Reasons why Korea cannot accept Japanese troops
By Kim Tae-gyu
History tells us that Koreans suffered from tribulations whenever Japanese troops stepped onto the peninsula as were the cases with the 1592-98 invasion and the brutal 1910-45 colonial rule.
Will such catastrophes ever happen again? Hopefully not anymore. To my surprise, however, Tokyo raised the possibility of sending armed soldiers here for dubious reasons.
Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan reportedly said over the weekend that Japan may dispatch Self-Defense Forces to the Korean Peninsula if a war breaks out here to rescue abductees in the North and protect Japanese residents in the South.
Even though Seoul flatly dismissed the remarks, branding them as kind of a political maneuver to regain Kan’s deteriorating popularity, I was astounded to learn that the Japanese leader made such comments.
What if South Korean President Lee Myung-bak says his nation will send strong armies to Japan in case the island neighbor is embroiled in a war or any chaos to help ethnic Koreans there whose number is more than half a million.
Would Tokyo be able to brace for such ideas easily, which seem to infringe on the authority and autonomy of the Japanese government? Probably not. Then, why did it come up with such an insult hurting the dignity of Koreans.
Let me raise the issue once again that Japan dented the dignity of Koreans so many times in the past through the 1592 invasion and the harsh colonial rule in the early 20th century to name a few.
And the world’s third-largest economy did not properly compensate enough for damages that it committed to Korea, in my view.
Tokyo may argue that its responsibility is done by offering a good amount of money following the 1965 diplomatic normalization treaty under which it donated $300 million and lent $500 million in soft and commercial loans to the Seoul government in return for settling all compensation claims.
I am not sure about the legal issues and Tokyo might not have to worry about compensation claims at least in the courts.
From the perspective of Koreans, however, the bottom line is not the right to get compensation. The thing is whether Japan genuinely regrets its past wrongdoings as it has said many times and whether it is ready not to commit such bad things in the future.
I have three benchmarks to check the deeply-ingrained mantra of the Japanese with regard to the above-mentioned question.
First, they are required to return all the Korean cultural properties, which they had forcefully taken, without any conditions. Second, they must sincerely apologize for mobilizing ``comfort women,’’ or young women who were forced to serve as sexual slaves for Japanese soldiers during World War II.
Third, they should no longer claim sovereignty over Dokdo, South Korea’s easternmost islets, citing some bizarre reasoning from international agreements.
They are not about money. They are not about legal contentions, either. They are the minimum that Japan should show to Korea in order for the former to convince the latter that the country is now 100 percent fine to be an ally with.
Otherwise, Korea will harbor suspicions about the real intentions of Japan, which are still seen as aggressive and belligerent in the eyes of many Koreans; and this gives us the rights to worry very seriously about something like Kan’s remarks on a troop dispatch.
Putting aside the fact that Kan’s remarks are inappropriate in that they may hurt the authority of the Seoul administration, Koreans get angry much more than I think they need to do because they still cast suspicious eyes on whatever Japan does.