New Developments in Japan’s Relations with South Korea and China

Notwithstanding the controversies over Japanese history textbooks and the Yasukuni Shrine, Japan’s relations with South Korea and China continued to develop. In January 1983, Nakasone Yasuhiro visited South Korea as soon as he was appointed prime minister, because he wanted to underscore the importance of Asia for Japan’s diplomacy. Nakasone also succeeded in inviting South Korean president Chun Doo Hwan to Japan in September 1984—the first time any South Korean president had visited Japan. At the welcome dinner party for Chun, Nakasone expressed his “deep regret” (fu- kai ikan) for “serious damages that Japan inflicted on your country and people” and stated Japan’s determination not to repeat the past wrongdo- ings.117 Similarly, Emperor Hirohito expressed his “regret (ikan) for the unfortunate past” between the two countries.118

Around the same time, Japanese and South Korean NGOs continued to cooperate in pressing the Japanese government to offer relief for South Korean A-bomb victims. Japanese NGOs formed the Hiroshima Committee for Providing Medical Treatment for South Korean A-Bomb Victims in

Japan (Zaikan Hibakusha Tonichi Chiryo Hiroshima Jikkoiinkai) in August 1984 to raise money for South Korean A-bomb victims to travel to Japan and stay in hospitals for an indefinite period for medical treatment.119 The South Korean A-Bomb Victims Association and its Japanese supporters also contacted the Human-Rights Protection Committee of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations in April 1986 and requested the federation’s help in lobbying the Japanese government. After the federation conducted an investigation in South Korea, it submitted a report to Nakasone’s government, requesting the extension of the 1980 agreement, wherein the Japanese government had promised to invite South Korean A-bomb victims for medical treatment in Japan.120

The transnational network of NGOs, however, could not change the Japanese government’s position. The 1980 agreement expired in 1985, and the Japanese government took no further action to address the situation of South Korean A-bomb victims. To mobilize more support for South Korean A-bomb victims, Japanese NGOs organized a two-day symposium, to which they invited Shin Yong Su and two other A-bomb victims from South Korea. At the symposium, South Korean A-bomb victims, Japanese journalists, and representatives of major Japanese NGOs supporting A-bomb victims gave presentations and exchanged opinions. At the end of the symposium, the participants adopted a joint resolution to press the Japanese government to take appropriate action for South Korean A-bomb victims: “When we think about Japan’s ‘negative history (fu no rekishi)’ vis-a-vis the ‘Hiroshima-Nagasaki’ experience, we cannot but feel the great weight of our task as Japanese citizens. . . . This problem [of South Korean A-bomb victims] is a very serious one—part of ‘unfulfilled responsibility for the war’—that the Japanese government must resolve as soon as possible.”121 After the symposium, the Japanese participants created the Citizen Council for South Korean A-Bomb Victims (Zaikan Hibakusha Mondai Shimin Kaigi) to help South Korean A-bomb victims obtain compensation from the Japanese government. Along with these NGOs, opposition parties also rallied behind South Korean A-bomb victims and demanded that the Japanese government resume medical treatment of South Korean A-bomb victims at Japanese hospitals.122

In addition to the A-bomb victims, there were many other victims of Japan’s past wrongdoings in South Korea, and they had been dissatisfied with the way both the Japanese and South Korean governments had dealt with the issue of compensation. After the 1965 normalization, Park Chun Hee’s government created a law in January 1971 to provide compensation for those who had lost financial assets, as well as for military-related personnel who had died during the war; however, this compensation scheme excluded injured veterans, bereaved families, and other types of war victims. Moreover, while Park’s government had created a committee to process compensation claims by eligible South Korean citizens, the procedure had been not only complicated but also short-lived, as it was effective for only eleven months. After all, Park’s government spent less than 6 percent of the three hundred million US dollars that it had received from the Japanese government in lieu of compensation for war-related damages.123 To protest against the narrow coverage and limited amount of compensations, South Korean war victims formed the Association of South Korean Victims and Bereaved Families of the Pacific War in April 1973 and lobbied Park’s government to expand the compensation scheme.124

This discontent among South Korean victims intersected with growing nationalistic sentiments from both below and above. From below, as sociologist Shin Gi-Wook pointed out, the democratization movement in the 1980s drew on the ethnic-nationalist concept of the “Korean people” in order to articulate its demo cratic, popular demands against military dictatorship.125 South Korea’s economic success and hosting of the 1988 Summer Olympics also stimulated national pride. From above, Chun Doo Hwan’s government significantly revised its official history textbook in 1982 to include extensive descriptions of the Korean independence movement and res ist ance against Japan’s colonial rule.126 This new history education aimed to emphasize the legitimacy of the current government as a culmination of the long struggle of the Korean people, appeal to ethnic-nationalist sentiments among citizens, and deflect the discontent in the contentious civil society.127 As part of this legitimation effort, Chuns government also began the construction of the Independence Hall of Korea in anticipation of the fortieth anniversary of the country’s liberation: completed in 1987, the hall commemorated the history of the Korean nation by highlighting the brutalities of Japan’s colonial rule and wartime atrocities vis-a-vis the heroism of the Korean resistance. On the forty-first anniversary of liberation in August 1986, Chun also delivered a speech stating, “We still cannot calm our anger at the past aggression by Japanese imperialism. The foreign oppression not only gave us our greatest pain and shame but also became the root cause of our divided nation.”128

Similarly, relations between Japan and China were characterized by the growth of positive interactions in conjunction with the surge of nationalist commemoration in China. On the one hand, once the Treaty of Peace and Friendship was ratified in 1978, the bilateral relations made rapid progress. In December 1979, Prime Minister Ohira Masahiro visited China and announced the Japanese government’s plan to provide China with official development aid (ODA), a total of 330.9 billion yen, to help finance China’s developmental projects between 1979 and 1984.129 Ohira’s visit was reciprocated by Hua Guofeng’s visit to Japan in May 1980, the first such visit by any Chinese premier. The Japanese and Chinese governments also signed a series of agreements on steel mills, fisheries, natural resources, infrastructures, and soft loans to facilitate the development of the Chinese economy.130

In addition, more and more municipalities in Japan and China began to sign friendship agreements to facilitate civic exchanges. Between 1978 and 1988, the number of sister-city agreements increased from two to 115, including Tokyo-Beijing and Hiroshima-Chongqing.131 Along with municipal-level interactions, cultural and educational exchanges were promoted based on the Agreement for the Promotion of Cultural Exchange in December 1979 and the Agreement for Cooperation in Science and Technology in May 1980. Given these agreements, Japanese and Chinese sports teams competed at friendly matches, museums loaned artifacts to each other, and exchange programs for students and researchers were established— in the name of the promotion of friendship and mutual understanding between the two countries.132

On the other hand, the Chinese government started “patriotic education” in the early 1980s, as the country was going through significant social changes. The Cultural Revolution had caused the Chinese people’s trust in the Chinese Communist Party to decline. Then, Deng Xiaoping took over the party leadership and began to implement economic reforms. But the economic reforms that introduced market principles into China undermined existing economic and social structures, creating a greater desire among people for a Western-style liberal democracy, especially university students. To contain these destabilizing consequences of the Cultural Revolution and economic reforms, the Chinese government tried to strengthen people’s loyalty to the party. In 1981, People’s Daily began to publish a number of articles about various patriotic educational programs across the country and, in July 1982, called for a nationwide campaign for patriotic education in the article, titled “Love the Communist Party of China, Love the Socialist Fatherland, Love the People’s Liberation Army.”133 Deng’s gov?ernment also expanded on its assertive response to Japanese history textbooks in 1982 and recommended that patriotic education should be strengthened.134

Moreover, the Chinese government constructed the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall, the Museum of the Criminal Evidence of Unit 731 Bacteria Troop, and other museums across China in 1985 in order to commemorate Chinese victims of Japan’s past aggression and celebrate China’s victory over Japan on the fortieth anniversary. The growing commemoration of Japan’s past wrongdoings departed from the earlier, more benign commemorative position of the Chinese government. This change reflected the government’s decision to designate reunification of China as one of its main policy goals in January 1980. Accordingly, China’s official commemoration shifted the blame for the suffering of the Chinese people from the Kuomintang to Japan.135 Moreover, the government significantly increased descriptions of Japan’s wartime atrocities, especially the Nanjing Massacre, in national history textbooks in 1986.136 Then, to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War, the Chinese government opened the Museum of the War of Chinese People’s Resistance Against Japanese Aggression near Marco Polo Bridge in July 1987.

Concurrently, the Chinese government began to support public commemorations of the Nanjing Massacre and Japan’s wartime atrocities.137 During the early 1960s, historians at Nanjing University, given the strong interest among local residents, had already conducted two years of interviews with survivors of the massacre and produced a document.138 The Chinese government, however, had not allowed the document to be published, not only because the government’s commemorative position toward Japan was benign, but also because the government was unwilling to revisit the history of a weak China humiliated by foreign powers.139 But in the 1980s, government research institutions collaborated with history professors in Nanjing to organize scattered historical materials in local and national archives, and they produced a series of publications on the Nanjing Massacre.140 With regard to other wartime atrocities, too, scholars, museum curators, writers, and journalists across China began to conduct and publicize their historical research along the lines of the Chinese government’s official commemoration.141 Thus, under Deng’s leadership, the Chinese government began to direct public commemorations of the Asia-Pacific War to garner popular support for the Communist Party as a savior of the Chinese people from the Japanese aggressors.

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