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Historical awareness veiled by diplomacy
2015년 09월 12일 (토) 10:42:20 Professor Seo Dong-ju evoice@ewha.ac.kr
   

Seo Dong-ju
(Institute of Humanities)

On Aug. 14, Abe Shinzo, prime minister of Japan, made a public announcement commemorating the 70th anniversary of the end of the Pacific War. In the announcement he mentioned that even though the current government continues to uphold the task of remembering and facing the past, a task that the previous government upheld, it also plans to “remove the burden of consistent penitence from the shoulders of the young generation.” Such phrase throws doubt on whether the current government is sincere when it talks of repenting about the country’s past crimes.
Even though it is important that the details of the announcement itself be examined thoroughly, the writer believes that it is just as crucial to focus on the fact that the announcement was made “in commemoration of the end of the Pacific War.” In Korea, Aug. 15 is remembered as the National Liberation Day, while Japan remembers the day as “the anniversary of the end of war.” The reason the Japanese people remember the day as the day they “ended” the war and not the day they “were defeated” is because on Aug. 15, 1945, the Japanese emperor commanded that the war be stopped. In their mind, the Japanese did not “lose” the war; they merely stopped of their own will, because their emperor had ordered them to.
 Moreover, a majority of the Japanese population believes that Aug. 15 marks the day that the Pacific War, fought between two countries, Japan and the U.S.A, came to an end. It is true that the war involved the two countries. However, the way the Japanese people think of it implies that the war concerned only the two countries and did not affect the lives of people in other Asian countries. In fact, many people living in Asia had their lives destroyed by the war that were fought between Japan and the U.S.A.
Not only is it important to look upon Japan’s perception of the past with fair amount of healthy criticism, but it is also crucial that the way Aug. 15 is remembered by the Japanese people is taken into consideration. This is because the medium through which the Japanese government and population can show true penitence about the past is not a bunch of adroit word plays that are repeated every new decade, but should be the perception about the past that are shared by the general public around the world.
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