Monday, December 28, 2009

Ask a Korean! News: Japan Pays 99 Yen Pension to Former Forced Laborers

First, the Korean must give credit when credit is due. Recently, Korea-Japan relation has been markedly better ever since Japan elected a new prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama. In a meeting with Korean president Lee Myeong-Bak, Prime Minister Hatoyama said, “We have the courage to face up the history and resolve our issues.” He also said in a seminar in Singapore, “Now, even after more than 60 years since Japan has caused great damage and pain to many Asian nations and their people, one cannot think that true reconciliation has been achieved.” Given these remarks, the Korean had high hopes for what Mr. Hatoyama would achieve.

But problem for the Japanese government has not been that it was unwilling to apologize. Contrary to what many Koreans mistakenly believe, Japan did apologize several times for its imperial past, most notably in Murayama Danwa issued by then-Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama in 1995. The problem has been that the Japanese government, and the Japanese society as a whole, had trouble maintaining that stance of contrition.

Well, same ol’ story now – Japan went one step forward with Mr. Hatoyama, and two steps backward:
The Japanese government fanned anger among Koreans after news came this week that it sent 99 yen ($1.08), or 1,280 won, in welfare pension refunds to Koreans who were used as forced laborers during the Japanese colonial occupation of the Korean Peninsula.
Japan offers $1.08 to the laborers it conscripted

More information is available in the Korean version of the Dong-A Ilbo article. Additional analysis is available here and here, all in Korean.


Former South Korean forced laborer Yang Geum-Deok, 81, who worked at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, cries during a rally in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul.

First, in a controversial issue like this one, it is very important to get all the facts straight. The women who claimed the pension refunds were forcibly conscripted to work for Mitsubishi Heavy Industries during World War II in Osaka, Japan for about a year when they were 13 to 14 years old. They were not paid for their labor, but they were automatically enrolled in a pension fund. In 1998, they claimed for the pension from Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, which oversees pension plans. Eleven years later, MHLW recognized that these women were indeed enrolled in a pension plan, and paid them 99 yen each – the absolute amount to which they were entitled in 1945, when World War II ended.

“Wait” – history buffs and reflexive Japan apologists might say – “what about the 1965 Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea? Does it not ban individual claims of compensation for the wrongs committed by Imperial Japan during war time?” Indeed, the Japanese government takes the position that the unpaid wages were considered paid under the Basic Treaty. But MHLW thought about this for eleven years, and apparently decided that the Basic Treaty does not cover unpaid pension funds, which is governed by Welfare Pension Insurance Act. And because that law does not provide for indexing to the inflation rate, it decided to pay 99 yen – about a dollar – to the claimants.

Those are the facts. Now, let us sift through the moral aspect of this story. First, a fair share of the blame must be assigned to the dictator-president Park Chung-Hee who sold out his people and signed the Basic Treaty, and the subsequent Korean governments that failed to uphold its obligation under the Basic Treaty to be in charge of distributing the funds that Japanese government provided.

But irrespective of the merits of the Basic Treaty, the overriding fact remains very clear – Japan committed the original wrong of annexing Korea and put Korean people through a war not of their making, causing immense suffering through war time conscription, forced labor, comfort women and human experimentation. And simply signing the Basic Treaty does not make Japan appear to be a reformed character by any stretch of imagination – not when Korea was under duress for any modicum of aid; not when the signor on the Korean side is a dictator who came to power illegitimately through military coup and rigged elections; not when hundreds of thousands of Koreans protested in opposition to the Basic Treaty such that the Park dictatorship had to declare a martial law; not when the Japanese government got off the hook simply paying $200 per survivor ($1,351 in 2009 dollars) and $2,000 per injury, while the German government pays a lifetime pension to survivors of the Holocaust.


Picture from Unit 731, a Japanese military outfit that conducted live human experimentation. Various weapons were tested on more than 3,000 prisoners and civilians. This test subject went through a biological weapons testing. More Unit 731 pictures can be seen here.


Consider O.J. Simpson, for example. By now, we are more or less certain that he killed two people. But in 1995, a lawful process found that under criminal law, he was not guilty of the two murders that he was alleged to have committed. Another lawful process found he was responsible for the wrongful death of one of the two murders that he was alleged to have committed, and he paid a large sum of money because of that verdict. Are Americans not outraged because a lawful process found Simpson somewhat responsible for the murders and Simpson paid a substantial sum of compensation? Of course not. If O.J. now said, “Don’t look at me! I did everything that I was legally supposed to do. If anything, you should be blaming Lance Ito, Chris Darden or Mark Fuhrman for not doing their job right,” would any of us be any less outraged at him? (Does anyone even remember who Ito, Darden or Fuhrman are anymore?)

The same here. It is fair, and may even be fashionable, to blame the Korean government and/or Park Chung-Hee to some degree for the fact that the Korean people who suffered under the Japanese rule were not compensated. But at the end of the day, it is the party that committed the original crime that deserves the most outrage. Japan was never supposed to annex Korea and subject the Korean people to the aforementioned suffering, period. Regardless of what the Korean government/Park Chung-Hee did, there is no denying that Japan got off laughably easy, considering that in both Japan and Korea, wrongful death claims settle at much, much higher cost than around $11,000 per each death – which is what Japan paid under the Basic Treaty in 2009 dollars.

Having said all that, let us fire up the outrage afterburner. What is truly outrageous is that the Japanese government does not seem to care at all about the optics of their actions regarding its colonial past, much less the feelings of the victims involved. To its credit, the Japanese bureaucracy found that those who were enrolled in a pension plan deserved their pension money, regardless of the Basic Treaty. But the crass amount of 99 yen – not even enough to get one bus ride in Tokyo – instantly made a mockery of whatever credits it would have deserved. It really should not have taken a rocket scientist to figure out that paying out 99 yen after eleven years would look terrible. Eleven years! Couldn’t they have spent just one day of those eleven years to think about how to make this decision look better?

What is amazing to the Korean is that over and over again, Japan does not seem to understand how terrible it looks as this decades-old saga goes on. It is as if the country as a whole suffers from some type of brilliant autism, creating beautiful machines and arts while being completely oblivious to how others perceive its actions. And this historical autism is clearly causing harm. We need not even discuss the obvious human tragedy – namely, the anguish of those who suffered under Imperial Japan who have never received any meaningful compensation – because that is too obvious, and the Japanese government has shown time and again that it really does not give a shit about causing that harm. This historical autism is hurting Japan in another measurable way – by discouraging partnership with a rising regional economic power that is Korea. (And China, for the same reasons.)

This damage to Japan is not an idle imagination. It is a mistake to think that Korea’s nationalism causes Koreans to hate Japanese people or Japanese products. Koreans are nationalists like Americans are Christians – in their everyday lives, they generally do not give much thought about whether or not their action violates their ideological/religious principles. And while no Korean will admit this in a direct answer, Koreans are actually ready to love Japan. Koreans already consume Japanese products in droves despite incredibly high tariffs. Japanese cartoons are so popular in Korea that they essentially merged in as a part of Korean culture. You cannot have a conversation with hipster Koreans without watching the latest Japanese movies and dramas. The only thing – literally, the last possible thing – that is holding Koreans back from completely embracing Japan is that Japan is constantly provoking their nationalist sentiments that Koreans are generally happy to ignore otherwise.

Lexus dealership in Gangnam, Seoul. In 2009, Lexus ES is the second most popular imported car in Korea, trailing only BMW 528.

In fact, this is the perfect time for Japan to make a Godfather offer regarding its past history to Korea – an offer that Korea can’t refuse. What if the Prime Minister of Japan offered this to the President of Korea next year, at the 100th anniversary of the annexation?

“Mr. President, Japan wishes to have a fruitful partnership with Korea toward the future, and we recognize that Japan’s handling of its historical issues so far has been a roadblock for that partnership. Now that a century has passed since the annexation, we wish to resolve the historical issues once and for all. To that end, I propose the following:

(1) Japanese government will establish a pension fund for all surviving Koreans who suffered during the Imperial Japanese rule, which will pay pension to all survivors and their children until they die. Korean government can name the price as to how much each individual will get.

(2) The Prime Minister will re-issue an even stronger worded apology than Murayama Danwa, and will be made available to personally deliver a letter of apology and personal visit to every Comfort Women survivor. Each survivor can name her own form of apology desired from me. I will kneel and bow as long as it takes.

(3) Japanese government will pass a hate speech law similar to those existing in Germany where Holocaust denial is a crime. Anyone who denies the damages caused by Japan’s imperial past will be punishable by fine.

(4) No one who is in the cabinet of the Japanese government will be allowed to visit the Yasukuni Shrine. Instead, the Japanese government will fund and maintain a memorial museum dedicated to displaying Japan’s war crimes, and the Prime Minister will make a yearly visit. There will also be a scholarship established to fund students who study Japan's occupation of Korea.

(5) All history textbooks in Japan will be written by a joint committee consisting of both Japanese and Korean scholars. I hope Korea will do the same.

(6) And lastly, just to let you know I am serious, right here is a declaration from the Japanese Parliament that says Dokdo belongs to Korea. Take those islets – they are yours. And think about our offer.”

Dokdo/Takeshima/Liancourt Rocks

This truly is an offer that Korea cannot refuse. It more or less addresses all of Korea’s complaints’ about Japan’s treatment of its history. And it would be an incredibly daring gambit that, in the end, would cost Japan very little in practical terms. Even if Japan were to pay enough money to the survivors and their children to make them not lack anything for the rest of their lives (around $200,000 a year will do the trick,) most of Korea’s wartime survivors are dead and even their children are old. Building a museum and maintaining a scholarship, in the grand scheme of things, cost next to nothing. The fishing rights by gaining Dokdo/Takeshima could potentially be significant, but there is no way Japan can have them in the foreseeable future at any rate.

But what Japan will gain from it is incredibly significant. This will not be an easy offer to make without offending the Japanese nationalism, but that is exactly the point. By disarming Japanese nationalism, Japan can legitimately claim the moral high ground for the first time since the end of World War II. On that high ground, Japan can finally put Korean nationalism on trial. Because really, the dirty little secret in the Korea-Japan relation is that some Korean politicians just love having a whipping boy in Japan to stir up nationalist sentiments that serve as an instant support/distraction. If the Korean government waffles even just a little bit facing this offer, the Japanese government can finally claim legitimately that it has done everything it could, and it is Korea’s political opportunism that is getting in the way of true reconciliation.

If the Korean government accepts the offer – and it can’t not accept, if it is offered this – the payoff for Japan is massive. The japanophiles in Korea will finally have the guilt-free conscience to indulge in Japanese products. Allied with Korea, Japan can be a much more meaningful counterbalance against China. By jointly writing history books, Japan can directly influence the way Koreans think about the occupation and the aftermath. In the long run – when the memories of the occupation fades enough for Koreans not to have a gag reflex over the idea – Japan and Korea can enter into a free trade agreement or even a NATO- or EU-like alliance.

The benefit for Korea under this offer should be obvious. Its people can be finally compensated adequately without the embarrassment of hashing out the terms of the Basic Treaty. It can finally have a historical closure, and move on. At this point, Korea no longer has to worry about being annexed or otherwise controlled by Japan because its position is incomparably stronger relative to that at the turn of the 20th century. Given this, a close partnership with Japan could lead to Korea's being a world power, at last -- something that Korea has dreamed of since the independence.

Will this happen? Of course not. File this under “The Korean’s Cockamamie Proposals That Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time,” next to the Korean’s preferred immigration policy. But the Korean’s larger point is this: at this point, Japan really needs to do something about its past. Year 2010 will be the perfect time to do something. Missing this opportunity will not only be a moral outrage (again), but also a huge cost to the future of Japan.

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at askakorean@hotmail.com.

28 comments:

  1. While I'm far from a master on Korea-Japan relations, both countries have made it clear that being submissive (or seen as submissive) to the other is at best unacceptable, and at worst only bound to make you look weak. So long as the respective governments are bound to their own people above the international perspectives, I doubt Japan will pay any more beyond their legalistic definitions. I'm sorry to say that the legal definition sucks, but that's the way it is.

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  2. This proposal is brilliant. And unfortunatle, entirely implausible. It will never be made. Japan would have to swallow its own nationalistic pride (which isn't gonna happen).

    God I wish it would. So much ridiculousness would end.

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  3. Very thought-provoking article. I agree that this strategy would be wonderful were it to unfold the way you've written it, but, sadly, there may be too many stumbling blocks in the way for it to become a reality.

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  4. Great proposals! I think Japan shouldn't have paid the 99 yen at all...its a far greater insult than not paying at all. Seriously, after 11 years of deliberation and this is the best they could come up with?
    They should have seriously just found against pension refund than this insulting pension amount.

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  5. I don't get why some ppl have to be so smart alec about the basic relations treaty. so ridiculous & arrogant

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  6. Brilliant ideas--Dare to Dream.

    Love, love, love the Blog.

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  7. This problem is too emotional for both parties with large prides to really come up with a reasonable solution anytime soon.

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  8. A very good article but what disappointed me most are the points made in the offer. They are implausible and ludicrous. Here's why?

    The offer neglects the '1965 Treaty'. More so the compensation paid by Japan. The money paid by Japan helped Korea in a great way. POSCO is an example. I hope it's not an exaggeration to say the money fueled the present stature of Korea.

    Is Korea willing to forgo the compensation and then stress on the points made in your offer? Japan paid money as a compensation. So here's how it should be: Korea gives back all the money (with interest including the profits reaped) it got and then goes through your points.

    Let's not get heated up. Isn't it a fair deal? New money for old money.

    Yes, human suffering cannot be measured but that should not be a prelude to an unfair treatment. This applies to both Japan and Korea.

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  9. If you wish to speak about the Basic Treaty in terms of fairness, the Japanese government looks worse and worse -- for the reasons described in the post already.

    (1) Korea was under financial duress, for which Japan was responsible in part by occupying and exploiting it.

    (2) Korean government that negotiated the treaty was illegitimate, and the illegitimacy was widely known.

    (3) Korean people, the true sovereign of Korea, engaged in massive protests against the treaty. They were suppressed only after martial law was declared.

    (4) Japan paid laughably a small amount for the victims of its creation, especially compared to its co-criminal Germany.

    That Korea used the money for POSCO and other things that helped Korea matters little in figuring out what Japan's liability is. The fact that Korea invested the inadequate compensation wisely enough to create a massive wealth does not diminish what Japan's obligation should be. Suppose A owes B $10,000 but only paid $1. B buys lottery tickets with that $1 and won $100,000. Does that somehow cancel the fact that A still owes B $9,999?

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  10. It can be difficult to take seriously the claims of someone who accuses a statesman of having "sold out his people" for accepting a necessary normalization/reparation scheme that became the catalyst in buoying an economic basket case into a First World country. Nonetheless, I recognize that I too have been guilty of publishing borderline outrageous, ideologically-tinged hyperboles in my "youth." So let me offer a few, modest counterpoints in the interest of a balanced discussion for the benefit of the open-minded reader. I will limit myself to the Korean's last set of comments--not the main entry itself--because I lack the energy for a drawn-out, interminable arguments. (I say "interminable," because I think the Korean and I disagree even in regard to first or foundational principles: He's identified himself as a Christian Kantian of sorts, whereas I am a Christian realist of a Niebuhrian stripe. So perhaps no genuine meeting of mind is even possible, though perhaps we can have this discussion regarding first principles under a more salubrious circumstances.)

    1. "Korean government that negotiated the [the Normalization] treaty was illegitimate, and the illegitimacy was widely known."

    There are two separate claims that are conflated in this charge. First, the Korean implies that Park's regime is "illegitimate," because it came to power through a coup initially. Second, he contends that it was illegitimate, because the presidential elections involving Park were alleged to have been rigged.

    Let's begin with the coup aspect. To begin with, I'd like to hear his precise position on this tangled issue by asking for further clarification. Perhaps most important: Does he think that a coup-installed regime is in all circumstances "illegitimate," no matter what the prior and supervening circumstances? For instance, what about the chaos that led up to the coup, a chaos that essentially made the country ungovernable through a "democratic" means? To wit: Aside from the often-invoked economic hopelessness, Chang's parliamentary regime could not even maintain basic law and order, as the country had lapsed into a "state of nature" (the phrase is from Kim Se-jin's excellent monograph on the period, not mine). Heck, even Yun Po-sun himself--the ousted democratic President--told the Americans that Park's coup was necessary (albeit, his rivalry with Chang had something to do with making this statement)! Further, is it possible for a coup-installed regime to be legitimized through ensuing elections, if they are reasonably fair? Or can the original sin of violent seizure of power never be blotted out? Relatedly, what about post-power achievements? Can ensuing good deeds legitimize illegitimately-seized power? Does 李世民's coup and fratricide completely over-shadow the fact that he's near-universally considered the greatest Chinese monarch?

    -continued-

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  11. still on #1:

    I think my position on these philosophical matters have been consistent: I take a prudentialist approach. Legitimacy--just like any other human good or goal--cannot be precisely defined in the manner of a mathematical theorem. I will not--as many American dogmatists (of both the neoconservative Right and human rights cabal Left) are wont to do--simply dismiss a statesman because he is a "dictator." In determining Park's legitimacy, it matters to me that Park came to power in a "state of nature"-like conditions; it matters to me that some of his administrations were wildly popular; and finally, it matters to me that he is posthumously judged by a fairly overwhelming majority of Koreans as having been the nation's greatest president precisely due to the tough choices he made.

    Of course, I reiterate that these are long-nurtured first principles regarding which the Korean and I will not likely see eye-to-eye through the course of a few Blog comment exchanges--if ever. But I sketch my position in the hope that people recognize that there are alternative ways of seeing the same issues.

    Next, to the problem of possible election frauds. The Korean--whether deliberately nor not--seems to imply that Park never won a fair election. So I would like to quickly present a more balanced background. It seems likely that Park would have indeed lost the 1971 election to Kim Dae-jung, if the elections were fair (which made him resort to the Yu-shin Constitution). But in 1967, Park won an overwhelming electoral victory--which brings us to the pivotal 1963 election, where the evidence is a bit murky in the context of what I have read. Yes, the election was close and KCIA was involved. But I have yet to encounter air-tight argument that Park would've lost to Yun, "but for" electioneering irregularities. (But I remain open to countervailing evidence that will persuade me otherwise.)

    So again, I emphasize the picture is not quite as clear as the Korean portays it.

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  12. 2. "Korean people, the true sovereign of Korea, engaged in massive protests against the treaty. They were suppressed only after martial law was declared."

    Again, I'd like to open this topic with a plea for clarification on the Korean's part. The crux of the matter here is his Rousseau-like "true sovereign of Korea" language.

    There are two possible interpretations of what the Korean said. First, he could mean that the people retained direct sovereignty, because Park did not come to power legitimately. If so, I will just refer to my musings in my point #1.

    The other interpretation is that the Korean could mean that elected governments are obliged to always listen to "the people" when they, well, "engage in massive protest." Is this the Korean's position? If so, we then have "massive" gap in our respective understandings of how a liberal democracy works. Suffice to say, I will defer to the position of a Benjamin Constant or a James Madison over the alternatives.

    In the same paragraph, The Korean also claims that "[t]hey were suppressed only after martial law was declared." Again, what is his point here? Is it that martial law or a vigorous repression of "protests" is always wrong in a liberal democracy? If so, how does he see Lincoln's actions during the Civil War?

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  13. 3. "Japan paid laughably a small amount for the victims of its creation, especially compared to its co-criminal Germany."

    I think the Korean by now knows how allergic I am to inappropriate analogies. And again, this has to do with more deep-seated differences in how we reason. But if there must be analogies, I think the more apt comparisons are Japan's reparations to its former colonies, not Germany's attempt redress a project to exterminate an entire race.

    Of course, the Korean may hold--as many intellectuals of the South Korean Left do--that what Japan did in Korea was just as bad or worse as what Germany did to Jews. If so, then I guess I do wave the white flag and promise a hasty exit.

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  14. Choe BHSN, thanks for the comments. The Korean will reply soon, but he would appreciate it if you could tie it all together -- is your point that the Basic Treaty is legitimate, and therefore Korean individuals no longer have any recourse against the damages they suffered from Imperial Japan? Otherwise, he cannot see how your points 1 and 2 are relevant to the post. (And the Korean really, really dislikes out of topic comments.)

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  15. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  16. The Korean,

    I don't think my points #1 and #2 are off-topic for two reasons: First, you yourself have highlighted the problem posed by the Normalization treaty in both your original entry and in your most comprehensive reply to reader comments. Second, it seems like a lot of the striking differences in regard to our reading of Korean politics (and there seems to be fewer salient differences in our respective reading of Korean culture) have to do with these differences in philosophical and methodological approaches. So in the interest of future dialogue, it will help me to better understand your intellectual orientation, so to speak--if we are to remain valuable interlocutors to each other both here and elsewhere.

    As for your specific question "is your point that the Basic Treaty is legitimate, and therefore Korean individuals no longer have any recourse against the damages they suffered from Imperial Japan?": My tentative position is that the two issues need not be conflated. That is: Yes, I do think Korean individuals ought not demand direct compensations from the Japanese government for claims that are covered or construed to be covered in the Normalization Treaty; yet, there may be claims against the South Korean government, if there wasn't adequate or fair disbursement of the funds to the victims.

    P.S. Sorry for the incessant deletes. Perhaps dyslexic people with inadequate grasp of English grammar ought not post online--or at least before several re-reads! :)

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  17. Choe BHSN,

    Your explanation of relevance was good enough. Here are the Korean's responses. He will go in reverse order.

    Point 3:

    The Korean does not believe what Imperial Japan did to Korea was equivalent to what Nazi Germany did to Jews. But in order for the Korean to consider the Basic Treaty to be fair, it has to satisfy this equation:

    [magnitude of Imperial Japan's crime]:[magnitude of Japan's reparation] = [magnitude of Nazi Germany's crime]:[magnitude of Germany's reparation]

    The precise magnitude of Japan's reparation (which must include not only the monetary compensation but also the sincerity of recognizing its crimes) may be up for debate, but the Korean does not think there is any question that it is not large enough to satisfy that equation when Germany's reparation efforts are considered.

    Point 2:

    The Korean's position is the former. The reference to the martial law is meant to signify the vigor of the people's expression of their disapproval of the Basic Treaty.

    Point 1:

    Does he think that a coup-installed regime is in all circumstances "illegitimate," no matter what the prior and supervening circumstances? For instance, what about the chaos that led up to the coup, a chaos that essentially made the country ungovernable through a "democratic" means?

    The Korean cannot make a blanket statement in the affirmative, but it is enough to say that the claim that Korea was ungovernable through a democratic means at the time is false in his opinion. Therefore, Park's coup was illegitimate.

    Further, is it possible for a coup-installed regime to be legitimized through ensuing elections, if they are reasonably fair?

    No. And it is untrue that any of Park's elections was "reasonably fair."

    Relatedly, what about post-power achievements? Can ensuing good deeds legitimize illegitimately-seized power?

    No. It may be a mitigating factor, but never an exoneration.

    Does 李世民's coup and fratricide completely over-shadow the fact that he's near-universally considered the greatest Chinese monarch?

    That you would apply monarchical standards to determining democratic legitimacy is, frankly, frightening.

    ...which brings us to the pivotal 1963 election, where the evidence is a bit murky in the context of what I have read. Yes, the election was close and KCIA was involved. But I have yet to encounter air-tight argument that Park would've lost to Yun, "but for" electioneering irregularities.

    The Korean would submit that a "but for" argument is unnecessary, given (1) his earlier position that the coup itself made any subsequent action by Park illegitimate, and (2) the involvement of KCIA in the election (among other things) is an ipso facto proof that the election was illegitimate. The precise measurement of how much of an effect a particular illegitimate action created is unnecessary.

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  18. (1) "Korea was under financial duress, for which Japan was responsible in part by occupying and exploiting it."

    A treaty is a deal between two parties. One side gets less than the other side. Japan tried to wash off its sins through the compensation. The then-Korean leadership felt the compensation is best suited for some industries. The then-Korean leadership felt factories are more important than humans. How is Japan at fault? Anything the Korean leadership does is not and should not be Japan's fault.

    Also, imagine if Japan had said No for '1965 Treaty' citing Park as a dictator. Koreans would still blame Japan. Either way Japan would have been vilified.

    Japan has apologized time and again but Korea refuses to acknowledge. Even you made a mention of just one apology. Koizumi has apologized a few times but the only thing that people remember is his shrine visits.

    (2) "Korean government that negotiated the treaty was illegitimate, and the illegitimacy was widely known."
    (3)"Korean people, the true sovereign of Korea, engaged in massive protests against the treaty. They were suppressed only after martial law was declared."

    The only mistake Japan did was to deal with a dictator. Agreed. The only mistake Koreans did was to 'use' the money for their 'benefits'. Park was not legit, as you say, but Koreans vehemently followed his economic policy. Were the Koreans forced to set up Samsung, POSCO ectcetra? Were the Koreans forced to become rich?

    The fault lies with Park too. Your points focus on Japan only. Where do POSCO and others come here?

    "Suppose A owes B $10,000 but only paid $1. B buys lottery tickets with that $1 and won $100,000. Does that somehow cancel the fact that A still owes B $9,999?"

    A pays and B agrees. That's the point. B should have asked for more. B should have given the money to its rightful owners. If B doesn't give then you cannot blame A.

    Korea was under duress. Check. That doesn't mean Park should have agreed to whatever BS is put by Japan. The prelude to '1965 Treaty' was in favor of Korea.

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  19. The then-Korean leadership felt factories are more important than humans. How is Japan at fault?

    Because Japan knowingly dealt with someone who did not truly represent Koreans and extracted a deal that was obviously inadequate to anyone with a functioning moral compass.

    Also, imagine if Japan had said No for '1965 Treaty' citing Park as a dictator. Koreans would still blame Japan. Either way Japan would have been vilified.

    No shit! If Japan wanted to avoid vilification, IT SHOULD NOT HAVE INVADED KOREA IN THE FIRST PLACE. If a party commits a wrong and does not make adequate reparations, the party deserves to be vilified. That's how fairness works.

    Japan has apologized time and again but Korea refuses to acknowledge. Even you made a mention of just one apology. Koizumi has apologized a few times but the only thing that people remember is his shrine visits.

    This is an argument that constantly amazes the Korean, because it shows a real ignorance of how apologies work. An apology is not a credit in the moral bank account so that you can commit more wrongdoings later. The reason why Koizumi's shrine visit is a big deal is because it shows that his apologies were not sincere at all.

    The fault lies with Park too. Your points focus on Japan only.

    The Korean clearly stated this in the post: "First, a fair share of the blame must be assigned to the dictator-president Park Chung-Hee who sold out his people and signed the Basic Treaty, and the subsequent Korean governments that failed to uphold its obligation under the Basic Treaty to be in charge of distributing the funds that Japanese government provided." The Korean discussed this point first before he assessed Japan's culpability.

    A pays and B agrees. That's the point. B should have asked for more. B should have given the money to its rightful owners. If B doesn't give then you cannot blame A.

    That's true if only A and B were involved -- but you already know that this situation is not just A and B. Suppose A actually owes $1,000 to C. B ties up and gags C, and told A that he was C's representative. A knows that B is not a true representative of C, but negotiates with B anyway. A pays B $1, and B agrees with that amount. B buys a lottery ticket with that $1, and wins $100,000. B gives the $100,000 to C. Does B's action cancel A's obligation to C in the amount of $9,999? Anyone with a functioning sense of morality and fairness knows the right answer.

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  20. I smell hatred with AjayD's arguments.

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  21. The Korean -

    This post is completely brilliant. I think the proposals you put forth are beautifully crafted. Unfortunately, I still have little insight into the east Asian cultural mindset and I don't know what the fallout of such an event would be.

    As an American, especially under Obama, I think that this is something most Americans would be proud to sponsor if we were in the same situation as Japan. Rather than hurting our nationalistic pride or making us seem submissive, it would almost be a public show of superiority or at least of upstanding character, I think largely stemming from the fact that we have higher economic & military status than (almost?) any other country.

    Since Japan currently has the benefit of having higher economic & political status than Korea - but likely not for too much longer - it should take advantage of the opportunity to appear to be a "gracious victor", as it were. Of course, my impression is that in Japanese & Korean culture, someone of higher status bowing to someone of lower status undermines rather than bolsters one's social power.

    Regardless, I know it would help Japan not only with the Koreans and Chinese, like you suggest, but it very likely would put Japan on a public stage in Western Europe & the US and give them more political clout there as well.

    And really, disregarding any political motives, it is the least they could do.

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  22. I agree with many of your points but during Park's rule, Korea was corrected of traditions that would hinder Korea's growth. Sure he had dealings with Japan, but Korea was in no position to ask Japan for whatever at that time. What Korea did simply benefited Japan. He helped Korea grow, despite corruption and some harsh rules. It got Korea moving.

    I've lived in the US for a long time and am not familiar with this topic as much as some debaters are so I do not know how Koreans in general views Park. But if Korea progressed during Park's reign, I think it is wrong to ask Japan of the benefits it also gained.

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  23. Yea, you'll get your reparations the day I get mine for slavery( African-American here, yes were still bitter).
    I'm not trying to make light of the situation, but it seems like Japan likes to re-write history and pretend like they never committed any war-crimes.
    The bigest problem I see from a media stand point is how we hear so much about Peace day , and how horrible the atomic bombings were.

    Yes thats true, but at the same time we( as in America) never hear about the crimes Japan did during WW2.

    I like Japanese culture, but even though i wanted to live in Japan for a while, alot of there culture seems boastful about how there so much better then everyone else.

    But i respect you for putting this stuff out there.

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  24. hi, I am nt Korean or Japanese, but I hvae a South Korean Husband, and I have lived in Japan for a large portion of my life before I met him. It really makes me very uposet to see arguments usch as this out there. Unfortunately bad, sad and unfair things happen in life regardless of who perpetrates them, this is a fact of life. It does not justify the actions of the past generations, however I find it completely incredulous that people expect to hold accountable the current generation for previous atrocities. I'm sure there are still some war criminals out there but I am pretty sure that most of them would be quite old, or dead by now. What amazes me is Korean peoples capacity to blame everything on Japan, I have travelled quite extensively and I have never seen anything like it. Does it not dawn on the Korean, that allthough the invasion/occupation of Korea by Japan was not the right way to go, Korea was not exactly a country of military stronghold, what's to say that some other nation (eg. China) would not have invaded instead? possibly commiting even worse crimes against Koreans that would be comparable to the Holocaust???

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  25. I find it completely incredulous that people expect to hold accountable the current generation for previous atrocities.

    It is not as if Koreans want the current generation of Japanese to be punished like they themselves committed war crimes. All Koreans want is for the current generation of Japanese to recognize that their country did something wrong previously. That's completely reasonable, and the right thing to do. It makes no sense that Japan is refusing to do what is a really minor thing for such a great country.

    Does it not dawn on the Korean, that allthough [sic] the invasion/occupation of Korea by Japan was not the right way to go, Korea was not exactly a country of military stronghold, what's to say that some other nation (eg. China) would not have invaded instead?

    The incredible thing is that in defending Japan, people seem to suspend their moral compass. Your logic is: "If A did not commit this wrong, B would have. So A is blameless." By that logic, anyone could drive around a dangerous neighborhood at night, rob the first person s/he saw, then receive a lighter sentence because someone else would have surely robbed a guy who was walking around a dangerous neighborhood at night! How does this make sense?

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  26. I like everything in this idea, but part 4 is a bit difficult.

    (4) No one who is in the cabinet of the Japanese government will be allowed to visit the Yasukuni Shrine.

    I understand the sentiment against Yasukuni for sure. I've been there myself and am appalled that there are plaques talking about the Pacific war as if it were a valiant effort to save Asians from European colonial agression. HOWEVER, Yasukuni shrine is the shrine honoring Japan's war dead. Right or wrong, you have to respect what the average Japanese soldiers who gave their lives did for their country.

    You wouldn't expect to U.S. to pass a law suggesting that the president and his cabinet are forbidden from visiting Arlington Cemetery, even if there are many examples of unjust wars that the U.S. was involved in.

    So what I would propose to this part is a change to Yasukuni Shrine itself. Remove the convicted war criminals and scatter their remains. Make it certain that visiting Yasukuni is honoring soldiers who fought for the country and died.


    Some might disagree and say that honoring the dead in an unjust war is honoring the war itself, but I don't think the average Japanese soldier who got drafted had much of a choice. I've got more problems with the suits who told these people what to do and got them killed, not the soldiers themselves.

    Surely there are plenty of evil acts committed by soldiers not under the instruction of the government, so honoring a soldier who committed the act probably could be seen as honoring the act, but if that's the case, then the argument should be that no world leader should visit any kind of memorial cemetery, because soldiers of every army in the world rape civilians, murder civilians, and steal from civilians during war.

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  27. I understand that this is an old post, but an thought-provoking one.

    Now is Christmas 2012 and there's tension between Japan and China over, again a group of islands called Senkaku islands. When it comes to territorial issues, compromising is not easy, because it's more than just the matter of national pride or rivalry. The thing is that Japan losing Senkaku islands to China, or Liancourt Rocks to Korea could bring some damage to the fishery industry. All I hope as a Japanese is that the government to come up with some peaceful solution or someone to discover a new national resource that will develop into Japan's lifeline.

    Whether this tension is anything to do with nationalism, I don't know, but I don't think Japanese government stop visiting Yasukuni Shrine will solve this territorial dispute between Japan and Korea.
    Yasukuni Shrine is more like the Shrine of remembrance. Visiting Yasukuni is purely for the purpose of showing respect to whom sacrificed their lives for the country, but not for justifying the war or honouring the sick acts of some evil soldiers.

    You may or may not realize that it is widely rumored/known that Japanese imperial family has Korean ancestry. Also we know that Chinese, Koreans and we Japanese are all connected, and yet you see a lot of abusive and derogatory language exchanged between Koreans and Japanese on the Internet. It's really sad as it shows the strong animosity still lies between some individuals of both countries, but they are probably hostile, miserable, pathetic and nasty anyway.

    To the Korean who made a comment earlier, we are aware that Japanese military government made mistakes. What they did was wrong. We're sorry that some of the soldiers did despicable things to Korean civilians during the war, and trust me, it makes me sick. I can assure you that most Japanese younger generation will agree with me, and I believe that most Korean people like you, just want us to recognize our wrong-doings in the past. The sad fact is that not everyone is like you, there are some really hostile Korean people who make other Koreans LOOK bad. The same applies to Japanese. Please, don't ever think that all Japanese share the same views as some nasty ones.

    It is important that future generation Japanese and Koreans to understand each other, work out how to make our relationship better. On a personal level it's already happening.
    Let us never make the same mistake again.

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    Replies
    1. Beautifully written (I am a Korean-American). You are the kind of Japanese person one sees in movies: articulate, elegant, and intelligent. I have japanese friends whom I adore and one of them adopted a Korean boy.

      Delete

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