Seoul must make far stronger response than before
When Koreans were busy electing lawmakers Wednesday, an unthinkable event was taking place across the East Sea.
The difference between similar previous rallies to reaffirm Japan’s claims for Dokdo islets and the latest one was the venue was changed from a remote western prefecture to the capital city of Tokyo and participants included not only radical nationalists but ranking government officials.
All this ― the timing, venue and participants ― indicates how tenacious and meticulous the Japanese are in their gradual erosion of Korea’s sovereignty. And it shows why Koreans should respond exactly the same way.
Unbearable to hear were some ultra-rightists’ remarks there, which called for revising Japan’s constitution to revive its self-defense rights. In short, these conservative extremists were advocating risking war if needed to reclaim the rocky pair of islets surrounded by smaller rocks in the band of water between the two countries.
The seemingly abrupt assertiveness might reflect Tokyo’s difficult situation owing to multiple territorial disputes, with Beijing and Moscow, too. Or it is due to the increasing sense of frustration the world’s former No. 2 economy feels in contrast to the rise of China and Korea. Yet none of these can justify the resurgence of ultra-rightist nationalism in Japan, a worst nightmare for its Asian neighbors.
Most Asians, except probably for Koreans and Chinese, seem to have given up urging, or even expecting, Japan to behave like its European counterpart, Germany, in genuinely apologizing for its wartime wrongs and seeking forgiveness. It is unfortunate for some Japanese people to think the two atomic bombs dropped on their country washed away what they have done to other Asians for far longer and in a much more brutal manner.
Seoul must drop its ``quiet diplomacy,” which, more often than not, has ended up acquiescence of one’s counterparts’ claims in territorial disputes, to which the Dokdo case belongs whether Koreans admit it or not. The nation must ― and can ― prove it is a Korean territory not just geographically but historically and legally.
It was regrettable in this regard Seoul just called in a councilor at the Japanese Embassy to deliver its regrets. Minister Kim Sung-hwan himself should have met the Japanese ambassador and made a strong protest against the risky, reckless remarks.
If the lukewarm approach reflected the need for bilateral cooperation in dealing with North Korea’s imminent rocket launch at the time, Minister Kim and other government officials should have recalled who was the first and foremost culprit for the division of the Korean Peninsula.
For most Koreans, there should be little doubt which is the more alarming and vital issue.