Saturday, January 19, 2008

Let’s Get over It, Says KimLee Myung-bak. Or Did He?

A speech by South Korean President-elect KimLee Myung-bak at the Seoul Foreign Correspondents’ Club went completely ignored by the Western media*. That’s a shame because the headline No More Demands for Apologies From Japan: Lee from this Chosunilbo report alone should have turned some heads. To quote:

“It's true that Japan has so far only made perfunctory apologies or self-examinations in the past, and such apologies failed to move the Korean people to a large extent. But I'm sure that Japan will conduct a mature diplomacy regardless.”

Sankei gives a somewhat different Japanese translation that suggests that Mr. Lee would like Japan to do it without being asked, and I have reason to believe that it is more accurate than the Chosunilbo English rendition. My retranslation from Sankei**:

With regard to apologies, self-examination, it is true that Japan has been doing them perfunctorily and because of this could not move the hearts of the Hanguk People. But with a view to a mature relationship between the two countries, I will not seek apologies and self-examination. I think that Japan will conduct a mature diplomacy where Japan can say such things even if there are no demands

It doesn’t look like the Japanese authorities can completely ignore the issue and not expect repercussions. Still, with Yasuo Fukuda as his Japanese counterpart, downplaying the history issues and building on the broad and deep bilateral relationship that exists regardless should work. In another development, Fukuda told Mr. Lee’s emissary, his brother and Deputy Chairman of the South Korean Parliament, that he would do his best to attend the inauguration ceremonies in February. Plans are also underfoot to have Mr. Lee do a stopover in Tokyo on his return from a March trip to Washington.

* It was of course picked up by the Japanese media. Predictably, The Sankei website carries a fairly extensive account of the speech here - it differs on a key point from the Chosunilbo translation; for linguistic reasons, I believe that Sankei’s Japanese translation is more accurate - while Asahi runs this article on the criticism from President Roh’s supporters under the headline 李・次期大統領の「日本に謝罪求めず」発言に批判 韓国 President Lee’s “Won’t See Apology from Japan” Statement Criticized: South Korea”. Apparently, South Korea consists solely of President Roh’s supporters in the minds of the Asahi copy editors.

** 謝罪、反省の問題では日本も形式的にやってきたのは事実で、そのため韓国国民にそれほど感動を与えることができなかった。しかし、自分としては成熟した両国関係のために謝罪や反省は求めない。日本も要求がなくてもそういう話ができるような成熟した外交をすると思う。


Anonymous said...

I believe you mean the brother of the President-elect of South Korea.

If it was the President-elect himself, that would have been news.

Jun Okumura said...

Sorry to have confused you and thanks for taking the time. However:

Fukuda told Mr. Lee’s emissary, his brother and Deputy Chairman of the South Korean Parliament,...

=Mr. Lee and his emissary, who is Mr. Lee's brother as well as Deputy Chairman of the Parliament.

Fukuda told Mr. Lee’s emissary, his brother and the Deputy Chairman of the South Korean Parliament

=Mr. Lee's emissary, Mr. Lee's brother, and the Deputy Chairman of the Parliament.

or: Mr. Lee's emissary, the emissary's brother, and the Deputy Chairman of the Parliament.

Having said that:

It actually took me some time to figure out a way to write that part of my post concisely and unambiguously, but realize that I should tried even harder. I am myself often annoyed when I can only figure out the correct meaning of a sentence after going over with painstaking care. The writer should not force the reader to do that. In the future, I'll try to rely less on the usage of articles and other bits of grammar and more on overall structure to get the meaning across.