April 19, 2017 13:26
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday said Tokyo is drawing up a contingency plan in case of a refugee influx from Korea in a crisis. He said his government is discussing screening asylum seekers, protecting foreigners and planning for landing procedures, as well as preparing to evacuate Japanese citizens from Korea.
Some Japanese media are duly churning out reports that make it sound as if a war is imminent on the Korean Peninsula. Japan's ambassador to Korea, who only recently returned to the country after being recalled over one of the perpetual diplomatic crises between the two countries, made a bizarre request for a meeting with the defense minister, as if anything urgent was on the cards.
The current spat between the two neighbors focuses on Korean women who were forced to serve as sex slaves to Japanese soldiers during World War II. A statue in their honor near the Japanese Consulate in Busan has irked Tokyo, while the Korean public is still upset about a deal struck by ex-President Park Geun-hye to compensate the victims in a roundabout way without a proper apology for the atrocity.
Many people in Japan want to heal these wounds and move on, but Abe's ultra-nationalist voter base desperately wants to deny the truth. At the root of this dispute is the indelible scar the Japanese occupation left on Korea. Japanese politicians may complain that they are not obliged to be eternally sorry for the actions of their forefathers, but as long as people like Abe keep making hay from denials there is no hope for a better future.
This taints the entire atmosphere between the two countries. Suppose a Korean government official were to say publicly that Seoul will have to screen Japanese refugees in case of an earthquake or nuclear disaster in the island country, or muse on which ports to funnel them through. The outcry would be deafening, and rightly so.
Playing on the deplorable anti-Korean sentiment of Japanese voters is the lowest form of politics, and as long as that kind of boorish behavior continues, bilateral relations will never improve.
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