Mitsunobu Ichiro S.J. (Director, Jesuit Social Center)

  August 22-29 of this year marked the high point of the 100th year since Japan’s Annexation of Korea. This centenary should be considered a fresh starting-point for a peaceful future in Japan and the Korean Peninsula, as well as in the whole of East Asia. The Annexation Treaty was signed exactly 100 years ago on August 22, 1910, under the duress of military oppression, and was promulgated on August 29. During that week, the Residency-General command headquarters abolished all newspapers, suppressed activists for independence, and set up cannons in the Namsan area of Seoul, all of these demonstrating its readiness to confront any opposition from Korean citizens. The signing of this Annexation Treaty marked the culmination of Japan’s official policy to conquer Korea, which dated back to the early years of the Meiji Era, and brought about both Japan’s colonial rule over Korea and its military invasion of other Asian countries. How are we to respond anew to these historical facts today?

Various Events
  Not only in Korea but here in Japan, too, various events were held and publicity was given to the centenary of Korean annexation. This was prompted by increasing cultural exchange of people and products, thanks to closer economic ties between Korea and Japan and a surging demand for things Korean. A TV drama inspired by Shiba Ryotaro’s novel, Clouds upon the Hill, is being shown on NHK over a 3-year period.
  Shiba’s historical view was, “I hate prewar Japan but I like Meiji very much. The glory of Meiji Japan as a ‘Youthful Country,’ during the time when the samurai spirit (bushido morality) was still alive, was destroyed by Japanese of the Showa Era when the military ran amok with racialist imbecility.” However, contemporary research points out that this view of history overlooks numerous acts of violence during the Meiji Era.
  Whether or not Shiba himself had any misgivings about these, he claims that the TV dramatization took a negative stance toward his novel. Perhaps as a justification for its dramatization of Clouds upon the Hill, NHK also broadcast a special series entitled Project Japan, focusing on Japanese-Korean relations.
  Japanese and Korean historians, too, published an article entitled “The Centenary of Korean Annexation – Joint Statement of Japanese and Korean Intellectuals” (in the journal Sekai, July 2010). They stressed the following three points:(1)“Annexation” was enforced as a result of Japan’s long-standing policy of invasion dating back to the beginning of Meiji. (2)It is a falsification to assert that the Treaty of Annexation was freely agreed to by Korea. (3)The second article of the 1965 Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea says, “It is confirmed that all treaties or agreements concluded between the Empire of Japan and the Empire of Korea on or before August 22, 1910, are already null and void,” but the Japanese government’s failure to recognize the non-validity of these treaties ever since the establishment of the Republic of Korea in 1948 is untenable, and South Korea’s assertion that the Annexation Treaty was an injustice to begin with should be upheld by both sides in common.
  As regards the Christian point of view, the Japanese and Korean NCC (Protestant National Christian Conference) made a public statement on August 15, 2010, asserting that “The Christian churches of both Japan and Korea have, along with our own confession of guilt concerning the colonial period, constantly spoken out about past historical facts. Together we admit and confess our sins, and vow with hearts renewed to open up a new era of peace and reconciliation.” The statement also enumerated several communal tasks. The Catholic Church, in a statement by Archbishop Ikenaga Jun, President of the Japan Bishops’ Conference, at the start of the “Ten Days for Peace 2010,” simply said, “On this memorable occasion (of the centenary of Korean Annexation), it is important for us to reflect sincerely on what Japan’s colonial policy was really like and what deep wounds it inflicted on the people. Nor should we fail to consider the Catholic Church’s responsibility at that time.” The Korean Catholic Church remained silent regarding these issues, probably because it realized that it had not sufficiently reflected on its own historical responsibility regarding Japan’s colonial rule and South Korea’s postwar military regime.
  On the part of the Japanese government, Prime Minister Kan Naoto issued an official statement on August 10 concerning the centenary of annexation. Among other things he expressed “sincere regret and heartfelt apology once again for the great losses and sufferings brought about by the colonial rule.” The Korean government and the major mass media in Japan welcomed this statement as a “step forward.” However, Korean mass media and citizens’ movements criticized the statement for not mentioning any effective policies for resolving unsettled issues regarding the past colonial rule, such as the legality and validity of the Annexation Treaty, inquiry into the actual situation during that period of colonial rule, apologies and compensation for the victims, Japan’s responsibility for the partition of the Korean Peninsula, normalization of diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of North Korea, and so on.

Japan-Korea Joint Citizens’ Manifesto
  I belong to a “Joint Movement concerning Enforced Korean Annexation” organized by various citizens’ groups in Japan calling for the resolution of unsettled issues regarding colonial rule on the Korean Peninsula. (The Movement’s representatives are Ito Naruhiko, Kang Doksang, Suzuki Yoko, Song Puja, Nakahara Michiko, and Yamada Shoji. It has the backing of the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission of Japan, the Christian Network to Implement Peace, and other Christian groups.) The following is a report of this Movement’s activities.
  It has the backing of the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission of Japan, the Christian Network to Implement Peace, and other Christian groups.) The following is a report of this Movement’s activities.
  The executive committee of this Joint Movement was established in Scott-Hall of Waseda Hoshien, Tokyo, on January 31, 2010. The members are all Japanese citizens. They work in actual coordination with victims of the enforced annexation and strive for the resolution of unsettled historical issues concerning Japanese colonial rule in the Korean Peninsula, the very issues not mentioned in the last official statement of Prime Minister Kan. These same citizens, in collaboration with Korean counterparts in Korea, drew up a “Japan-Korea Joint Citizens’ Manifesto” on the occasion of the Centenary of Korean Annexation and decided to hold a week-long convention with commemorative events from August 22 to 29 in both Japan and Korea. The Citizens’ Manifesto presents an overall view of basic unsettled issues left unsolved by the Japanese colonial rule and proposes an action plan to confront and resolve these issues. In this way, it aimed to provide a resolution of the negative history of the Korean Peninsula, a genuine reconciliation restoring the human dignity of the victims, and an impetus to the future of peace of East Asia and the world.
  At the basis of this Citizens’ Manifesto is the “Durban Accord” issued by the “World Conference against the intolerance of segregation, racial discrimination and exclusion of foreigners” organized by the United Nations in 2001 at Durban in South Africa. The Durban Accord affirms that the slavery system and the colonial rule which inflicted great suffering on many people in Asia, Africa and Latin America during the last century were “crimes against humanity,” the bad effects of which continue to this day, and it declares that the world and those countries that were responsible for these sufferings have the obligation to confront this historical reality and settle unresolved issues. As globalization progresses and the whole world becomes more and more interrelated, people of Japan and Korea, both South and North, and as well as of East Asia, must by all means, for the sake of peace in this region, share an all-embracing view of humanity and join hands in mutual collaboration.

August 22: Joint Citizens’ Manifesto, Japan Assembly
  On the occasion of the centenary, a general assembly of Japanese and Korean citizens, aiming at resolving unsettled issues and envisioning a peaceful future, was held in Toshima Public Hall, Tokyo. Over 1,000 people filled the hall, dispelling the organizers’ fears of sparse attendance.
  After keynote addresses by Ms So Yunok and Ms Anzako Yuka, there were personal testimonies by victims of colonial rule and presentations of unresolved issues. Some harumoni spoke of the suffering they endured when forced to work as “military comfort women,” something they were never able to disclose to their own families. An elderly man shouted out full voice, demanding to expose clearly the fact that he had been forced to work in a Kyushu coal mine, where he underwent inhuman slave treatment. Others spoke of the suffering they endured when separated from their family and sent to Sakhalin. Japanese participants showed their anger towards the government for its neglect to investigate, take responsibility and apologize for the massacre of Korean residents in Japan during the Great Kanto Earthquake. On the other hand, Koreans raised and living in Japan expressed the humiliation they felt when registration and fingerprinting as aliens made them aware of the degradation their parents had suffered during colonial rule. They spoke of their own personal experience of the cold rigidity of Japanese society in denying free schooling to students attending Korean high schools, and asked why their desire to deepen their ethnic identity repeatedly leads to grief. Such appeals touched the hearts of all present.
  A mini concert was held, with the singer Sawa Tomoe, daughter of a Japanese Protestant pastor and a Korean mother, adding a special flavor to the gathering. Her maternal grandfather, Kim Soun, was the translator of a Collection of Korean Poems published by Iwanami Shoten. She sang “Amazing Grace,” “Kokoro,” and “A-chim-I-seul” in Japanese and Korean. Her songs, recalling the liberation after the long night of colonial rule and the freshly refined feelings of the people at that time, resonated perfectly with the memories of the people in the audience.
  At the end, the Joint Citizens’ Manifesto for settling unresolved issues and implementing peace was read out. The first half consisted of a historical review of the enforced annexation of Korea, but the main core of the Manifesto followed in the second half, containing “our demands and a plan for action.”
  At the end, the Joint Citizens’ Manifesto for settling unresolved issues and implementing peace was read out. The first half consisted of a historical review of the enforced annexation of Korea, but the main core of the Manifesto followed in the second half, containing “our demands and a plan for action.” The Manifesto lists issues passed over in the statement by Prime Minister Kan and makes demands of the Japanese government. It asks for investigations concerning the following: actual acts of genocide under colonial rule, the number of victims during the suppression of the March 1st Independence Movement, data concerning the massacres carried out under the pretext of maintaining public order after the Great Kanto Earthquake and the Independence Movement as well as compensation for these, for victims of enforced relocation and sex slavery, for Korean A-bomb victims and their relief. It also demands establishment of a legal support system for the victims of air raids, inquiries and reparations for those left behind in Sakhalin, apologies and reparation for those sent to Siberian labor camps, reparation for families of B and C-class war criminals, withdrawal and reparations for Koreans enshrined at Yasukuni, return of the remains of Koreans forcibly mobilized for war and killed therein, return of stolen cultural treasures, abolition of anti-foreign policies and of the anti-Korean discrimination which excludes Koreans from receiving official financial assistance during their high school years, normalization of diplomatic relations based on the resolution of unsettled issues, discontinuance of harassment against those refusing to accept the hi-no-maru flag and the kimi-ga-yo anthem, ceasing to refer to Dokdo as Japanese territory (“Takeshima”) in history books, re-editing of history books to give an accurate account of Japanese-Korean history, ceasing to harass history teachers, and encouraging a common endeavor by Korean and Japanese scholars to draw up history textbooks for schools.
  Moreover, in order to solve the above issues and obtain public understanding and support for the Manifesto, the assembly urged presenting a statement to the Diet demanding the establishment of a government organ to look into unsettled issues of former colonial rule and work toward their resolution. It opted for a plan of action to strengthen international solidarity between citizens of both countries.

The Seoul Assembly of August 29
  Commemorative centenary events were held in Korea at Sungkyunkwan University in Seoul. On August 27-28 a series of cultural events was held: an international academic assembly, a students’ forum to study the past history and prepare for the future, and an evening concert by a combined chorus of Korean and Japanese singers. On August 29 at the closing ceremony the Joint Manifesto was read and approved.
  Commemorative centenary events were held in Korea at Sungkyunkwan University in Seoul. On August 27-28 a series of cultural events was held: an international academic assembly, a students’ forum to study the past history and prepare for the future, and an evening concert by a combined chorus of Korean and Japanese singers. On August 29 at the closing ceremony the Joint Manifesto was read and approved.
  Over 150 Japanese attended these events in Seoul. I, too, went there together with members of the Christian Network to Implement Peace. Taking advantage of a break during the academic assembly, our group visited the Independence Memorial Museum in Cheonan City, a monument built by donations from Korean citizens during the 1980s, when Japanese history textbooks did not acknowledge the fact of Japan’s invasion of Korea. We also visited Cheamri Church, into which, following on the March 1st Independence Declaration, the Japanese military herded 30 young Koreans of the Banzai Independence Movement and massacred them by setting fire to the Church. We were also able to observe the demilitarized zone (DMZ) and hold discussions with other Korean Christians engaged in peace movements.
  Mr Arai Shinichi of Japan and Mr Kang Mangil of Korea delivered keynote addresses at the international academic assembly. Then, on two consecutive days, Japanese and Korean researchers and specialists made presentations, and discussions were held on four themes: damages sustained, resolution of unsettled issues, peace, and the future. In his keynote address, the famous Korean historian, Kang Mang-il stated that in the past century, both the people that enforced their rule on another people belonging to the same cultural region and the people so ruled have the obligation as world citizens to contribute to world peace in a peace-oriented 21st century. A prerequisite condition for achieving that is thoroughgoing self-examination and resolution of unsettled issues. However, Japan has not yet reflected on its 20th-century invasions and continues to turn its back on Asia. If Japan would open up again to East Asia, it could also contribute to peace on the Korean Peninsula.
  A strong rain continued to fall on August 29. The Japanese participants first went to see a special centenary exhibit at a historical museum now located on the site of the former Sodemun Prison for opponents of Japanese imperial domination. Later they attended the unveiling ceremony of a monument commemorating the enactment of the Enforced Annexation Treaty at the site of the old Residency-General command headquarters at Namsan.
  This site had also been occupied by KCIA headquarters during the Korean military dictatorship and was considered a fearsome place by South Koreans, but a large international youth hostel has been built there and now it is a locus for encounters among youth from various nations.
  Despite the heavy rain, some 300 people, including Japanese and Korean Diet members, citizens, and students, participated in the exciting opening ceremonies. These ceremonies concluded with three banzai (mansei!) cheers intoned by the chairman of the Seoul City Council, which may have sounded like banzai shouts of the 1919 Independence Movement, but they did not echo with hatred for the past. We got the impression that they were cheers for having overcome colonization and for peace in East Asia. The Korean name for the day the Annexation Treaty was signed is the “Day of National Shame.” For Japan, too, it was indeed a “day of national shame,” the day when Japan began oppressing its neighbor, only to consign this history to later oblivion without any forward-looking self-examination.
  At the closing ceremonies in Sungkyunkwan University, a group of high school girls, to the accompaniment of gong and drum, performed samulnoli and pansoli songs recalling the feeling of the so-called “comfort women.” After greetings from various distinguished guests, joint statements were read out by young students and a Japanese-Korean citizens’ group. What made a big difference from the Japan Assembly was that the citizens’ groups announced plans of action for their various areas of activity. I felt that the representatives were openly sharing with everyone their decisions for implementing their objectives. The day ended with Japanese and Koreans smiling and singing together and joining hands in dancing. Although it was a gathering of only a few hundred persons, I saw in it a prophetic representation of what Japanese, Koreans, East Asians, and people from all over the world should become.

Learning from our Neighbors
  Thus, I was fortunate enough to be able to spend the last week of August looking back over a sad past together with our neighbors and speaking with them about the future we face and the ideals we want to promote. If Japan continues to hide historical facts or avoid sincere encounters, relations between our two countries and their citizens will naturally remain superficial. Facing up to and repenting of our past mistakes with humility can bring consolation and hope, and contribute to a renewal of good relations. As for us Japanese, who have not undertaken adequate self-examination, I believe we can learn much especially from the courageous desire and action for freedom and justice which the Koreans patiently forged through long years of oppression. As a Christian, I want to learn from the Korean people’s purity of heart, which can be seen as deeply rooted in their character and which enables them to overcome “hatred” and transform it into “forgiveness.”

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