Proposal for Museum on Dokdo
By Kim Jong-chan
Expectations were high after Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama from the Democratic Party of Japan took office last September, following decades of rule by the Liberal Democratic Party, as he placed emphasis on Asia and relations with neighboring countries.
The fresh Japanese government came at a time when President Lee Myung-bak wanted to reshape the Seoul-Tokyo diplomacy into future-oriented relations, not resorting to the remnants of the Japanese colonial period from 1910 to 1945 any longer.
Hatoyama, however, was reported to have renewed Tokyo's claim over the Dokdo Islets in the East Sea last week, saying that there would be no change in the government's position on Dokdo, called Takeshima in Japanese. Since his inauguration, Hatoyama had been low-key on thorny issues between Seoul and Tokyo.
Hatoyama's remarks came a day after Japan's Diet approved the government's diplomatic bluebook renewing the description of Dokdo as part of Japanese territory.
A week earlier, the Japanese education authorities endorsed five textbooks for primary school students, sparking a wave of protests here. One of the books says the islets are illegally occupied by South Korea.
Japan has long ignored Korea's sovereignty over Dokdo since it first described the islets as its territory in its 1963 diplomatic bluebook.
Those moves are construed as part of an unrelenting planning to undermine Korea's sovereignty over Dokdo, aimed at taking the matter to an international court in the long run.
Shin Yong-ha, a professor emeritus at Ewha Womans University in Seoul, once described such an attempt in an interview like this: ``Japanese officials are very determined and they have a long-term goal of claiming the East Sea islets as Japan's. Depending on how the Korean government responds, sometimes the Japanese government would take one step back or take a sidestep but then take two steps forward when opportunities arise, with the final goal of eventually claiming Dokdo as Japan's.''
The Seoul government remains unchanged in its stance to address the Japanese persistent move through ``quiet diplomacy'' with the Tokyo government.
Foreign ministry officials believe that if Koreans react nervously to the claim and come up with tough, aggressive countermeasures, the Dokdo issue will go according to Japan's intentions.
Adolf Hitler engineered the Holocaust that massacred six million Jews. For the past decades, Germans have repented of the atrocities committed by the Nazi regime (1933-1945) and its collaborators.
Japan is different. Japan's school textbooks whitewash the wrongdoings it committed against the peoples of Korea, China and other Asian nations during World War II (1939-1945).
Whenever Japan laid claims to Dokdo, the administration stereotyped a couple of steps, such as expressing regret over Japan's claims through a statement issued by the foreign ministry and summoning a ranking Japanese diplomat here to protest the move.
Rep. Chung Mong-joon, chairman of the governing Grand National Party, begins a two-day visit to Tokyo today for talks with Japanese leaders on bilateral issues between the two countries.
As far as the historical issues are concerned, the ruling camp needs to be assertive and take more effective measures to bolster Korea's rightful sovereignty over Dokdo. Building a history museum on Dokdo or nearby larger Ullung Island will help students and visitors learn more about them.