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“The Struggle for the Japanese Soul”

September 7th, 2006 . by Gerry-Bevers

The following is an article that was reportedly written for Japan Focus by David McNeill. It includes an interview with Sankei Shimbun special correspondent Komori Yoshihisa, who provides a refreshingly rational prospective on many of the issues involving Japan, China, and Korea. Komori’s prospective is one that makes a great deal of sense to me, based on what I know of the issues.

Concerning “the struggle for the Japanese soul,” I do not know much about that, but I do know that anti-Japanese forces in Korea are struggling for the Korean soul, and that they seem to be winning it. The Korean government, media, and education system have corrupted the minds of a great many Koreans when it comes to Japan. Many Koreans are programmed with an anti-Japanese mindset that seems to have the ability to turn off independent, rational thought when discussing issues involving Japan and Korea. If there is a struggle in Japan, it is insignificant when compared with what is happening in South Korea.

South Korea has become a society governed by propaganda. People are so confused and misinformed about domestic and international issues that I think many Koreans have given up on their country and are searching for ways to escape. Unless something changes soon, I fear that the anti-Japanese mindset in South Korea will snowball out of control and will lead to a conflict over something as silly as “Dokdo.”

I think the United States needs to stand up and publicly tell South Korea to cut the anti-Japanese crap and grow up. The passive way in which the United States has been dealing with the issue has not worked.

“The Struggle for the Japanese Soul: Komori Yoshihisa, Sankei Shimbun, and the JIIA controversy”


20 Responses to ““The Struggle for the Japanese Soul””

  1. comment number 1 by: Matt

    What is the solution to this? The problem is across the board. I dont think I have come across any issue, historical or current, that involves Japan (and to a lesser extent, the US), that has not been distorted.

  2. comment number 2 by: tomato

    I just don’t know, Matt.

    I guess we just have to be mindful when we deal with them…also, the Japanese government could do better. After all, Japan should have many reliable, first-hand records on how Korea was administered. Just say no if the allegations are false, once in a while!

  3. comment number 3 by: tomato

    Also, I wonder why some people in the west almost blindy support China’s views…even if some Japanese may be hypocrits.

    Do they really believe China is attacking Japan because of their hurt emotions? That’s really unbelievable when you have China subjugating the Tibetans, Mongolians, Uigurs and all those non-Han Chinese nations, threatening Taiwan, oppressing religions and free political views, abusing farmers, polluting the waters, soil and air in an unimaginable scale, etc…Did China ever present herself to be humanitarian?

  4. comment number 4 by: nou

    Many Koreans are programmed with an anti-Japanese mindset that seems to have the ability to turn off independent, rational thought when discussing issues involving Japan and Korea.

    agreed. koreans don’t realize unrational hatred toward japan is more harmful to their very own benefit than to japan’s.

    I think the United States needs to stand up and publicly tell South Korea to cut the anti-Japanese crap and grow up. The passive way in which the United States has been dealing with the issue has not worked.

    i don’t get this one. as far as i know, the USA has no saying for anti japanese sentiment in Korea. no country advises such matter to another country even when the countries are closely intertwined. Can America tell Islam countries to cut the anti semite crap? Can Japan tell Korea to cut the anti-american crap?

    even the USA acts in such an exceptional way, it will just add more flames to anti japanese sentiment because the USA is also disliked by enough koreans.

    What is the solution to this?

    it seems your first action of seeking a solution for constructive critique. (i haven’t read every comment of yours though.) you have appeared to me being satisfied by exhibiting korean mockeries.

    it will be a very hard task of mending this weird mind set. koreans have received anti japanese education from schools and media; the anti japanese idea became a undoubted dogma and an easy tool for blame.

    the solution is simple but difficult. it’s the education. reforming the education will prevent unpleasant events like children’s anti-japanese drawings. everybody in korea is talking education reform but the nation hasn’t achieved any significant change. the korean education system relies on injecting knowledge and anti japanese idea is part of this knowledge.

    as i have sometimes said in this forum, turning the education will require a national debate on relations with other countries including china, usa as well as japan. someone or some group who have wide respect from the public should act to explain why korea’s phobia toward neighbors are irrational and harmful to the nation. i still couldn’t find a person or an organization for this role but this rather unknown korean site seems to have more practical way of thinking than others.

  5. comment number 5 by: torren

    Hmm…interesting article and with many good points. At first I thought it was going to be another Dokdo/Takeshima article as well! Though perhaps that would be beating a dead horse by now with your other lengthy pieces. Some words on your comments, though. Although it (your comments) are relevant to the discussion in the article, I find it somewhat redundant considering what has already been said; perhaps your thoughts on other parts of the article would have been nice.

    Finally, I find it very odd that considering the time you’ve spent in S. Korea that you would come to the conclusion that the U.S. publicly giving advice to them about their political mindset would actually help. Actually, it’s probably a terrible idea…most likely the anti-U.S. pushers would just feed on that and give even more trouble for the G.I.’s over there. Lord knows they have had enough trouble. The best way to lower the anti-Japan/US media propaganda would have to be getting rid of Roh and getting a President with some brains in charge.

  6. comment number 6 by: pacifist

    I have told everywhere that education in Korea is the culprit of this issue. But there will not be a simple way of solution.

    We should keep advocating until many Koreans notice the problem. I think that only Koreans themselves would be able to resolve it.

    So I would like to ask Korean people who are living outside Korea and who aware of this problem to persuade Korean people in your mother country. Please explain this problem to your relatives or friendsin Korea.

    We like Korea and we want Korea to be a better country. Please believe us.

  7. comment number 7 by: Matt

    as i have sometimes said in this forum, turning the education will require a national debate on relations with other countries including china, usa as well as japan. someone or some group who have wide respect from the public should act to explain why korea’s phobia toward neighbors are irrational and harmful to the nation. i still couldn’t find a person or an organization for this role but this rather unknown korean site seems to have more practical way of thinking than others.

    Interesting comments nou. I saw that ‘new right’ site. They are still a little mysterious, but they seem to advocate policies based on political realism.

  8. comment number 8 by: nou

    The best way to lower the anti-Japan/US media propaganda would have to be getting rid of Roh and getting a President with some brains in charge.

    it’s a good point. he only thinks how to raise his ever falling approval rate among koreans not considering real benefit of the country. once he effectively used Dokdo rhetoric to raise the rate. furthurmore he attacked senselessly the non affirmed debate of pre-emptive strike of north korean missiles from japan. his reaction to japan related matters have been thoughtless and only for his presidency. (many of non japan related matters have been on the same line.)

    I think that only Koreans themselves would be able to resolve it.

    very true

    So I would like to ask Korean people who are living outside Korea and who aware of this problem to persuade Korean people in your mother country. Please explain this problem to your relatives or friendsin Korea.

    some koreans who’ve been overseas realize the matter. however if you were never out of korea, it would be very hard to realize the problems of the country. even the ones who are overseas can’t easily overcome korea centric thought. you can meet those korea-is-the-best gangs overseas in Daum Agora.

    my friend and i often talk about much non sense existing in this country. we once reached to set up a site on that subject but neither of us find time to do it. as you said, hopefully more koreans could have more objective views as more koreans go overseas.

    this is a very good book review(in korean) which reveals wrong korean perception on japan. the book title is ‘Who distorts Japan?’

  9. comment number 9 by: nou

    I saw that ‘new right’ site. They are still a little mysterious, but they seem to advocate policies based on political realism.

    you already knew New Right? your tentacle on korea is amazing. i often wonder how you come by all the articles and pictures. as you said, it’s still somewhat mysterious. they sometimes present conflicting opinions in the same site.

  10. comment number 10 by: Gerry-Bevers

    Nou,

    The United States cannot tell Korea what to do, but she can do something to show Korea how she feels about Korea’s anti-Japanese campaign.

    For example, I think President Bush should visit Yasukuni Shine and pay his respects to the dead soldiers there. After the visit, he should hold a press conference with the Japanese prime minister and explain that he sees Yasukuni as a shine to dead soldiers, not as a shine to war or war criminals. He should explain that young Japanese men fought and died for their country just as young Americans fought and died for theirs. He should remind people that the US and Japan were once bitter enemies, but are now the closest of friends. He should say that World War II was more than sixty years ago and that present-day Japan is nothing like Imperial Japan. Then he should finish by saying, “For our children’s and grandchildren’s sake, let’s look toward the future and stop dwelling on the past.”

    If Bush did that, I think Koreans would get the message without his having to say anything directly to them.

    The anti-Japanese problem in Korea needs to be dealt with before it gets any worse and before it creates more anti-Korean feelings in Japan. From what I have seen, Japan has tried very hard to mend fences with Korea, but Korea keeps spitting in her face.

  11. comment number 11 by: ponta

    Nou
    Mika sometimes brought up the articles by the new right. So I knew it too.
    How do you evaluate it? and how is it evaluated in Korea?

    You know, in every society there are racists, there are prejudices against a specific country. Japan is no exception. But believe it or not, Japan is a democratic country, it is neither militaristic country nor the country ruled by the rightists.
    There are hate-Korean-wave, and there are love-Korean wave.
    For each side, there are a lot of criticisms.
    David in the article, if I remember correctly, is a Canadian married to Japanese and often write rather left-oriented articles. Komori is often regarded as one of the representatives of rightists. I think both of them love Japan in their own way, but there are always battles between rightists and leftists for almost every issue.

    As I see it, Korea is not democratic with regard to Japan.
    The government banned pro-Japanese site.
    I hear pro-Japanese and those who criticise anti-Japanese are ostracized.
    It seems both Korean political parties presuppose anti-Japanese.
    You said,

    he only thinks how to raise his ever falling approval rate among Koreans not considering real benefit of the country. once he effectively used Dokdo rhetoric to raise the rate. furthurmore he attacked senselessly the non affirmed debate of pre-emptive strike of north korean missiles from japan. his reaction to japan related matters have been thoughtless and only for his presidency.

    It is hard for me to understand one can raise approval rate from the people if he takes the stand against Japan.

    my friend and i often talk about much non sense existing in this country. we once reached to set up a site on that subject but neither of us find time to do it.

    I guess you should find time. That will drastically change the image of Korea.

  12. comment number 12 by: nou

    Mr Bevers. thank you for your detailed explanation. i could see how much you were invested to korea-japan relationship. however i find your assertion unrealistic in many ways.

    yaskuni shrine commemorates class-A war criminals who were tried by american authority. japanese prime minister’s visit to the shrine and american president’s will be a very different matter to american people. the visit will cause not only diplomatic rift with China and S. Korea but also uproar from american war veterans and their supporters.

    He should say that World War II was more than sixty years ago and that present-day Japan is nothing like Imperial Japan. Then he should finish by saying, “For our children’s and grandchildren’s sake, let’s look toward the future and stop dwelling on the past.”

    there will be no need to say this. two countries were perfectly separated from unpleasant past. why would he say such thing when everything goes well between two countries? statement of this sort will be needed when they are not in perfect term. and i don’t think the president will say that just for korea because it’s not critical interest of America for now.

  13. comment number 13 by: nou

    hello, ponta

    Mika sometimes brought up the articles by the new right. So I knew it too.
    How do you evaluate it? and how is it evaluated in Korea?

    i wonder how you guys could bring up the articles in new right. as far as i know, it’s entirely in korean. i think people in this site see things more realistically as Matt said. they are free from idiotic dogmas that korean journalists hardly realize. i don’t think it’s a frequently visited site yet though. their agenda hardly become debates among koreans and i don’t see many netizens commenting there.

    As I see it, Korea is not democratic with regard to Japan.
    The government banned pro-Japanese site.
    I hear pro-Japanese and those who criticise anti-Japanese are ostracized.
    It seems both Korean political parties presuppose anti-Japanese.

    it’s true. ban-il(anti japanese) is a universal religion in this country and the government doesn’t fully grasp the meaning of modern democratic government.

    It is hard for me to understand one can raise approval rate from the people if he takes the stand against Japan.

    me, too. the opinon poll showed sudden rise of his approval rate after his speech on dokdo. many koreans think firm stance toward japan is the best thing to do.

    I guess you should find time. That will drastically change the image of Korea.

    i hope so. 🙂

  14. comment number 14 by: Gerry-Bevers

    Nou,

    Yes, the United States and Japan seem to have settled their differences and put their unpleasant history behind them as they both look toward the future, but Korea and China have been unable to do that and are wasting resources and opportunities by dwelling on the past. Not only that, the hate that is generated by the anti-Japanese propaganda in Korea and China may lead to conflict in East Asia. That will definitely hurt US interests.

    The US needs to begin preventive measures by publicly telling China and Korea how counter-productive and dangerous their anti-Japanese campaigns are. China may be a hopeless case, but there is still hope that Korea can come back to the real world.

    Leftists in Korea are moving Korea toward China in spite of the fact that Korea and Japan have much more in common and that Japan is much less a threat than China. Non-leftists in Korea are allowing it to happen partly because they fear China and partly because they fear being labeled “pro-Japanese.” And then there is the anti-US crowd in Korea who side with China just to piss off the US. But all of this is playing with fire. Do Koreans really want Korea to be like China?

    The silly “balancing role” that Roh Mu-hyun talks about is a dangerous strategy. The word “balancing” suggests that Korea will shift its alliance from side to side depending on the preceived threats or pressures she feels from the opposing sides. Instead of establishing firm convictions and living by those convictions, Korea would be wobbling from one side to the other, making her an unreliable ally and even a threat. It is game similar to that which Korea played one hundred years ago with China, Japan, and Russia. Whether than make Korea more secure, that game made her more insecure because she was seen as weak and without convictions. The opposing powers at the time saw this weakness and feared that Korea could be easily pressured and influenced by the enemy, so in the end, the powers took measures to stop Korea from wobbling.

    Will wobbling between China and the US and Japan work for modern Korea? Or will it hurt Korea when one side feels betrayed when Korea wobbles back toward the other?

  15. comment number 15 by: Two Cents

    There was an article in the Yomiuri Shimbun a while ago saying that Bush had actually proposed a visit to the Yasukuni during his 2002 visit to Japan. It is rumored that the pro-Chinese faction in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan turned down the offer. Instead, Bush paid a visit to the Meiji Shrine, while Koizumi stayed in his car outside the shrine, to avoid an uproar by his opposition about keeping religion out of politics. China and Korea may have their problems, but Japan also has serious problems of anti-Japanese Japanese within our own country.

    Gerry,
    I don’t think Japan will feel betrayed by Korea even if she decides to wobble towards China. With attitudes like this, it’s hard to think Korea could ever be a mature partner.
    http://times.hankooki.com/lpage/nation/200609/kt2006090720480311990.htm

    We might feel a bit sorry for her though, becasue this is the kind of treatment China gives to those under her wings. But then again, you reap what you sow.
    China Lights the Olympic Torch Atop Mt. Changbaishan (Mt. Baekdu)
    http://japan.donga.com/srv/service.php3?biid=2006090799568

  16. comment number 16 by: sqz

    Gerry-Bevers wrote:

    Will wobbling between China and the US and Japan work for modern Korea? Or will it hurt Korea when one side feels betrayed when Korea wobbles back toward the other?

    イソップ寓話のコウモリを思い出します。
    I remember the Aesop story “The Bat, the Birds and the Beasts”.
    太陽政策が「北風と太陽」なのだから当然かも。
    It may be right because “Sunshine Policy” is “North wind and Sunshine”.

  17. comment number 17 by: YoungRocco

    One might argue that clear and firm US security guarantees for a reunified Korea would be able to dissuade any government from choosing the nuclear option.

    Interesting. But how would the author explain the fact that European NATO signatories, despite security guarantees as members of NATO, have their own nuclear arsenals.

    How also would the author explain Israelis implicit possession of Nuclear Weapons despite a security guarantee by the United States?

  18. comment number 18 by: Two Cents

    I have found an interesting article by Komori, the man who was “tricked into accepting” this interview. Does lying about the purpose of your interview violate media ethics? I think Komori should have had his guards up more, although I think it was a nasty tactic to ask Komori his opinions on subjects that he thought were irrelevent to the article and so would likely be less careful in choosing his words.

    http://www.iza.ne.jp/news/newsarticle/column/gaishin/20455/
    My translation:
    Yoshihisa Furumori (Washington)
    Breach of Trust from a foreign “correspondent” in Japan

    I have always felt that the reports from Tokyo by western media correspondents have been biased in quite a number of cases. In any western country, political leaders express love and pride for their country and stress the importance of security on a regular basis. Yes, when a Japanese leader, such a Abe Shinzo does the same, he is instantly labeled as a “hawkish nationalist” or even a “dangerous militarist.” It is clearly a double standard and political bias is at work.

    I have just experienced firsthand the venom of such political bias by a foreign correspondent in Tokyo. He was not only politically biased, but was also full of deceit as he freely broke the rules of interviewing. I was completely fooled. Let me tell you of his tactic, which makes me wonder which he is – a reporter or a political activist.

    In late August, when I had returned to Japan on some business, I received a telephone call requesting an interview from a person named David McNeill who claimed to be a Tokyo correspondent for The Independent of Britain. The request was relayed to me by the Sankei Shinbun, who told me that he wanted to interview me “to get opinions from various people on the Yasukuni issue for his article.” It was a busy time for me since it was right before I left again for Washington, but since it was for a report in an influential newspaper, I accepted the interview. However, our conversation over the phone did seem a bit odd. He seemed to be interested more in something other than the Yasukuni issue.

    On August 23, I went as promised at the Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Japan in Yuraku-cho, where I met Mr. McNeill, a slim man in his middle ages with a closely shaved head.

    He had a significantly good command of Japanese, but we spoke in English nonetheless. We reconfirmed the fundamentals of the interview, which was that “it was an interview for writing an article in The Independent about the Yasukuni issue.” He started to record our conversation. The tape, naturally, was supposed to be used only for the purpose of notetaking for the article.
    However, the questions posed by Mr. McNeill were plainly strange. He persisted on the subject of the English language commentaries at the Japan Institute of International Affairs (JIIA).

    I had previously taken up the subject of the commentaries in this column, raising the question as to why an institute operated by funds from the government continually publicizes papers that attack and ridicule our government’s policies out to the world. The institute responded surprisingly quickly, admitting their fault, and discontinued the commentaries. It was a wholly voluntary remedial action.

    However, voices of accusation were raised against me by western leftist scholars and journalists that my column was a “suppression of free speech.” All I did in my column was pose a question and it was received as an “intimidation from a right-winger.” Mr. McNeill shared that stance and criticized my perception. He even suggested that I write a letter to the institute asking them to resume the English commentaries.

    On top of that, he pressed me to express my position on the Nanking Incident, the comfort women issue, and the Tokyo Tribunals, as if he were testing me with a litmus paper. When the subject turned to the theme on the love for one’s country, it was strange how he expressed his negative opinions regarding it. The interview lasted about 50 minutes, throughout which a bizarre feeling enveloped me.

    Then, two weeks later, an American friend of mine informed me that my comments on historical perception appeared as an extensive interview on an Internet forum called the NBR operated by Japan experts in the U.S. I checked the site myself, and to my surprise, discovered that it was a reprint from a report titled the “Komori Yoshihisa, Sankei Shimbun, and the JIIA controversy.” It seemed to have originally been run in a forum called “Japan Focus.”

    I investigated the matter and found out that none of the contents of my interview had been used for The Independent, by had been solely used for the “Japan Focus” article. And, the recording that was only supposed to be used for notetaking had been transcripted and presented as is without my permission. The main theme was focused, not on the Yasukuni issue, but on the JIIA controversy, with a clear intent of painting me black. Because I spoke rather freely on the other issues, some of my wordings lacked consideration, and he took special care to emphasize such slips. He declares my view as wholly “revisionist” perceptions and has uploaded the interview at several forums with a large audience of western leftists, with intentions of making them attack me.

    I felt totally deceived. I asked an American scholar who has resided in Japan for a long time on who this Mr. McNeill was, and was told that he was a very well-known leftist scholar and activist, and being a correspondent is just one part of his activities, and that he is an occasional contributor for The Independent. People should have the freedom to hold whatever political stance or exercise their freedom of speech, but they should not have the freedom to break promises or to frame someone. I never thought that I, with a long career working as a foreign correspondent, would be subjected to such a terrible treatment by a fellow foreign “correspondent” in Japan. My advice to you all is ” beware.”

  19. comment number 19 by: tomato

    >Two Cents

    Sometimes I suspect western leftist journalists have connections with lefty (socialist) regimes that are happy when the US-Japan alliance is dissolved.

    They’re anti-Japan alright, but I hope Americans realize that it’s actually anti-US.

  20. comment number 20 by: billylee

    Interesting read. Comment section even more so.
    I’m Japanese-Korean living in Canada and it’s my first time at Occidentalism.
    The first thing I noticed here was that there are two groups of people here, people bashing Korea and people bashing Japan.
    You people seem to enjoy telling Koreans to dop the anti-Japanese attitude. What I’m wondering is if you have any idea what the cause of that hatred is and why it’s still there? Education?
    By education if you mean what you learn in school, I didn’t learn anything anti-Japan except the historical facts about Japan’s invasion in 16th century -I went to elementary school for couple of years there. Maybe they get into good ‘ol bashing/propaganda in highschool?

    Society is more likely. The main reason I ‘felt’ was that Japan refused to acknoweldge and pay for the wrong doing in the past. I wonder about this from time to time. Why is it so hard? Germany did it. And Japanese culture loves Germany..

    The Korean government cannot show pro-Japan sentiment because there are still people alive who have suffered from Japan’s atrocities. What happened to the German war criminals (Nazis) after the war? What happened to Japanese war criminals on the contrast? Do you people have all the fact before you judge an entire nation?

    Can’t really talk about Japan’s stance on Korea since I’ve really had no idea when I lived there; my basic impression was that Japan doesn’t care about Korea. I was also fortunate that I lived in a nice neighbourhood where people were friendly to foreigners, including half-Korean like myself. But I’ve heard horror stories, where people are unfriendly to white (yessir, lots of Japanese don’t like Americans), black, yellow, you name it; but anywhere on Earth there’s bound to be those group of people.

    Japan tries mend the relationship by taking steps that looks good globally, while doing stuff that is frowned upon by the very nations that they try to improve the ties with. Cunning really, it makes Japan look like they’re the victims, and it works for this blog too I noticed.

    Remember, it’s easier for a bully to beat a kid then turn around and act all nice than the kid who actually got beat on.

    Simple dialogue between the two nations
    Korea: Apologise! Apologise!
    Japan: Calm down, I have no idea what you’re talking about. Seriously, no idea..
    My solution:
    Korea broaden your view, stop living in a cave, stop pitying yourself and grow up.
    Japan apologise and acknowledge the war crimes. Seriously, this would shut so many Koreans up it’s not even funny. Come on, if a Korean starts to bad mouth Japan, I can say, Japan apologised and paid for the mistakes, what more do you want? Would you be satisfied only when every Japanese is dead? huh? Huh?! Oh yeah…

    ps. Just because you read some books and knows the language, don’t think that you know their culture. And most certainly, don’t tell them what to do. You got no right… except for the freedom of speech… but meh.. whatever.