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Legacy of war in Asia

Japan’s neighbours cannot forgive until wartime misdeeds are sincerely regretted

  • Its actions show Japan does not fully recognise its misdeeds from the second world war, which is why it will continue to face outrage
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 November, 2018, 4:03am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 November, 2018, 4:26am

South Korea has long had a strained relationship with Japan, mainly due to their colonial history and past military aggression (“South Korea kicks off naval showcase without Japan after ‘Rising Sun’ row”, October 10).

Ahead of the international navy fleet review, Japan announced that it would join the event with the so-called “rising sun” flag, what many consider the Asian version of the Nazi swastika, claiming that it is a symbol of its history from early in the 20th century (“Japan-South Korea ties: on the rocks over Pyongyang?”, October 24).

This outraged Koreans, who denounced Japan’s impudent attitude to its history. Many have criticised Japan for showing the ambition to revive imperialism. On social media, materials that slam Japan’s attitude on the flag have gone viral. But this is not the only thing for which Koreans condemn Japan.

Japan has yet to fully come to grips with its war crimes and sexual slavery of young girls in Korea and China in military brothels.

On war history, Abe is taking Japan backwards

Some of these girls were fooled into believing that they would have a chance to earn money by working at factories; others were abducted. They were forced to cater to dozens of Japanese soldiers every day. Some of Japan’s conservative far right even question the accounts of the surviving victims, suggesting they were prostitutes and not coerced.

Japan also coerced Korean men into forced labour, leading them to work at mines in Hashima Island, where they toiled under poor working conditions, stayed in squalid rooms and were routinely beaten by the Japanese.

Why is it so hard for Japan to say sorry?

Japan’s attitude towards its past has caused frustration across Korea, igniting anti-Japanese sentiment. Germany continuously atones for its atrocities from the second world war, properly understanding its shameful history.

Such efforts have helped Germany to receive forgiveness, restoring its relationships with its neighbouring countries. Japan can never ask forgiveness for its crimes unless it offers a sincere apology, as Germany has done.

Da-Sol Goh, Seoul