Sunday, February 24, 2013

Japan-Korean Relations

"With the help of Japan, China,
and Manchukuo, the world
can be at peace"
On Friday afternoon, February 22, Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe gave a speech to a hand-selected crowd at CSIS in Washington. He is the grandson of Nobusuke Kishi who was an unprosecuted Class-A war criminal. He had been an administrator of Manchukuo and appointed by Tojo in 1941 as Minister of Commerce and Industry, and he held this position until Japan's surrender in 1945. In 1957, Kishi became a postwar Prime Minister through 1960. He subsequently played an important role in the normalization of relations between Japan and South Korea.

On the 25th, Park Geun-hye will be inaugurated as the first female president of South Korea. One of her many challenges is overcoming her father's legacy as ruthless dictator who was trained at Japan's Imperial Army Academy and served in the Manchukuo Army. Last September, Ms. Park made a painful apology for her father's abuses of human rights. 

During the Qs&As at this CSIS speech, Abe veered closer to his feelings than the diplomatic, prepared speech he gave had allowed. It is unlikely that Ms. Park was pleased with his answer. On the eve of her inauguration, lawmakers from both the ruling and opposition parties moved to set up a forum to review human rights abuses committed under the Japanese occupation of the Korean Peninsula. The research group assisting the the legislators is the Japanese Forced Labor & Peace Studies Research Group [일제강제동원&평화연구회].

Q: Mr. Prime Minister, it’s good to see you again. Victor Cha from CSIS and
Georgetown.

You mentioned in your speech about North Korea, and I’d actually like to ask you about South Korea. We have a new president in South Korea going to be inaugurated next week, Park Geun-hye. But at the same time, frankly speaking, it’s a period of some difficult tensions in Japan-South Korea relations. So I guess I would like to know what your vision is for the future of Seoul-Tokyo cooperation in the face of many of the threats that you mentioned in your speech.

PRIME MIN. ABE: (Through interpreter.) First of all, I would like to say that Korea-South Korea is the most important neighbor for us. And President-elect Park Geun-hye – I have had – I met her twice, I’ve also had a meal with her actually, and my grandfather was best friends with her father, President Park Chung-hee. So – but at the same time – so President Park Chung-hee was someone who was very close with Japan, obviously.

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