japanese attitudes there are weak or non-existent.

To my mind, the key difference is how modern nationalism was created in those countries. Chinese and Korean nationalism is in many ways defined itself against Japan. In contrast, the national identity of most Southeast Asian countries was defined in opposition to their old colonial masters. In Indonesia, the focus was the Dutch, in Malaysia it was the British, and in the Philippines it was the United States. Taiwan is also instructive here, since the pro-democratic movement focused its resentment against domination by mainland China, first under the Nationalists and more recently against the PRC.

O.K., so what’s next? China has new leadership; Shinzo Abe is likely to become the new prime minister of Japan this month; and South Korea is holding new elections as well. Will that help?

I am not too optimistic, at least over the short term – the next five years or so.

There is a genuine chance for an improved relationship between Japan and South Korea. They both have strong common interests. They share many common values. Both are decent, democratic societies. In contrast to the past, the Japanese have come to respect and even admire the Koreans, while the Koreans have won back their self confidence and can afford to be more magnanimous towards their former oppressors.

Unfortunately, there are lots of signs that the Abe administration is coming into office thinking it will be firm but conciliatory with China, but really dump on the Koreans. They appear to be thinking about revoking the Kohno statement on the Comfort Women and may do some other things on historical issues that the Koreans will find highly provocative. This would enrage the Koreans and may lead to their taking counter steps.

With the Chinese, the gap in interests as well as perceptions is too big to allow for the pursuit of reconciliation, and even a more limited strategy of damage control may prove impossible. The new Xi administration shows every sign of wanting to continue to push the Senkaku/Diaoyu issue further, and China may even choose to escalate the pressure in the pring. Since Chinese claims are based on a particular reading of history that is very critical of Japan, there is little or no chance that the two sides will be able to dampen the nationalist passions that are feeding the crisis in the East China Sea.

Hopefully, cooler heads on all sides — perhaps with behind-thescenes help from the United States — can persuade the governments not to escalate the issue to dangerous levels. But the possibility of further riots, diplomatic crises and possibly even clashes involving paramilitary forces around the disputed territories is all too real.

329 comments
LawrenceRandallBenham
LawrenceRandallBenham

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T_BoneTalker
T_BoneTalker

Just because America has never been sorry for Tokyo bombing and other big cities and a couple of the A-bombs.  Those were serious war crimes you know.... and Russia has never been sorry for slavery post war captured over a million including women sent to Russian camps and some of them were gang-banged and killed....Japan apologized many times for what happened during the war but America and Russia have never.

ElizabethvanKampen
ElizabethvanKampen

Will you please read my website?  www.dutch-east-indies.com

I was a teenager when Japan occupied the former Dutch East Indies, today Indonesia.


Greetings from the Netherlands,   Elizabeth van Kampen

tayriley
tayriley

@ElizabethvanKampen hi elizabeth, i just went to your website and i am so thankful you wrote about your experiences for the next generations to read. much of the western world has no understanding of the atrocities that japan caused to all the asian countries it occupied. this first hand account is helpful in exposing the reality and quieting the deniers. thank you for writing it.

bulla
bulla

I often wonder ,given the cultural and religious background of Japanese,how its forces/people could do what is alleged about them in WW11 ? Anyone may try to explain?

tayriley
tayriley

@bulla at this point, you really shouldn't use the word 'allege.' there are hundreds of thousands of accounts of what japan did to the asian countries they occupied. read the thoroughly researched 'the rape of nanking' if you want an idea of what japan did in china. 


as for why religious people can do terrible things...plenty religious folk do terrible things and still lie to themselves and say they are doing it for god. from the crusades to 9/11---- people have a way of lying to themselves. no bad person actually thinks to themselves 'i'm bad.' everyone thinks they are in the right. 

TaruniTarun
TaruniTarun

No matter what Anyone says or writes against Japan ., Japan is a great role model country  because it has patiently borne the high scale devastations of Hiroshima /Nagasaki and has bounced back greatly from it with hardwork and perseverance .War and political crimes have happened in every country and none can pinpoint the reality .Iif the Japanese were at fault really  They need to be forgiven .because none  knows the other side of the story .Though these are  extremely painful stories Nothing can be done now ., except sympathising ..No point in talking the same stories ..it is time to move on.

EricYiliqi
EricYiliqi

@TaruniTarun

Japan will be forgiven if it has a honest attitude towards its victim. How would Chinese or Korean forgive tens of thousands of lives lost to it with brutal manner such as Nanking Massacre while cities were raped and murdered, and Japan is keep denying the very existence of it on hundreds of photographs, interviews and reports (some by Japanese papers during the war).



In my opinion, forgiveness is not something that someone can ask or earn. It's something only can be given by ones who suffered from. There is no immorality for a victim who holds his/her forgiveness. Compare to Germany, Japan is truly not apologizing enough to those damage it dealt. And did Jews forgive Nazi war crimes? No, never. Did Nazi war criminals worshiped as gods in a Germany national shrine? No, never.



The idea of Japanese suffrage from WWII is not a reason for China and Korean to forgive the crimes it admitted, just like how the American A-bombs would never counterweight Japanese war crimes to other countries.



I would like to forgive. I like many ancient ideologies Japan hold today that China have lost. I love the culture of peaceful and respectful feeling it embraces. But when they deny what they have done wrong that made us suffered so much and have left a wound that never really heals, when they hold firmly over a controversial island that they have significantly weaker claim both historically and legitimately, and deny all the conversations it had with us... How should I forgive it? How would anyone forgive someone who did terrible things to themselves at the moment that the person ask for forgiveness is damaging their relationship at the same time?

tayriley
tayriley

@EricYiliqi @TaruniTarun really well said, eric. the japanese government needs to step up once and for all and tell the truth and admit wrongdoing and stop worshipping their WWII war criminal soldiers in their memorials. what they did was wrong. there is no way around it. this isnt one asian country that hates japan- it's pretty much all of them. that should tell you something.

JakeKim
JakeKim

@TaruniTarun I'll address your pathetic arguments point by point. You write: 


"no matter what Anyone says or writes against Japan, because Japan is~" well does that mean any nation of such status can ignore what others reasonably claim because its such a big flashy model that everyone must follow? What you write is named abuse of power which all societies must strive hard to eliminate. It's quite sad to see you are blinded by the notion of Japanese exceptionalism which makes you probably think Japan doesn't have to do much to solve the nationalist problems in East Asia.


"War and political crimes have happened in every country and none can pinpoint the reality" well does that mean because others commit horrible acts you are justified in committing horrible acts as well? If you honestly think this way, you are mentally unstable. Surely during WW1 and WW2, other nations committed atrocities, BUT that does not justify nor mitigate the unique set of crimes that Japan committed against its neighbors in East Asia. A criminal is a criminal regardless of whether his own circle of pathetic gangster friends commit worse crimes or not. And we CAN point the reality quiet reasonably. Just look at the data published by western foreign institutions. All reasonable records show the horrible atrocities committed by Japan. If this isn't reality then I don't know what else is.


"Iif the Japanese were at fault really  They need to be forgiven .because none  knows the other side of the story." What?! Japan should be forgiven because its victims don't know the Japanese side of the story? What kind of argument is this? If a victim doesn't understand the offender, the offender should be forgiven due to lack of understanding of the criminal, when there is clear evidence of the crimes commited? What you write is hard to make any rational sense of but let me just say that historical forgiveness is only possible when all sides involved reach a mutual understanding of the issue for which Japan has so undercut through the so called acts of "patriotism". And we also do know the other side of the story. Due to overproduction in Japanese economy, it required stable colonies and with the militaristic goal of expanding to East Asia. That is your side of the story. The mindset of a criminal whose intent is both political ambition and economic stability.


"Though these are  extremely painful stories Nothing can be done now ., except sympathising ..No point in talking the same stories ." Everything can be done. If Japan took progressive steps in solving this nationalistic issue like the Germans, this can solve this painfully long-standing historical issue and can lead to peaceful diplomacy in East Asia. Surely the cooperation between all sides is needed, but the offender must first come clean before its victims can forgive.


Please think more about the current notions of justice and what Japan has done to severely hurt its neighbors. Also think about what Japan must do to solve this diplomatic conflict for the sake of bright future of East Asia. What countries like South Korea and China would like to see is a more sincere and progressive Japan in solving these issues. Then we can really move on.



Mav.Maveth
Mav.Maveth

Japan never paid enough for it's crimes in WWII. We should have (and still should) turn the entirety of the Japanese Islands into radioactive glass -- after all the Japanese in other countries have been rounded up and transported back to the "motherland". Then we can start on the Islamists...

jlist
jlist

As an American living in Japan for 20+ years and blogging about these issues (albeit from the Japan point of view, as I am physically here), this was quite reasonable and well written. Americans who judge Japan this way or that should consider our own history, and how easy it is for us to say "that was a long time ago" about the Philippine conflict (which most people won't even know about), while banging on the table about never forgetting events that are important to us.


Really, we should all study how the brain works and how perception of history changes even in our own brains across a few years, to say nothing of as nations across larger spans of time. 

kochigachi
kochigachi

Thomas Berger need to redo his research as all his claims over Korea is totally wrong, seems like he was being paid by Japanese to write his book which is based on Japanese pov. Get real, who want apology from Japanese when they don't have any intention to say sorry and move on, Japan still denies war atrocities and pays respects to war criminals and imperial family of Japan who actually was responsible for war crimes in Asia. No Asian countries have forgive Japanese.

garrycaine
garrycaine

Sounds like you are trying to give the Japanese excuses that they are also the victim.


Instead of so theories and discussion, you should have seen some the killing photos yourself. 

See how they stab the 3 y.o with bayonet, see how they chopped a lady's head off while she was holding her baby.

http://mp.weixin.qq.com/mp/appmsg/show?__biz=MzA4MTA4MzkwOA%3D%3D&appmsgid=10014348&itemidx=5&sign=c39b2adf7a9257240693212546124bd7&scene=4#wechat_redirect


That's why all the unwillingness and cooperation from that 2 countries. Their people got slayed like the animal life-stock during the period of war.


 You could say they should blame the past generation but not the current generation, then you've underestimated the power of ideology which can be passed and rooted for generations.


All these unforgivable sins,  will not be forgotten and will served as the warning to the Japanese in the future.

End of story.

DavidOng
DavidOng

Is it possible China's gov wants to keep its population focused on Japan with hatred as a distraction to stay in power?

jlist
jlist

@DavidOng  Not so much to stay in power, but if you have a straw man you can punch any time you like, it makes your own domestic problems seem less. 

DrakeDogma
DrakeDogma

@DavidOng China using Japan as a strawman and the fact that Japan has not properly atoned for their sins are not mutually exclusive things.


Both are true, but despite the Chinese Government's intentions, that doesn't make the issue any less valid, Its not just the Communist Government of China, its also the democratic government of Korea and much more

dugger69
dugger69

I'm not sure that "repentance" or "apologies" are appropriate, given the fact that almost all Japanese alive today were either not born when the Japanese aggressions took place, or were too young to have had anything to do with them.  Doesn't the idea of "collective repentance" imply some sort of "collective guilt"--which is precisely the kind of concept that got us into trouble in the past.

kazakh729
kazakh729

As the article mentions- the nationalism of Korea has defined its nationalism against Japan.  For those who have stated that the Koreans should move on and that this animosity is something of the past, fail to take in the pattern of history that has made South Korean it is today.  The country was annexed in 1910 and then found its freedom from Japan short lived because it became embroiled in a civil war that divided the country.  After the war, it was constituted a third world country and transformed itself into a powerhouse that it is today.  This is was done because of the resilience of the Korean people and their determination. Admit it-  not many countries can do what the Koreans has done.


History is a continuum and impacts its people, its culture and its character.  Telling them to move on is ridiculous- if you are not Korean I do not think you can tell them to move on.  This is their agenda, their people, and they have generations who living on a peninsula that contends with the past still.  I have a friend whose grandfather was forced to take on a Japanese name and prohibited from speaking Japanese.  His grandmother was forced to hide from the soldiers that would patrol because they were rounding up women to send to the troops as comfort women.  Koreans are a proud people because their country has dealt with the attempts of eradication by the Japanese.  Another example is the pottery of Japan.  They kidnapped many artists from Korea to help foster their own arts.  The most painful aspect is what the comfort women had to endure.  Once you read about how the comfort women were forced to have sex with 40 different men- you will have a different outlook.  If they refused, the soldiers who proceed to mutilate their bodies and hang their heads on pikes.


Apologies?  The country of Japan has become more right wing recently with Abe as its leader.  He is adamant in making Japan the country it once used to be. Don't be fooled by Japan's supposedly apologies.  There are Zanichi Koreans living in Japan and they are discriminated against.  Political propoganda also depicts Koreans as imbeciles and there have been hate crimes against korean children in Japan on the playground.   


For heaven's sake move on?  Its been this number of years and etc?  For those of you advocating to move on, are you not aware that there was the genocide of Bosnians (Srebrenica) in the 90's?  The Rwandan genocide, the Pol Pot genocide, Armenian genocide, and the Holocaust etc. 


The article above seems to cater towards a crowd for those who favor American exceptionalism.  I have to reiterate again- for those of you who are not Korean, you have no say, or right to tell their people to move on.  I also commend the Chinese for taking a hard line with the Japanese.  At least they are willing to show that Japan will not get away with the past.  They can't bring back the dead, but at least they can form their identity with pride and dignity.   

slowguy2
slowguy2

@epitygxanwn Where the heck is this moral arrogance coming from?  No, you do not have the right to tell Koreans what to do.  Is it O.K. with you if Koreans claimed they have the RIGHT to tell you what to do?  I didn't think so.

epitygxanwn
epitygxanwn

@kazakh729 You repeat the same basic mistake over and over. Yes, we DO have the right to tell Koreans (as well as many others) to "move on". The failure to do so just guarantees what you should fear most: a recurrence of the cycle of lies, violence and discrimination.

Ttori
Ttori

@epitygxanwn @kazakh729 I wouldn't agree with that actually. I am a doctor and I do not tell a rape victim to move on even if the perpetrator has been jailed and society has dished out 'just punishment'.You have the 'right' to tell only in the sense of freedom of speech and action but it will no doubt be insensitive and reflect on your lack of understanding in the same manner that I have no comprehension of what it means to be victimised by a criminal. Korea has been the target of Japanese aggression for hundreds of years and majority of Korean national heroes are people who fought against Japanese. What Japan did to Korea during WWII is a tip of an iceburg as Korean history is littered with periods of fending herself from repeated Japanese aggression from small scale pirate raids to large scale naval wars and the infamous Imjin wars. A very proud group of people has been hurt and humiliated. I expect Koreans and Japanese to mudsling each other for another century and an American author with very little appreciation of the root of all these anti-Japanese animosities may say it's time to move on but Japanese treatment of Asian race and Korean people deserves far more academic studies, Western scrutiny and interest, dedicated museums, more PhD thesis and university courses dedicated to the topic. This article can only be written as Japanese have not followed the steps Germany has taken to redeem herself and as Japanese government still argue that historical animosities depend on 'historical interpretations and perspectives'. Japan has swung dangerously to the right and history has shown that Japan was never really a peace loving country. Americans should know all too well that the greatest single human loss ever suffered in a single attack on the American people was the Pearl Harbor. The issue is far more than a desire for an apology. It's an attitude that Koreans demand and Germans have shown how it can be done, and Japanese people are no way close and I very much doubt it will ever actually happen. So my conclusion is this. Despite all the talk on forums like this as well as the fast fading of hope I feel when I read Japanese people put up comments like 'Nanjing massacre is Chinese attempts to discredit Japan and photos of evidence are all fakes' and 'produce evidence of comfort women being forced into prostitution', this age old mutual hatreds between the 3 North Asian people will go on and on with little comprehension from the Western world until Japan is so hammered with economic downturn and natural and man made disasters that Koreans and Chinese feel that they are never a threat anymore. I love Japanese people, food and culture except the obvious idiots but this part of dark history needs much greater audience and cultural analysis, education on more global scale rather than a white person asking victims to move on. I respect you as a Time journalist but I feel your post has shown a little lack of sensitivity.

kochigachi
kochigachi

@kazakh729 You'e just repeating what right wing Japanese are saying, Koreans have moved on 50 years ago but it's Japanese still holding it by denying these war atrocities ever taken place by forging text books and documents.

KStyleBlue
KStyleBlue

@slowguy2

Yes, we have the right to tell the Koreans to move on.

And yes, it is okay with me if Koreans claimed they have the right to tell me what to do. Freedom of speech. I probably just wouldn't listen to their advice.

kochigachi
kochigachi

@Ttori @epitygxanwn@kazakh729 Koreans did moved on, there's only 50 comfort women left in Korea but Japanese are still insulting them, seems like Japanese never moved on, all they want is formal apology and they're dying any way. So is China & Korea they're hammered with natural disasters and economic down turn, Don't be like these Nazi Japanese.

tayriley
tayriley

@kazakh729 agree with you. it is atrocious what japan did in the asian countries it occupied. korea, china, indonesia--- there are so many terrible stories passed down through the generations. every family has one because that is how much the japanese negatively affected these countries. 'the rape of nanking' is so incredibly hard to read and made me understand that what the japanese did was on par with the nazis in the holocaust. at some points, i felt japan was even worse, because at least there wasn't systemic 'scientific' torture through experiments (look up  unit 731) going on in the concentration camps. 

EricSungHyukLee
EricSungHyukLee

What rages Koreans is not the fact that Japan apologized or not. Most Koreans are aware that apologies were made and financial support was given by Japan as well. But if you follow some of the historical issues in Japan, it's obvious that they are trying to "justify" their actions. You go on to Facebook and Youtube and read over what Japanese say about their horrifying history. You just won't be able to defend Japan.

Also, just explain to us why Japanese prime ministers are still showing their respects to war criminals by visiting Yasukuni Shrine. 

Is that even imaginable in Germany? It's like setting up monuments for the Nazis and showing respect to them.

Would Jewish be happy about that even after receiving "apology" from Germany? Would reactions by you folks on this post be the same, defending Germany and criticizing Jewish for "not accepting" the apology? 

Have you seen those videos of so-called "propagandabuster" by Tony the F***head accompanied by Japanese?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wYncQOqPJ3E#t=75  here is the link

That's exactly what Japanese are doing. They are not shameful of disrespecting the victims of their crimes and posting videos of it. 

You still believe its South Korean with the fault of "not accepting" the apology? 


jlist
jlist

@EricSungHyukLee  You do know that 99% of Yasukuni is devoted to normal soldiers who died in the service of their country, and also dogs, horses and carrier pigeons. Yes, there is the sad situation of the A-class criminals, but do you know that there is _no other place_ for Japanese to visit, no equivalent of Arlington National Cemetery? Do you know that all people have the right to express themselves, and all nations have the right to be proud of their history? (Korea has a huge amount to be proud of, by the way.) 


I believe Korea's national fetishization of the comfort woman is a serious problem, not of course as bad as what the Japanese did, but a national issue you should contemplate. 

DrakeDogma
DrakeDogma

@jlist @EricSungHyukLee Can you imagine how it would feel to the romanis or jews if Germany had a memorial for Hitler and his nazi pals or if Italy had a memorial for Mussolini and his fascist pals? It is unthinkable that those countries would ever have memorials for Mussolini or Hitler, because people forced them, since Japan is so isolated, the politicians don't have to pay any mind to the feelings of minorities in other countries. 


Right now, Germany has the 3rd largest population of jews in Europe, because they atoned for their sins and all is well, but Japan demonstrates their lack of history by making a memorial equivalent to honoring Hitler himself, Hitler was just the leader, but no less or more brutal that his underlings that caused the crimes


It doesn't matter if 99% were normal soldiers, kick that 1% out, war criminals should not be honored, although films of nanjing are rare, there's a whole slew of holocaust or american-slave films you could watch and see if the bad guys in those films are worth memorializing. 


If you are an american, then in that context, imagine how African Americans would feel if America had a memorial to every slave owner in the country. 


The memory of 20 million dead Chinese people (More deaths than the Jews in the holocaust) outweigh the fact that some people can't pay respect to soldiers. Why can't they tear down yasukuni, make a new one and leave all the war criminals out? 

tayriley
tayriley

@jlist @EricSungHyukLee u clearly have no idea what is going on. those 'normal soldiers' tortured men women and children in the name of their country. go read 'the rape of nanking' or read about 'unit 731' and then come back and tell me those are 'normal soldiers.'

jamieglasgow
jamieglasgow

So rounding up the reviews in this article, the knowledge I gained as a university student in international studies, and the general feeling I have had living as a Korean, I want to make some points. 

1. Japan actually did apologize, if we take that meaning just as a formally expressed speech. Prime Minister Murayama's one is the most known in Korea. So what about monetary compensation? As somebody beneath mentioned, Japan actually did give compensation in the form of helping Korea's industrialization. It was not explicitly expressed or recorded as compensation for war crimes.. but it was given during the normalization of relations between Korea and Japan. President Park Chung-hee was satisfied with it, even if the public wasn't. And he could afford to ignore the public's desire because his dictatorship was established by then. So in the end, all that money was poured into the economic growth in 1980s. Apparently, if you talk to urban planning experts in Korea they will tell you that you cannot talk about the subject without talking about Japanese aid.

2. So if Japan did apologize, why are Koreans enraged by the 'flippant attitude of acknowledging Japanese war crimes'? I think the situation derives from three reasons. The first one is that Koreans are not generally aware of the specifics of the apology. I have never heard of the details of Murayama Damhua (the apology) in a formal education. I only discovered that it existed by listening to other people talking about it in high school. The monetary compensation? I found about it in university. Maybe other people find out about them earlier than I. But frankly, I don't think the education system or the government try hard enough to show that Japan actually did make an effort to pay back for they had done in the past. And because it is not taught properly in formal education, people are led to think that the apology is non-existent, or not enough.

The second point is that some Koreans do know about the apology and aid, but don't regard them as satisfactory. Unfortunately, the Japanese government has made it easier for Koreans to feel unsatisfied or even angry. All the apologies and compensation I've mentioned above were in the past. I'm not saying that Japan needs to give more money to Korea. I'm saying that the Japanese government, the party in power, the LDP, needs to show that they are taking a consistent approach to reconciling. Somebody mentioned below that the Koreans and the Chinese need to recognize that only a minority of extreme rightists have a revisionist approach - but what if that minority is the main decision-maker of the Japanese government? The LDP hasn't always been that extreme - Murayama was actually from the LDP - but looking at Prime Minister Abe's cabinet members and their other memberships in organizations reflecting extreme views, I think it would be reasonable to say that the government looks pretty rightist right now. And it is true that Japan is taking a more aggressive approach with its neighboring countries.

Third point, East Asian nationalism and economic development are on the rise. The subsequent increase of pride, not rationality, is hurting relations. It's simple group psychology - people inside a group unites better when they see a clear 'enemy' outside their group. So what happens when the mayor of Osaka makes a comment that flippantly ignores the delicate situation of comfort women? The Korean media is all over it, citing interviews from victims of comfort women who are still alive to tell the tale. The Korean public is enraged by the yet another example of a senior official of the government showing his unapologetic attitude towards Korea. And the Japanese look on as their neighbor flares up over a speech made by an idiotic man who definitely does not represent the whole entirety of Japan. From the Japanese perspective, they have actually made some reparations and do not understand why they must be so shamed in front of their neighboring countries - why do they have to apologize (again) for something their forefathers did? From the Korean perspective, the Japanese have given a superficial apology and snidely thrown it back in their face - victims who were previously comfort women are still alive, some stolen historical artifacts are still abroad, and the government swings back and forth on dealing with the delicate historical and territorial issue.

Let's go to the ultimate question: how on earth are we going to solve past conflicts? I think both sides need to be rational, pride be damned. Let's both formally admit that Korean-Japanese cooperation is crucial, and recognize the other's effort to bridge the gap and the other's shortcomings in following that effort. That way we'll explicitly know what needs to be done. And please don't forget appeasing the public while the governments are making nice, because this thing will not be finished without the citizens' consent.

*A little side note about two phrases. 'But Japan has been far more repentant than is often credited' - true. 'Koreans and Chinese bear a large share of the blame' - not so sure about the large share part. Frankly, Japanese inconsistency about war crime responsibility has made it easier for Korean politicians to take 'cheap shots'.

slowguy2
slowguy2

@epitygxanwn  So the shrine isn't so important, and its significance is exaggerated?  Great, then it won't be difficult for the Japanese government to just move in and announce publicly that the one rogue priest, as you say, (what, without tacit government approval?  in Japan?  give me a break) who brought in the war criminals, committed an immoral act;  and also to pressure the current priests to declare the souls of the evil ones to have been expelled from honored status.  If the government wanted it done, the people will obey, right?  After all, this is Japan, not Korea or the US.

Since absolutely nothing is being done to change the situation, the rest of us may reasonably assume that Japan's senior officials are not interested in making changes.  Which means they are not interested in giving an apology that will truly satisfy Koreans and Chinese so they can move on.  One reason for this is that just as surely as Korean and Chinese politicians use the issue of Japan's lack of repentance for their own domestic support, Japanese politicians exploit the issue of Korean and Chinese anger for their own domestic agendas.  Which, by the way, now seems to include reclaiming the "glory" of the Imperial past.  Worrying, but hardly shocking in view of the fact that in Japan war criminals are honored instead of castigated.

epitygxanwn
epitygxanwn

EricSungHyukLee You say, "Most Koreans are aware that apologies were made and financial support was given by Japan as well. " But the comments in this thread make it quite clear that many are not at all aware of this. Or worse yet, they are vaguely aware that the money was paid, but blame the then SK President for using the money to rebuild the country.


And speaking of unaware, you seem quite unaware of what Yasukuni Shrine really is. It is a shrine to ALL the Japanese war dead since the Meiji Restoration. By no means does a visit to that shrine imply veneration for war criminals.


williamchen3
williamchen3

@epitygxanwn  The war museum in Yasukuni Shrine portrays Japan's conquest as an effort to save Asians from the western imperialists. It does not mention any atrocities committed by the imperial army. 


Imagine if Germany built a war memorial that includes Himmler, Hitler and the likes, and has a war museum that tells visitors how "Germany tried to save Europe from Jewish supremacy and Communist imperialists but failed." How will the Jews today feel?


Why move on if people do not learn from history?

epitygxanwn
epitygxanwn

@williamchen3 - you are not doing so well on the "learn from history" part yourself, William. Do not confuse the war museum with the shrine itself. They are not the same thing. Yes, the museum is irresponsible for its distortions of history. So are the Shinto priests running the shrine. But that is no excuse for turning a normal act of veneration of war dead into political statements -- whether the shrine staff do it or the shrine's critics.
For one thing, I have never met a Japanese person who actually believes the Shinto priests have the power to declare the souls of the war dead 'divinities', though I am sure there are a VERY few who do. Most Japanese I know just go through the motions without believing ANY of the tenets of Shintoism. For another, all this grief over equating Yasukuni with honoring criminals stems from the decision of ONE Shinto priest in the 1970s, the one who ran the shrine at the time and decided to list the Class A criminals executed by Occupation forces. He had NO government support for this decision.  The Emperor Showa (Hirohito)  himself refused to visit the shrine after this. And he knew those criminals personally. What does that tell us about the shrine and its significance?

kochigachi
kochigachi

@jamieglasgow Fyi japan never apologized formally, just because some Japanese leaders apologized with some speech it doesn't mean thing to Koreans. Koreans want japan to teach their kids what hell happened back then but Japan forged documents to look like Japan was protecting Korea and did all for Koreans. Koreans did not taken cheap shots at japanese, it's duty for them to protect their people's rights. You do not have rights to tell Koreans what to do. Koreans are expecting Japanese to come forward and open up about their war crimes. No Japanese kids today are aware of what happened back then since Japanese government never educated them about colonial period. 

jlist
jlist

@williamchen3 @epitygxanwn  Yes. (I recently visited the place.)  I looked hard for any facts that were not correct and could not se any. It reflected the belief at the time that Japan was fighting the British to kick them out of the second world, which is why a lot of Egyptians named their kids Hideki during the period, to celebrate the British being defeated. A wrong view, of course, but it was a common perception at the time. 


jlist
jlist

@kochigachi @jamieglasgow  They made 40+ official and heart-felt apologies to Korea and other nations. You have no ears to listen, which is why they don't want to make any more. This is kind of a reasonable reaction, to my mind. 

williamchen3
williamchen3

@epitygxanwn  If the prime minister visits the shrine every year, what does that tell us about the shrine? 

williamchen3
williamchen3

@jlist I'm from Singapore and let me tell you our history. When the Japanese took over Singapore, many Singaporeans initially welcomed them for they thought the Japanese would be kinder than the British since they are asians. But they turned out to be far more brutal than the British or the Nazis. 


The Japanese did pretty much the same to Singaporeans as they did to other asians: rounding up young men to be massacred, baby bayonetting, mass rapes,  and forced labour to death. 

PrincessZ
PrincessZ

The Japanese occupied Malaysia from 1941-45 and massacred more than 100,000 of my countrymen....but we have already moved on. After all it has been more than 70 years ago for heaven's sake. We don't care whether their apology is genuine or not because Japan's new generation isn't responsible for their forefathers' brutality. !!!

kochigachi
kochigachi

@PrincessZ So you don't want japanese kids to know about this and continually insults malaysian ? Do you know what Japanese are teaching their kids about WW2 ? They say they protected Asia from Western imperialists and no records of 100,000 malaysian were slained by japanese. Would Japanese care ? I think not and they're also seeking to revive their imperial Japan as well which mean Japan can do this again without any repent. 

ssamjangjustin
ssamjangjustin

Most of Koreans will never forgive, if Japanese will keep up with their high and mighty "we apologized in words so let us do what we want" act. Koreans had to survive 36 years of genocidal attempt of an entire race. If entirety of China was to be occupied, I could only expect Japanese attempt to do the same. Korea has not yet recovered vast portions of culture, history, linguistic and other aspects that were wiped out and banned during the Japanese occupation. 

Japanese rule only had one goal for Koreans during those 36 years: reduce all Koreans to be nothing but a farm animals, where men can provide cheap labor (or slavery) and produce food for the military, and women to provide sexual services to Japanese soldiers by wiping out Korean language, culture and everything that identifies as Koreans. Modern Korea still suffers from lack of historical documents, linguistic identity, cultural identity because of such crimes committed. Those 36 years of occupation literally left blank holes in our history and many aspects of our culture and ways of life. 

So the time passed and Koreans live in such prosperity, thinking everything is all right? Koreans will never acknowledge Japanese apologies made so far because of these major reasons: 

1. allowing Yaskuni Shrine to house all the names of war criminals who were executed: Many Koreans consider this move as 'sneaky, and so Japanese' at best. Japanese claim that Yaskuni Shrine is shrine built in esteem for those who have fallen in wartimes. This place holds regards that of Arlington Cemetery, but also holds place for Adolf Hitler and all of his generals and SS cabinet members. Get the picture? Don't think otherwise, just think all those patriotic Americans and veterans, government officials come to Arlington Cemetery on Veteran's Day to honor those fallen during WW2... including Hitler's personal shrine the biggest in the middle of it. That is what Yaskuni shrine is, and from the victim's point of view, it is one disgusting and hypocritical site. With Japanese government ardently protecting and refusal to remove Tojo Hideki and all other war criminals'  shrines off Yaskuni Shrines, such place holds no regards to other Asian nations except for the fact that Japan will not forget, and continue to glorify their WW2 days.

2. Border disputes between Japan, and Korea & China:

Honestly, I am no expert on border dispute that Japan has with China, but when it comes to Korea, Japanese government has been blatantly claiming that the Isle of Dokdo is Japanese sovereign territory despite the fact that the island itself has been historically claimed as Korean territory with Japanese government in the past claiming that it is Korean territory.   Japan only annexed Korean for 36 years, and returned all of Korean territory after the WW2. After the first reason above, when Japan blatantly causes border disputes as such, do you think Koreans really are that dumb and willing to accept Japanese apologies as real? 

3. History Manipulation:

Japanese government also has been (I can remember this as early as in early 90's) publishing their history textbooks for middle and high school students, with extremely toned down version of their invasion against Asia in WW2 section. They claimed that Japan did not 'invade' other nations, but rather 'expanded influence over' the nations of Asia to bring positive results. This really was not well received in the other nations. On other parts, these textbooks claimed freedom fighters as terrorists, adding to insults to those nations suffered under Japanese actions.

I seriously could go on and on and on from here but oh well...

Yes, in a wording and verbal openings on diplomatic meets, Japanese officials delivered apologies. but there were never formal documentation of apology with promises to fix their mistakes by taking such actions and such. Their apologies were always vague and lacked details, other than saying sorry and we'll never do it. In meantime on their homeland, they worship their old war criminals as gods and glorify the old days by adding easily accepted forms such as textbooks, popular magazine and newspaper articles, even mangas and animes suggesting Japanese legitimacy on their position in WW2. Then someday, we'll come across generation of Japanese population that really believes that their course of action in WW2 was the right thing and wanting retribution. With Shinzo Abe's administration Japan things really started to look that way. 

With this much of ranting and being Korean, do you think I hate Japanese? No.

I have many Japanese friends and we respect each other and maintain really good friendship. When we are drunk to certain point, we make jokes about WW2 and walk out with no hurt feelings. Some knew the real history and some didn't. And for those who learned true history of what Japan has committed during the WW2 were simply disgusted of what their ancestors have done and apologized and as a person and a race of people they belong in. That was all I needed to hear. 

This is what lacks from Japanese government. the sincerity of admitting that their government had committed wrong, and continuing to anger other nations by slyly mixing their necessities and false guidances into one. 

There can't be just one big apology that the world can see that the Japanese government is sorry for what it has done in the past, but the world (or neighboring countries) really want to see that those claims are true or not. 

Stop hiding facts, stop twisting the truth, and sincerely open up and embrace truth and learn to live with it no matter how embarrassing it would be. I was surprised on my visit to Germany to see just how open the Germans are to show their mistakes and continue to remind them of their mistakes in the past, no matter how much they hate it or not. Every company presentations i've been to cover their involvements in WW2 and how much they regret it, and taken steps to fix that part of history. Almost all major concentrations camps perfectly restored to tell the ghastly tales of human suffering and cruelty... 

And now Germany is one of the most influential and respected member of EU, while Japan may be economically strong but cannot escape the beating sticks from other nations... 



jlist
jlist

@ssamjangjustin  Neither side's claim to Dokdo/Takeshima is very good. Korea first surveyed it in 1900, Japan officially claimed it in 1910 if memory serves. Korea pretends the island has been part of Korea for centuries yet no accurate maps show it, and it was never named. In one government document an official expresses nervousness about "Japanese territory" being so close to Korea (talking about Dokdo/Takeshima). In other documents Japanese treated the island as Korean, showing that the claim is not very clear on their side either. Korea took the islands by forced and declared the Syngman Rhee Line unilaterally, seizing Japanese ships and killing 44 fishermen (source, Wikipedia) before relations were formalized.  Of course Korea was creating its identity and pushing back against all that Japan had done to them. It's just funny to anoint Dokdo as the Jerusalem of Asia when it was the cause of death for many Japanese (indirectly I guess). 


Actually, Korea and Japan both only wants the islands because the other side wants them. 

photolabpart
photolabpart

A lot of people died in Indonesia, Vietnam, and elsewhere, too. But Southeast Asians have been generally willing to forgive the Japanese. And the Japanese were in Taiwan even longer than in Korea, but anti-Japanese attitudes there are weak or non-existent.

LOL what kind of expert is this , comparing Taiwan Annexation to Korean women comfort women -  just out to sell a few copies of books

casasulli
casasulli

@photolabpart  

you people need to move on. In the Philippines, there had been movies made on the oppression by the Japanese, there were comfort women here too. Pregnant women were said to be forked by the knifes (the ones on guns, don't know what they are called) because they could not kneel. Peace won't be achieve by holding grudges. I admit, there are old timers (who had experience world war 2) who hates the Japanese and refuses to go to Japan even if it's beautiful there.


I forgot the death march "The Bataan Death March" 

AndroidBones
AndroidBones

The knives on the guns are called Bayonets.

kochigachi
kochigachi

@casasulli Question is will Filipino accepts imperial japan to rape Philippine ? You don't want Japanese to learned about what they did to your ancestors and countryman ? Surely you want younger japanese people to know about their dark past so that they don't do this again. Japan will never apologized to Philippine. See,s like you have been lost for some time, where did you learned your history from ?

jlist
jlist

@kochigachi @casasulli  Since this post was made Japan made an official apology to the Phillippines. Maybe they saw this post ^_^

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