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  Global Views
Is Japan A "Virtual Enemy" to S. Korea?
Special Contribution
By Tom Pauken II
S. Korea's independent lawmaker Chung Mong-Joon

On October., 2005, US and South Korean defense ministers met in Washington D.C. to discuss issues of mutual concern. The joint communiqué occurred a few days after 6 party talks resumed when N. Korea claimed they would halt their nuclear program. One might assume that these defense ministers discussed ways to implement a strong resolution to the nuclear crisis.

Apparently, S. Korea and the US didn't reach an agreement. The S. Korean media exposed revelations that high-level government officials from Seoul asked the US to soften the language of the nuclear umbrellas clause that protects S. Korea from a nuclear attack. The news shocked many S. Koreans.

Chung Mong-joon, an independent lawmaker, claimed to have attended the meeting on Oct. 17 and he divulged more startling information. He alleged that S. Korean defense ministers wanted their US counterparts to sign a joint document defining Japan as a "virtual enemy." US government officials refused to comply. He purported to possess an authentic document as evidence.

This allegation garnered little attention. As of Wednesday Oct. 25, only the Korea Herald called attention to this issue but as a side note. Kim Ji-hyun reported it on Friday Oct 20 in an article titled, "Disgust Rises Over Moves to Weaken the Nuclear Umbrella." She mentioned Japan with just one sentence.

This seems unbelievable but if proven true and if Tokyo paid any attention to this disclosure then the diplomatic landscape between the two nations would change dramatically. The media should fully investigate this matter so the public will know if S. Korean Defense Ministers really wanted to define Japan as a "virtual enemy."

If the S. Korean government declared Japan an enemy, this might not surprise some people. South Korea's President Roh Moo-hyun earned notoriety for criticizing Japan. His administration portrays the Japanese as not showing remorse for past military acts of aggression against his country.

Japan has a long history of invading Korea, colonizing and inflicting tortures upon them. During World War II, Japan committed terrible atrocities against neighboring Asian countries. Yet, Japan surrendered over 60 years ago.

Since then, The Japanese government adopted a pacifist constitution renouncing wars to resolve diplomatic disputes. They have no official army but a Self Defense Force Contingent with a large US military presence. They have not engaged in any battles since WWII.

Most Japanese are proud of their pacifist constitution as opinion polls show. Many peace organizations originate from Japan. Nevertheless, many S. Koreans can't forgive Japan, even though, few Japanese soldiers from WWII are still alive. Japanese are ashamed of their past history, so they remain hushed.

Japanese culture shuns overt displays of emotion and appreciates quiet and humble people over those who are loud and boastful. So, not discussing shameful subjects can be a sign of remorse. But, the S. Korean government thinks otherwise. They demand the Japanese keep talking about their history, show emotional grief and continuously apologize.

Ironically, President Roh promotes leftist causes and pushes for a more progressive society that maligns traditional customs like Confucianism. But he loves Confucianism if it supports his ideological philosophy. Confucians believe the sins of parents can be passed down to their children. Therefore, they think the Japanese shouldn't be trusted.

Some Japanese have grown tired of Korean self-righteousness. Polls indicated a decreasing number of them maintain positive feelings about Korea. Rightist groups have spawned as a response. Yet, they're perceived as outcasts in Japanese society and few pay attention to them believing its best to ignore those desperate for attention.

President Roh has other motives for casting Japan in a negative light. His approval ratings have hovered in the low teens for the past few years so he needs a convenient scapegoat. He understands many Koreans despise Japan so if he ignites a furor then they will support him. It's easier to unite a populace through hate rather than love.

But S. Korea's behavior towards Japan is inexcusable. Their defense ministers requested that the US sign a document with both countries defining Japan as their "virtual enemy." President Roh has a right to declare any nation his enemy but he should not force other countries to follow suit. His actions denigrate diplomacy amongst allies.

This administration portrays hypocrisy as justifiable. If President Roh heard rumors that Japan and the US wanted to define S. Korea a "virtual enemy" he would react with rage. He would instigate nationwide protests. But he would be happy because he has a scapegoat that will improve his popularity ratings.

Mr. Tom Pauken II serves as volunteer contributor for The Seoul Times. A major of political science at Thomas More College in New Hampshire has been writing about his political views on the Asia Pacific region. He taught English in South Korea.






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