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Home > Media Reviews > News Review Last Updated: 14:54 03/09/2007
News Review #318: October 25, 2005

Ban to Visit Japan on Yasukuni Mission

Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE

Ban to Visit Japan on Yasukuni Mission
The Chosun Ilbo


Prime Minister Koizumi's visit to Yasukuni Shrine last week invoked the usual and expected responses from China and South Korea. Both governments expressed resentment at the Prime Minister's action saying that Mr Koizumi "hurt" the feelings of their people. China further retaliated - apparently so they think - by unilaterally scrapping the mutually agreed plan and refused to receive Foreign Minister Machimura in Beijing.

It seemed Korea would follow suit when Foreign Minister Ban first commented that it would be inappropriate for him to visit Japan as scheduled, later this month. But those seriously concerned about the mutual relationship were relieved to hear that the Korean Foreign Minister has revived the plan to visit Japan after all. It might have been an unpopular move domestically, but it is a wise - and brave - decision to make.

There have been countless polls and surveys made in Japan in regard to Yasukuni Shrine and how it should be treated, not only in terms of whether the Prime Minister at the time should visit the shrine or not, but how the shrine itself should be managed. Simply, the views among Japanese people are split - and diversified.

That said, there are two fundamental anchoring points that the overwhelming majority acknowledges, and as are expressed in the words of the Constitution, One is that the visits to the Yasukuni by successive Prime Ministers are not sovereign acts of the government. The visits are not supported or sponsored by the government. Another point is that an individual is free to visit any shrine - or temple or church or mosque or whatever, and the Prime Minister - so long as he/she is a human being - is no exception.

Thus, there is no logical or legal method to stop Mr Koizumi - or any Prime Minister - visiting the shrine if he is determined to do so. The only legitimate way of preventing a Prime Minister from visiting Yasukuni is to vote, at the election, for a candidate who would choose the Prime Minister who would not visit the shrine. Japan is founded on the principle of democracy - universal election and free vote. People consolidate various agenda and values on a ballot at the election in the form of choosing their representatives to run their society. It might be worth noting that one sentiment shared among those who support and those who oppose - and even those not interested in - Mr Koizumi's Yasukuni visit is that he should not change his attitude by way of bending before foreign pressures - that the issue should be determined through discussions among the people of Japan.

Japan and Korea have been neighbors since the beginning of history. And it seems it will stay that way for a while. Our everyday experience indicates that it is not necessary for people to - and more often than not actually do not - agree and praise everything their neighbors do. Japan and Korea are on this part of the globe together, and turning our backs against each other is not going to get us anywhere. Mutually expressing discomforts candidly while understanding differences and maintaining sympathy for the counterpart - and hailing for mutual accomplishments whenever appropriate - is a time-proven approach in building a healthy and productive relationship.

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