The Creation of Peace in Japan from the Historical Scars of Shimonoseki

Jun Nakai, SJ Labor Education Center (LEC)
   Jesuits in Japan and South Korea and their collaborators in peace movements gathered in the Labor Education Center (LEC) of Shimonoseki on July 12 to hold a two-day seminar on anti-nuclear issues, including the issue of nuclear power plants. For details, please refer to the report written below by Fr Park Munsu, who accompanied his collaborators from Korea. Fr Park Munsu visited Shimonoseki together with Fr Chongdae, chairman of the Social Apostolate Committee of the Jesuit Korea Province. They listened intently to Fr Hayashi and me regarding our hopes to cooperate at the inter-province level, with Shimonoseki as one of the main bases. Exceeding our expectations, Fr Park had responded promptly and, thanks to his considerate thoughtfulness, we were able to hold this mutual seminar. With heartfelt appreciation of Fr Park and his friends, I would like to report on what I have been thinking while living in Shimonoseki, a place inescapably involved with the history of Korea and Japan.
  Since being assigned to work in Shimonoseki, which is only an overnight ferry ride from Pusan, I have been given many opportunities to reflect on relations between Korea and Japan. There are many South and North Koreans in Shimonoseki. There is also a Korean school located not so far from my parish. Highly conscientized citizens of a civic movement related to the Labor Education Center are deeply involved in supporting the rights of Koreans living in Japan and in getting Japan to apologize for the use of “comfort women” by the Japanese military during World War II. In working with them, every day I learn more about how deep the historical links between Korea and Shimonoseki are.
  Every year the Bakan Festival is held during summer. This is an event commemorating the arrival of a delegation from the Korean Yi dynasty that marked the beginning of peace exchanges with Japan. The Korean messengers arrived in Shimonoseki, the foothold of the Japanese government. However, the subsequent history of Shimonoseki bears both positive and negative sides. A hotel called Shumprano was the site where the Nisshin (Sino-Japanese) Peace Treaty between Japan and China was concluded. The old hotel was destroyed but a small history library remains by the side of the new building erected there. Visitors might not grasp the negative historical facts just by listening to stories which Japanese tell about the Japanese army led by former Prime Minister Hirobumi Ito, which defeated China. Actually, the Sino-Japanese War resulted in the colonization of Korea under the pretext of establishing a protectorate. The reason for holding the Peace Conference in Shimonoseki, facing the Kanmon Strait, where Japanese warships were operating, was to make a show of the military power of Japan in order to put pressure on China. At first sight it is not easy to grasp the great suffering of the Korean people, trampled upon by both countries and experiencing a very ugly historical past. Such vivid history remains hidden in Japan.
  In fact, the annexation of the Korean peninsula started from that time and as a result many Koreans, most of whom were forcefully brought to Shimonoseki on the “Kan-Pu” ferry boats, were forced into warehouses owned by large Japanese companies (zaibatsu) located at the seaside. From there they were distributed all over Japan as enforced laborers. I wonder how many Shimonoseki residents know of such historical facts.
  Nowadays the relationship of Japan with South Korea and with China has become tense due to the unresolved issue of the ownership of Takeshima and the Senkaku Islands. This problem might seem to be merely a territorial issue, but for Korea and China it is a problem of recognizing historical facts. Unless Japan takes note of that and makes basic apologies, it will not be possible to move from confrontation to reconciliation.
  Last summer I had the opportunity of re-visiting the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima. Previously I had unconsciously bowed my head at the memorial of the South Korean A-bomb victims, but this time my attention was more intently fixed on it. This memorial had been quietly located outside the park until 1980, with the excuse that there were too many memorial sites inside the park, but since the location was thought to be discriminatory, the memorial was relocated within the park. A few years ago the monument was defaced with paint by an unknown vandal. During my visit this time I truly felt that this Korean memorial should be located in the center of the park. Would not true peace and the total abolition of nuclear arms be accomplished by bowing to people we had trampled down and not only by insisting that we ourselves were victims of atomic bombs? Since we have not truly turned our attention to our war victims, is it not also true that, devoid of any interest in workers at nuclear plants that have no social status, we continue to do nothing against nuclear arms disguised as nuclear plants?
  Shimonoseki, as the place where the annexation of Korea began, shoulders the dark history of being the origin of past Japanese evils. Thus, by confronting the wounds caused in the past war, a movement toward reconciliation between Japan and Korea could most probably become the starting point for creating a new Japan. Thanks to Fr Park Munsu, who has taken a similar approach, we might meaningfully proceed one step further. Luckily, here in Shimonoseki we have friends who work with us and share the same ideas. I would like to cooperate with them and support them.
  There is also a nuclear power plant in Pusan and, among the participants in the seminar, we had some Koreans actively involved in a citizens’ movement against such plants. Solidarity action and a grass-roots approach will surely promote peace. It is our hope that the collaboration of Jesuits in Japan and Korea will strengthen solidarity actions and promote further support. At the same time I pray and hope that this awakening of peace may produce good results.

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