Saturday, March 26, 2005

"A Message to the Nation Concerning Korea-Japan Relations"

The Cheong Wa Dae website now has an "*Unofficial translation" of President Roh's letter. I am not clear on why this translation is unofficial since Cheong Wa Dae is the official website for the Office of the President of Korea. Perhaps an official translation is still being prepared. We shall see.

Meanwhile, here is this unofficial translation's rendering of President Roh's views on Japan's motives:


The Russo-Japanese War was not a conflict between the two countries over territory, as the name implies, but one of aggression into the Korean Peninsula that Japan started for the complete dominance of Korea. In fact, a victorious Japan immediately stripped Korea of its diplomatic authority and began de facto colonial rule.

During the war, Japan incorporated Dokdo island into its own territory. Indeed, it robbed us of Dokdo with military might. Japan's Shimane Prefecture declared so-called "Takeshima Day" on February 22, the very day when Japan incorporated Dokdo into its territory 100 years ago. That is an act justifying its invasion and denying Korea's independence.

The same goes with the textbook issue. In the past, when distorted textbooks were adopted by only a few Japanese schools, we placed high expectations on the conscience of Japan and had an optimistic outlook for the future of Northeast Asia. But now, those distorted textbooks are about to be revived. That, too, is an attempt to justify Japan's history of aggression.

We cannot help but regard these acts as those of the Japanese nation because they are not simply committed by a local government or a group of thoughtless ultra-nationalists; they are being done with implicit support from the country's ruling group and the central government. These acts nullify all the reflection and apologies Japan has so far made.

Now, the Korean Government has no choice but to respond sternly. We can no longer stand by and watch Japan's attempts to justify its history of aggression and occupation and its intention to achieve hegemony again, because this is a matter that will determine the future of the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia.


Put more concisely, President Roh holds that Japan's central government implicitly supports both the ultra-nationalists who are rewriting textbooks that justify Japan's imperial policies, including its annexation of Korea, and the Shimane Prefect's governmental personnel, who have declared an official Takeshima Day in honor of Japan's 1905 annexation of Dokdo.

The crucial expression here is "implicit support" (cf. 방조), which can be interpreted to mean that although Japan's central government has no intentional policy supporting the aims and views of ultranationalists or local governments, it provides unintended support by not speaking out against these aims and views. My wife initially read the Korean version as having this sense, taking 방조 to mean "watching without doing anything," which she thinks is the usual colloquial meaning in Korean.

Dong-A's Prime Korean-English Dictionary, however, defines the term as "aiding and abetting." In this, it probably follows the original Chinese meaning rather than the Korean colloquial one. The ambiguity between "watching without doing anything" and "aiding and abetting" probably accounts for the definition "implicit support," which can be read either way. Roh perhaps means aiding and abetting, depending upon how we understand his reference to:

"Japan's attempts to justify its history of aggression and occupation and its intention to achieve hegemony again."

This sounds very strongly and directly expressed, but a word of caution is in order. The Korean original says the following:

침략과 지배의 역사를 정당화하고 또다시 패권주의를 관철하려는 의도

My wife notes that a literal translation here would be:

"The attempts to justify the history of aggression and occupation and the intention to achieve hegemony again."

Unclear is whether or not Roh intended to refer here to the policy of Japan's central government or merely to the aims of the ultranationalists and the local officials of the Shimane Prefecture.

However, since Roh states that one "cannot help but regard these acts as those of the Japanese nation," then he seems to mean that Japan's central government is attempting to justify its past aggression and trying to achieve hegemony again. If so, then by "implicit," he means that Japan's central government secretly supports the aims and views of the ultranationalists and local governments.

At any rate, whether Roh meant "watching without doing anything" or "aiding and abetting," this public expression of his views on the issue as Korea's head of state was perhaps ill-advised. Normally, it's better to leave such statements to lower-level officials so that the president can speak in a more statesmanlike manner.

That being said, I find Roh's words far less emotional than they sounded in the previous newspaper reports, and I'd no longer describe it as "hot-headed." Moreover, I don't find this statement in the Cheong Wa Dae English translation:

"I can't tolerate him (Koizumi) any more." (Joong Ang Daily)

I asked my wife about the Korean text, and she says that no such statement can be found there either.

One lesson that I can draw from this is to read the English-language Korean newspapers with a shaker of salt handy.


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