Thursday, January 01, 2015

The East is East and the East is East; the Twain Shall Never Meet

The following is written even as the memory of the event inexorably fades. If someone else who was there can point out any inaccuracy—I am well aware that the passing of time does tend to burnish one’s role in the event of things—I would very much appreciate it.

The young South Korean official sitting next to me would have liked nothing better than to knock my head off. It was obvious from his expressions, body language, the way he tried to talk over me. Strange, since they had invited me, among others, to get a lay of the land in Tokyo.

My crime? I suggested that the vast majority of the Japanese who experienced World War II considered themselves victims of a military-dominated government. A shared sense of victimhood was the source of empathy for the universal suffering victims elsewhere that enabled us to express our sorrow and regret. If Koreans choose to reject that empathy and edit us, Japanese comfort women and all, out from your narrative in order to construct a uniquely national story of suffering, there will never be reconciliation; instead, a cold truce is the best that can be hoped for.

The young official studiously ignored me while we were exchanging pleasantries all around after the dinner. The host was gracious throughout, but I doubt that I will be invited again.

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