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Reflections: All the rage

Wee Kek Koon

 

Japan commemorates the end of the second world war every August - and without fail the Chinese and Koreans get their hackles up over the actions of Japan's politicians. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe this year refrained from visiting the Yasukuni Shrine to pay his respects to those considered by the rest of the world as war criminals, but he also failed to express remorse for Japan's war crimes in his commemoration speech, which predictably angered the neighbours. The annual venting of Chinese and Korean vitriol is informed both by Japanese wartime atrocities, most of which were shockingly barbaric (although more Chinese died under their own rulers after the Japanese invasion), and the injured pride nursed by nations that were invaded and occupied by an insular neighbour whom they had for centuries considered culturally inferior.

The 20th century wasn't the first time Japan invaded the continent, however. In 1592, warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who had not long since unified Japan, decided to invade continental Asia with the declared goal of conquering China. Some 160,000 Japanese soldiers were sent to Korea, where they laid the peninsula to waste over the next few years. Eventually a stalemate was reached between the Koreans (who were reinforced with troops sent by Ming dynasty China) and the Japanese invaders, who withdrew after Hideyoshi died, in 1598.

 

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