In the old days, when a feudal lord resorted to unruly behavior, his subordinates would say, “The lord has gone mad.” When rulers start running wild, they cause problems for their people and neighboring countries.
North Korea’s “Kim dynasty” illustrates this mind-set perfectly. It is also close to Japan.
But now South Korean President Lee Myung-bak has started behaving strangely.
After landing on Takeshima, a group of small islets in the Sea of Japan that are called Dokdo in South Korea and claimed by Japan and South Korea, Lee made reference to a possible visit by Emperor Akihito to South Korea.
“If he wants to come, he should apologize to the victims of the independence movement (from Japan) from his heart,” Lee reportedly said.
Let’s get this straight. To begin with, it was Lee who asked the emperor to visit South Korea. Saying, “apologize if you want to come” is tantamount to picking a fight with Japan.
The president is apparently trying to justify his “unruly behavior” by saying the Japanese side lacks sincerity in trying to solve issues concerning the past.
I don’t have a clue. His public approval ratings are said to have fallen to below 20 percent. In South Korea, some critics say Lee is trying to score points on the home front by criticizing Japan.
South Korea’s top leader used to be future-oriented and friendly toward Japan. But just because he has made an about-face, it does not mean the South Korean people as a whole will become anti-Japanese.
“The lord” will be stepping down in six months. Japan should act calmly and deal with the situation in a mature manner.
South Korea observed Restoration of Light Day on Aug. 15 to celebrate its liberation from Japanese rule in 1945. To mark the occasion, it even staged a farce and had actors swim from the South Korean mainland to Takeshima.
In addition to its unlawful occupation, South Korea is doing whatever it wants. Meanwhile, a boat carrying activists from Hong Kong entered Japanese territorial waters around the disputed Senkaku Islands, which Japan effectively controls. Fourteen people were arrested by the Okinawa prefectural police and the Japan Coast Guard.
The situation is annoying, but Japan has no choice but to stand firm and deal with it under domestic law.
The waves in Japanese territorial waters are getting choppy. But if we get worked up and insist on continued deployment of the Self-Defense Forces, or even start calling for Japan to arm itself with nuclear weapons, we could end up on the same path that led to Japan's involvement in World War II.
In whatever situation, as long as the people and the media keep their presence of mind, we cannot go too wrong. This is one of the things Japan learned in exchange for millions of lives.
--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 16
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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.
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