ANTI-JAPANESE LIES AND DISTORTIONS IN MOON JAE-IN’S AUGUST 15 ADDRESS
Japanese-South Korean relations, alas, are at their lowest point since they normalized in 1965. And President Moon Jae-in and his administration must take the blame for it. How to handle the present impasse? I believe the Japanese government should maintain a cool but resolute posture towards South Korea, viewing the on-going standoff as an opportunity for a better future relationship. It will take patience.
Moon eloquently expounded his views on the bilateral relationship in an address delivered at the Blue House in Seoul on August 15 marking the 74th anniversary of Korea’s liberation from 35 years of Japanese rule. Moon’s one-hour address continued his chronic anti-Japanese animus. We Japanese have to calmly read his mind, at least for now, rather than react emotionally.
During the ceremony commemorating the National Liberation of Korea, Moon voiced his dream of building “an unshakeable nation” in a close partnership with North Korea. But his dream is far from feasible and North Korea insultingly brushed it aside. Appearing as a guest on my regular “Genron” Internet tv news show on August 16, Tokyo-based South Korean journalist Hong Hyung, who previously served as a diplomat in Tokyo, labeled Moon as a “fantasist.”
Noting that the “liberation” resulting from Japan’s defeat in World War II was a cause for celebration not just for Korea alone but for the entire East Asia, Moon emphasized:
“It was a day that marked the end of longstanding wars that had raged over 60 years, including the First Sino-Japanese War, the Russo-Japanese War, the Manchurian Incident, the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Pacific War.”
Moon’s historical perspective is rather limited, to the 60 years of conflict from the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-95) to the Greater East Asia War (1941-45). Moon simply ignores the other wars in Asia that followed—the Korean War (1950-53), the French Indochina War (1946-54), and the Vietnam War (1965-75), which Korea readily entered.
The Korean War was a tragedy in which soldiers of the same ethnicity from South and North Korea fought bloodily against each other. It was instigated by the invasion of North Korean Communist forces. As a result, the Korean Peninsula is still divided 66 years later. In the Vietnam War that started two years later, South Korea upheld a noble cause in fighting communism but inflicted far-reaching damage on the Vietnamese people. In discussing history, however, Moon was silent on these developments, simply focusing on Japan’s wars. His viewpoint that peace was restored because Japan lost the war is partial and partisan, formed to promote his anti-Japanese rhetoric.
Reviewing the history of the Korean Peninsula, one sees why Moon’s biased historical views so single-mindedly focuses on Japan. In ancient times, Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty frequently invaded the peninsula while Emperor Yang of Sui dispatched troops almost every year. Utilizing advanced detachments of soldiers from Silla, a small southern Korean kingdom, the Tang Dynasty invaded and destroyed the ancient Korean kingdom of Goguryeo (37 BC-668 AD), which also held much of Manchuria in the first six centuries after Christ. The Kingdom of Goryeo, which ruled Korea after Silla 918-1392, continued to suffer invasions by the Mongol Khitan and Manchurian Jerchen. The Yuan Dynasty invaded Korea more than 200 times between 1231 and 1273, devastating the whole of the peninsula.
Moon’s Blatant Twist of Historical Facts
Hideyoshi, the feudal lord who unified Japan in the mid-16th century, twice invaded Korea (1592 and 1998), which was invaded by the Qing Dynasty some 40 years later. Korea was China’s vassal state for some 500 years during the Ming and Qing eras—until Japan defeated the Chinese empire in 1895. In short, Korea has been invaded plenty of times.
Korea is a nation ridden with tragedy. But Moon never refers to the damage inflicted on the Korean people by nations other than Japan, steadfastly condemning Japanese atrocities. His August 15 address repeated the exact bitter anti-Japanese sentiment Moon has steadfastly entertained. And yet, for some puzzling reasons, many Japanese media outlets welcomed Moon’s anti-Japanese remarks in his address as “restrained.”
Moon listed three objectives in describing his dream of building an “unshakable” nation under a South-North partnership, including building “a country that serves as a bridge” and establishing “a peace economy in which prosperity is achieved through peace…”
I suspect that his true intentions lie in the economic realm. Moon projected his “peace economy” on August 5 to counter Tokyo’s August 2 decision to remove South Korea from a list of nations granted preferential treatment in their imports of sensitive items from Japan (called the “white list” in Tokyo bureaucratese). The decision came a month after Tokyo tightened control over its export of three high-tech materials South Korea needs to make memory chips and display panels. Japan suspects these materials, weapon-capable, may have been illicitly channeled to third countries, including possibly China, Iran, and North Korea. Moon’s statement reflected his wishful thinking that a peace economy with the two Koreas cooperating closely would quickly catch up with Japan. The two Koreas, he urged, must forge ahead with unification for that purpose.
Moon must first and foremost realize that South Korea’s development and prosperity since its founding in 1948 has been possible due significantly to its alliance with the US and close economic ties with Japan.
Commented Tsutomi Nishioka, an expert on Korean Peninsular affairs who was another guest:
“As a maritime state, South Korea has owed its phenomenal postwar development predominantly to a three-power alliance with the US and Japan, which has enabled it to pursue democracy, a market economy, and a fight against communism. Meanwhile, South Korea faces three continental states run respectively by the Chinese Communist Party, Russia’s despotic Putin administration, and the hereditary dictatorship of North Korea. Moon has expressed the hope to go back and forth between these two camps whenever he wants. In other words, Moon has already vowed to run out of the triangle alliance between Japan, the US, and South Korea.” This is a dangerous game.
Since Moon came to power in 2017, it has become consistently evident that he intends to implement what can be termed a socialist revolution in South Korea. The perception that the Moon administration cannot be trusted convinces a growing number of South Koreans. I suspect that Moon’s August 15 address has clarified his true intentions. His address also warns us Japanese that Japan is on the brink of a grave crisis.
An unabashed twisting of facts about Japan formed the pillar of Moon’s address, in which he raised three points:
1) Any country that weaponizes a sector where it has a comparative advantage harms the peaceful free trade order; 2) A country that achieved growth first must not kick the ladder away while others are following in its footsteps; and 3) Better late than never: if Japan chooses the path of dialogue and cooperation, we will gladly join in.
Japan has decided to remove South Korea from the “white list” because over the past three years Seoul has refused to explore with Japan why large quantities of Japanese exports of strategic materials with dual use for military purposes have been unaccounted for.
Therefore, point 1) is out of the question. South Korea is passing the buck. The same is true with point 2); Japan has not “kicked the ladder” away from South Korea. On the contrary, Japan has steadfastly continued to provide South Korea varied technology, for example to Korea’s leading Pohan Steel Works, a backbone of the South Korean economy. Nippon Steel Corporation—to be sure, with profit motives in mind—strongly supported Pohan since 1965, providing technology it badly needed.
According to Nishioka, a major Japanese noodle manufacturer interested in helping South Koreans enrich their food culture has provided its South Korean counterpart a technology, free of charge, to make “ramen” instant noodles on the condition that they not be exported back to Japan. Thus Japan has provided South Korea these and various other technologies in areas ranging from iron- to noodle-making. But Japan has never “kicked the ladder” away from South Korea as Moon claims.
Point 3) is simply untrue. Moon is the one who has been refusing to engage Japan in “dialogue and cooperation” over the past two years.
Moon’s address is filled with untruths and distortions that enhance his anti-Japanese rhetoric. One unhappily concludes that with Moon in the Blue House, it will be next to impossible for any Japanese leader to conduct sensible discussions of issues of mutual concern or a normal management of the bilateral relations.
Under present circumstances, widely viewed as the worst in the postwar Tokyo-Seoul relationship, US-North Korea relations also are stalled and the national interests of Japan and South Korea impaired. South Korea’s very future is at stake. Many South Koreans are beginning to realize that Moon is responsible for the impasse with Japan. And they are beginning to take action.
Rallies demanding Moon’s resignation have been spreading across Seoul and local cities and towns. Although major South Korean media outlets do not report these developments, news about the current situation is widely disseminated via social media. Their proliferating images imply that anti-Moon rallies are several times bigger in scale than any anti-Japanese demonstrations instigated by pro-Moon forces.
South Korean public opinion remains divided. Fighting for their future, those in the anti-Moon camp are gaining momentum. It is most important for us Japanese to understand the ongoing South Korean situation well and refuse to be deceived by the anti-Japanese rhetoric of the Moon administration any more. Now is the time for us to prudently scrutinize Moon’s true intentions. (The End)
(Translated from Renaissance Japan column no. 865 in the August 29, 2019 issue of The Weekly Shincho)