Monday, October 28, 2019

Korea and Japan are Neighbors Aren't They?

At the beginning of Oct, the Catholic Northeast Asian Peace Research Institute held the 3rd International Conference on the 'History of Korean and Japanese Relations and the Healing of Memories'. Uijeongbu Diocese was the setting for the discussion and the meeting of religious and academic persons, looking for peace. The conference was sponsored by the Catholic Times and the Diocesan National Reconciliation Committee and written up in the Catholic Times.

In a welcoming speech, the president of the Catholic Times mentions that the Korean Supreme Court is deciding the responsibility of Japanese companies to provide reparations for the forced labor of Koreans and at the same time they are discussing the relationship between the two countries.

 1) Overcoming Historical Memory

A Russian professor in Korean Studies made the first presentation. Historical memory has to be overcome to realize peace. There is a need to overcome the negative image of conflict between the two nations and begin a new history with the goal of peace and prosperity. Japan's colonization on the Korean peninsula has left a negative image of Japan on the minds of Koreans. The objective situation is difficult to change, but the mutual images that each country has of the other can be improved.

 2) Healing of memory

The Japanese Church has taken the lead in restoring relations between Korea and Japan, which are deteriorating day by day, and seeks to improve the mutual image for peace in Northeast Asia.

 A keynote speech by the bishop president of the Justice and Peace Council of Japan acknowledged the responsibility and apologized for the colonial abuse. He acknowledges that Japan in the war caused indescribable suffering in many Asian countries. He also apologized for the fact that the Japanese Church cooperated with Japan's national policy of war.

A priest, a professor and the secretary of the Justice and Peace Council of the Japanese Episcopal Conference, gave the second presentation, and also apologized for Japan's war in Asia and pointed out the mistakes of the Japanese government and the media are currently making. In particular, he emphasized the social participation of the Korean church and the activities of the Japan Peace Council. Throughout the process of democratization, he explained the Japanese Church's solidarity with the Korean Church. In Japan, the regime's social control is becoming stronger, which will require that the citizens of the two countries need to be the light and hope— especially civil movements concerned with peace and human rights, and the connection between religious people and scholars.

3) Efforts for Reconciliation-Solidarity

Various opinions were shared to lead to reconciliation between Korea and Japan. Bishop of the Uijeongbu Diocese, who was in charge of the second session, looked at the issue of historical memory from the perspective of the affected party. The bishop pointed out that the root cause of the Korean-Japanese problem lies in the history of colonial rule and that it is necessary to know the history.

 Efforts for reconciliation need to be followed by the apology of the offender. However, under the current Abe regime, this is difficult so what is needed is the solidarity of the citizens. We cannot wait until the apology comes from the Japanese government but need to increase solidarity for reconciliation, and the prayers of the two countries.

A professor of Japanese Studies at the Anglican University was in charge of the second session, also argued that the civil society of the two countries should search for the wisdom to overcome the vicious cycle of conflict and confrontation between the two countries using the principles of human rights and peace.

4) General Discussion

In the third session, a comprehensive discussion on the causes and solutions to the deterioration of Korea-Japan relations was conducted. Participants expressed deep concern over the current break down of relations between Korea and Japan, and actively debated in recognition that Korea and Japan were inseparable from each other.

Participants cited that differences in perceptions on past issues between the two governments make it difficult to resolve the dispute. This is because the two countries' exchanges are centered on economics, ignoring serious reflection on fundamental historical issues.

In particular, he stressed that the Abe government should seriously and sincerely reflect on the past and actively make efforts to establish peace on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia. The South Korean government also said it needed a corresponding effort. Apart from the government, solidarity and cooperation among civil society will be an important asset for peace.

In particular, the consensus was reached on the importance of education in history. In this way, the civil society of both countries jointly proposed the creation of contents that can be easily accessed by the public such as textbook production, film, drama, and animation.

They also agreed that the Korean and Japanese churches should pray and come together to improve relations and achieve peace in East Asia. In particular, it was determined to promote exchange and cooperation among all classes within the church and to eliminate feelings such as 'against Japan' and 'dislike of Korea' feelings toward each other. It was also said that efforts were needed to understand and improve the situation of the "Korean-Japanese in Japan," which are suffering greatly from the worsening relationship between the two countries.

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