July 31, 2013 12:42
Members of Japan's Cabinet have upped the ante in a war of words between the neighbors by reviving ancient slurs against Koreans as uncivilized. Meanwhile the government in Tokyo continues to lurch to the far right, with one senior politician recommending Nazi tactics to change the country's pacifist postwar constitution.
One trigger was a banner unfurled by Korean fans during the recent match against Japan in the East Asian Cup in Seoul. "A nation that forgets its history has no future," the banner read, referring to attempts by Japanese politicians to whitewash their country's World War II atrocities.
Japan's Education, Culture and Sports Minister Hakubun Shimomura waded into the fray by questioning the "cultural level" of Koreans and adding that if any Japanese fans had attempted to do the same thing, other upstanding Japanese fans would have prevented them.
Shimomura voiced "regret" at the behavior of the Korean soccer fans, according to the Mainichi Shimbun, but omitted to mention that Japanese fans unfurled the rising sun flag symbolizing imperial Japan.
Shimomura has a robust background in denial. As deputy chief cabinet secretary during the first administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2007, he created a furor by suggesting that some Asian women during World War II "sold their daughters" into sexual slavery for Japanese imperial troops, and insisting there was no evidence that the army was directly involved in the atrocity.
The Foreign Ministry here on Tuesday expressed "extreme regret" at the minister's "rude" comments.
Meanwhile, Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso said at a seminar in Tokyo on Monday that Japan should learn from the way Germany's constitution under the Weimar Republic was transformed by the Nazis in the early 1930s before anybody knew what was happening.
His comments were seen in the context of attempts by the Abe administration to change Japan's constitution, which puts tight limits on what its military can do.
When Adolf Hitler was elected in 1933, he subverted Germany's first democratic constitution by railroading a series of laws through parliament that effectively surrendered all its powers to him.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Tae-young said such comments "cause pain" to many people and urged Japan to take a "humble" attitude given its history of invading its neighbors.
Experts say the fresh wave of chauvinist confidence among Japan's ruling politicians was prompted by the defeat of opposition parties in recent elections, which has eliminated a large chunk of resistance to their populist drum-beating.
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