Why Can’t Korea Get Over Its Resentment Toward Japan - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Why Can’t Korea Get Over Its Resentment Toward Japan

The origin of South Korea’s contentious relationship with Japan dates back to 1910, when it was colonized by the latter. On March 1, 1919, the Koreans tried unsuccessfully to gain their independence from Japan, mistakenly believing that US President Wilson would come to their aid as stated in his Fourteen Points proclamation, not knowing that Korea and Indochina were not included in the plan. By 1945, they were finally free, after World War ll ended.

South Korea’s skyrocketing economic growth post-war did not only come from US aid. Seoul’s trade with Tokyo resulted in $29 billion in 1990 to $105 billion in 2011 for South Korea. But it further emphasized Japan’s dominance over its former state, adding to ROK’s sense of being a subordinate. The Koreans should have been grateful for the financial benefits it received, but decades later they still cannot let go of their frustration and anger at being ruled by the Japanese Empire.

In June 1965, the Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and the ROK was signed to establish diplomatic ties. An agreement for the settlement of claims for Korea’s colonization was reached and Japan gave South Korea $800 million in grants and soft loans. In return, South Korea would not seek more compensation thereafter, on a government or individual level.

Other sources of South Korea’s resentment toward Japan

Territorial disputes

Japan and South Korea are locked in a dispute over ownership of a group of diminutive islets called Liancourt Rocks, a French name that the US Library of Congress suggested in 2007, setting off a South Korean protest. South Korea calls it Dokdo while Japan’s name for the disputed territory is Takeshima. To ease tensions, Liancourt Rocks, a neutral name with a historical basis, is used in most maps.

For such a small area, the 19-hectare land has remained a sore spot for the two feuding countries, especially from South Korea. Occasionally, ultra-nationalistic groups or individuals would carry out protests, as in the case of a South Korean man hurling feces at the Japanese embassy in Seoul to protest Tokyo’s claim. With hazy ancient records and maps, historical researchers cannot agree on rightful ownership. Although South Korea has a Coast Guard station on the islands since 1954, Japan’s claims are based on historical records and documented post-war agreements with South Korea.

Japan has tried three times to bring the matter to the International Court of Justice at The Hague, the latest in 2012, but South Korea has refused each time, on the grounds that the islands indisputably belong to them. The ICJ would have given the two nations their day in court.

Comfort women issue

The primary cause of South Korea’s grievances against Japan is the issue on comfort women, a euphemism for women who provided sexual services to the Japanese military during World War ll. There are different versions of actual numbers, ranging from 50,000 to 200,000.

Despite Japan’s numerous peace overtures, Seoul remains steadfast in its irrational antagonism. The 1994 Asian Women’s Fund and the 2015 landmark agreement between the two nations should have concluded the matter to their mutual satisfaction. Apologies and monetary compensation were given, to the amount of more than $800,000 million for the AWF and $8.3 million in the 2015 deal for the few surviving comfort women. But such was not the case. The resentment of surviving comfort women, egged on by activists, continues and there is no end in sight.

In the United States, comfort women statues are being erected to serve as memorials to the women who provided sexual services during the war. These statues also serve to humiliate and malign Japan, predisposing the public to believe that Japan has not apologized, recompensed and admitted to their war actions. The newly-installed comfort women memorial in San Francisco, California (the first in a major city) led the mayor of Osaka, a city in Japan, to sever its sister city ties with San Francisco.

Unbeknownst to many, these comfort women statues that began rising in the past few years are the works of organizations misrepresenting themselves as socio-civic minded groups. Russell Lowe is one such individual. Now identified as a spy for Communist China by no less than the FBI, Lowe worked as Office Director for Senator Dianne Feinstein’s California office for 20 years. He was terminated in 2013 upon the advice of the intelligence agency.

Currently, Lowe is Secretary General of the Education for Social Justice Foundation, whose focus is on ‘educating the public on the Japanese military’s “comfort women”’ system…’ He has always maintained very close ties with the Chinese community in California and is an active member of other advocacy groups, such as Chinese for Affirmative Action and the Comfort Women Justice Coalition, which lobbied for the creation of the San Francisco statue.

One wonders why a Chinese activist who entered the US in the 1930s on false papers would pick on Japan as a target, even when he was presumably spared from the ravages that WWll brought to its Asian countries. As one respected Japanese diplomat opines, Communist China has aggressive ambitions of world domination but has a long track record of human rights violations, theft of trade, military and intellectual properties, production of fake products, from designer label goods to consumer items, and graft and corruption in its internal and foreign dealings. It is also a hotbed for espionage, with over 100,000 spies scattered in its own land and in countries across the globe.

To deflect the world’s attention from China and its suspicious activities, the activists and spies work to shift the focus from them to Japan’s war crimes. It also uses the rising popularity of South Korea (for its K-pop and Koreanovelas) to turn South Korea against its neighbor, Japan. By creating tension between the two US allies, it also distracts Washington’s attention from Beijing and directs it towards its Asian supporters.

Russell Lowe is committed to this goal. His position at Sen. Feinstein’s office allowed him access to sensitive material but the senator has denied it, claiming that Lowe was her driver and not the Office Manager as the investigation revealed. Feinstein professes innocence of Lowe’s background, but she is the strongest supporter for close China-US ties, and her husband, Richard Blum, has private businesses connected to Chinese companies which are immensely profitable. Moreover, President Trump has questioned Feinstein’s suitability as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee which is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election which Trump won.

Japan has taken a peaceful course after the war. It has not shown any aggravation towards any country and has repeatedly offered the olive branch to South Korea. But in the face of communist agitators and Seoul’s stubborn and unyielding position, South Korea cannot expect to go beyond its childish anger and improve its ties with Tokyo.


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  1. JustARandomCommenter says:

    We can’t get over it not because of our stubbornness but because we want an apology. The Japanese government tries to cover it up, like comfort women were prostitutes who were payed and willing to do it but no. Comfort women were forced into it or lied to. They were abused, humiliated, sexually abused, and some forced into abortion. Its not “Childish Anger”, women suffered for years and years. Why should we forgive the Japanese when they haven’t apologised? Trying to cover it up isn’t a good choice either. Money isn’t an apology.

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