Monday, April 24, 2006


It seems an age but is actually only three years since President Roh Moo-hyun was inaugurated, offering to work with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to put away their countries' historical enmities.


Those discussions have been starting and stopping for a decade. The governments did sign an agreement in 1998 to operate a joint fishing zone around the Dokdos but Japanese fishermen claim they have been repeatedly chased out of the area by the Koreans and occasionally physically attacked.


The Japanese and Koreans have been claiming ownership since the 17th century


Until 1905 the Japanese and Koreans had claimed, but not asserted, ownership. Then Japan annexed Takeshima to Shimane prefecture; later that year it bullied the beleaguered Gojong monarchy into accepting "protectorate" status and in 1910 Tokyo annexed the Korean peninsula.


Whenever this issue resurfaces, or when Koizumi visits Yasukuni shrine, the public mood, especially in the neighbourhood of the Japanese embassy, approaches hysteria. People have cut off fingers outside the embassy to demonstrate the sincerity of their outrage.

Many Japanese regard this fervour as either juvenile or synthetic. They, on the other hand, stubbornly refuse to acknowledge that Koizumi's visits to Yasukuni are emotionally relevant to anyone outside Japan.


Seoul governments have always insisted that even arguing the case with Japan would give Tokyo's claim more validity than it warrants. Despite constant South Korean assertions, however, there is a respectable body of international opinion that Japan's case is at least legally valid.


In Tokyo, meanwhile, officials nodded knowingly when the Roh administration responded just as the memo suggested it would: hotly and with little regard for the niceties of international law
April 24, 2006 The Australian



No comments: