Is the Improvement of International Relations Possible?
-with Particular Reference to the Reconciliation Between Korea, China and Japan-
Dr. Sung Joe K.S. Hahn
Professor(emeritus), Korea University
In view of the present status of international relations in East Asia, the outlook of the three nations appears apparently unsavory, if not very pessimistic. The Republic of Korea has been doing its best to maintain good relations with China, regarless of China's close alliance with North Korea. On the other hand, Korea has been behaving with hostility against the closest neighboring state; The Korean people seem to be particularly hostile to the Japanese conservative political leaders who negate the Japanese invasion against the Asian continent in the past,also denying the use of sexual slaves by the Japanese army during World War II, etc. The Korean government and people are particularly angry toward the Japanese attitude of denying Korea's possession of DoktoIsland.;
The Sino-Japan relationship is apparently more serious and tension-ridden. Japan behaved as a powerful and forceful leader of the Asian nations before their defeat in World War II. Nowadays, however, China has arisen to the position of G-2, exercising dominant power over the Asia continent, while Japan is not willing to give up their erstwhile hegemony in East Asia. Thus, the ceaseless confrontations between the old and new powers have been aggrevating the international tensions and conflicts in this area.
The confrontation of the Chinese and Japanese navy at the Senkaku Islands aroused high tension and many misgivings all over the world. Fortunately, the two nations have managed to control their own hostile emotions, in order to avoid distrust from other countries. Nevertheless, their ambitions for maximizing their own national interests and security have not changed. This is obviously not a congenial atmosphere under which the regional community can grow.
l. The Necessity of Regional Community in the East Asia
The necessity of a Regional Community in East Asia has already been well known among the peoples in this area. There is no other alternative in this area where the big four powers including China, Japan, the United States and Russia are vying for their own national interests. These power showdown calls for a governing authority in order to control the various political issues, in order to reduce the international conflict among the big powers.
In 2008, the Japanese Prime Minister Hatoyama Yikio proposed the establishment of the East Asian Community. After his resignation, succeeding new premier, Kan Nauto repeated the proposal and carried out the idea of the three nations' Cooperation committee, placing the office under the Foreign Affairs Ministry, the Republic of Korea. Nevertheless, no business was done during the first three years, presumably owing to the cold and hostile atmosphere in the East Asia, except for formal meetings on its commemoration day.
In the meantime, Japan raised several times the issue of Korea's possession of Dokto Islands. The Korean President Lee Myong-bak made several performances, demonstrating Korea’s deep interests on the island. Each time, the media of the two countries did not miss the opportunity of provoking the anti-sentiments among the populaces in the two countries.
The mass media of China did not stop their accusations of Japan, relating to Japan’s omission in their historical text books of so many criminal atrocities inflicted upon the Chinese people in the past history. The favorite themes of the Korean Mass media include the repetitions of the anti-Japanese agitations, quoting ill-willed comments or exaggerating the chauvinistic behavior of radical journalism and Conservative Japanese politicians.
We may say that some part of Korean and Chinese anti-Japanese culture grew to a almost 'constitutionally predisposed' level. Furthermore, this ominous atmosphere has been prompted by the leftistic political maneuvers which prevail in the popular journalism in the two countries. These radical sentiments also reflect the growing gap generated by the level of development between the early modernized Japan and the relatively late comers like Korea and China.
In view of these circumstances, we have to aim at the institutionalization of the Asia-Pacific Community as an immediate goal so that we can think out more feasible and practical alternatives. We may develop a track two approach which focus our efforts upon the institutionalization of NGO groups and citizens movement bodies in addition to the track one approach which is the formal institutionalization of inter governmental agreements.
The institutionalization of non-governmental agencies must precede the formal gathering of governmental agencies because the track two approach is the preparatory stage in behalf of the forthcoming formal institutionalization. It is the purpose of preparing for and bringing out the formal institutions on behalf of the forthcoming regional communities. In other words, the track two approach aims to prepare for the institutionalization of a perfect and formal organization on behalf of the Asia-Pacific Community, serving at the preparatory stage on behalf of the full-fledged Asia-Pacific Community in the future.
2. The Characteristics and the Goal of the Regional Community
(1) The citizens movement body on behalf of the Asia-Pacific Community is by definition a self Interest oriented as well as an altruism oriented charity organization devoted to the institutionalization and successful management of the forthcoming regional community. Their ultmate objectives include public information and education through all kinds of experiments related to the international exchange and cooperations aimed at the Community building in the future.
(2) The NGOs will make and manage various cyber channels and prepare for the monthly periodicals in order to activate domestic and international communications. Furthermore, these NGO organizations shall attempt to organize academic seminars for the purpose of enlightening the citizens and further activate the regional Community movement domestically and abroad.
(3) The NGO organizations, preparing for the regional Community will attempt to facilitate and accumulate all kinds of social and international exchange and cooperations, domestiablly and abroad. This means that these organizations will perform all kinds of activities for the sake of the forthcoming regional Community in the form of governance level, wherever possible.
(4) The forthcoming member states of the Asia-Pacific Community should be prepared for all kinds of war destructions and natural calamities, which are expected in the future to assault this region. This means that we must increase our capabilities of providing for necessary material and human power of assistances in order to cope with any kinds of future incidents.
(5) All kinds of civic organizations are addressed not only to meet the political and economic necessities of this region but also to contribute to the world peace and advance human welfare everywhere. The most important aspect of our efforts include the advancement of human morality and the leveling up of world culture. These effects are inconceivable without the gradual efforts of human soul purification.
(6) The Asia and Pacific region encompasses a wide area in which the three major Oriental religions - Confucianism, Buddhism and Sundoism- in addition to the Christianity and Islamism are most active. Their peaceful coexistence and mutual accommodations is the major characteristic of advanced culture of human beings.
(7) The successful growth of the Asia-Pacific community depends mainly on the quality and the enthusiasm of the leaders as well as the key workers of the citizen movements. Therefore, the education and trainings of the movement workers are of utmost importance. All the staff should be continuously retrained from time to time at the education camp at least twice a year. They should also be trained at least once in the international headquarter training camps .whereever possible.
(8) The success and failure of the Asia-Pacific Community depend largely upon the cooperation and solidarity among the afore-mentioned three nations including Korea, China and Japan (who easily become odds to one another). For this reason, one must be very careful to prevent or eliminate in advance the seeds of future conflict among the three nations.
(9) Incidentally, Buddhism has inherited very effective methods or the techniques of winning the good will of all peoples. It is called The Sasupop(四攝法). This term consists of four deeds (1) givingness(boshi 布施) give out all good things in order to win others' mind (2) loving, kind words(aeoe愛語) (3) feasible conduct(利行) (4) the participations in the same works(同行) These deeds are capable of winning all the minds of friendly participants.
3. The Conditions and the Methods for the Reconciliation of the Three Nations
The possibility of reconciliation or the improvement of international relations is not different from the conditions and methods of social relations in general. The first thing is to strive to retain the good memories or desirable impressions regarding the other persons, while forgetting or discarding the unsavory memories or bad impressions of others as much as possible. This is not an easy thing, but is capable of changing one's first impressions or unsavory perceptions related to the other persons if one tries real hard. We have an old saying; time is a cure-all medicine. ie, panacea.
The three nations including China, Korea and Japan have been more or less in close contact during the past two thousand and some more longer years. Therefore, we have a great number of good and bad memories accumulated during the long past history. Still, the historical memories and images of the past history can be transformable, depending upon each person's determination and enduring efforts: the relative level of virtues and individual characters such as the level of warm-heartedness and benevolence make big differences.
The views of negatively oriented character are quick in perceiving others' illness or shortcomings, while virtuous men excel in noticing the positive aspects in others' behavior. Comparing a positively oriented perception of a virtuous person with a negatively oriented perception of a wicked or cold blooded character, their perceptions and evaluations are quite different and often contradictory. It is because their own perceptions and evaluations of socio-political realities reflect very often their own inner psychological mechanism of individuals rather than the objective realities to which they have been exposed.
By and large, the personal cognitions or evaluations of the external realities are only the externalized aspects of the inner reactions or perceptions on the part of observers. In the recent years, Korean mass media are quite busy at exaggering the undesirable sides of the Japanese in criticizing or denouncing Japanese foreign policies and/or behavior of antagonistic government and political leaders. The main targets of criticism included Japan’s allegation of Dokto islands, Japan's refusal of admitting their crimes related to military invasion as well as the problems of the sex slaves attached to the Japanese army during the World War II.
In addition, Japan's wrong attitudes related to the ommision of describing Japanese evil doings in historical textbooks are placed on the targets of open and strong criticism. As a rule, Korean mass media can criticize Japanese injustices or wrong doings related to the Korea-Japan relations. The problem is that the Korean sentiment of anti-Japanese attitude appears often too excessive going beyond the level of rationality or objectivities. It should be reminded that this kind of offenses will invite all kinds of misfortune and calamity more toward the aggressors than toward the attacked.
This behavior can also be explained in terms of the habitual progression of emotional dynamism. If excessive emotional slandering or anti-Japanese denunciations are thrown upon the Japanese masses, the evil tongues are bounced back to the Korean audience often with further intensified tones. It intensifies in return the Korean emotions of hatred against Japan to the effect of self-destruction. There is a saying that cursing returns to oneself without exception.
This is the reason why the emotional hatred and anger can progress further going beyond the limit of rationality, particularly when the behavior becomes habitual in the state lacking the capacity of self-control. Objectively speaking, the Korean emotion of hatred and antagonism against others is not only unwise, but also very harmful to ourselves more than toward to others. If so, how can we get out from this tragic swamp of national misfortune and tragedy?
Upon this important moment, I would like to refer to the highest wisdom bestowed from the heaven, that is the high virtue of 'mercy' 'charity' or 'benevolence'. Christianity absorbs these concepts in the common word of 'love'; or divine love. One Korean folk religion phrased this concept in the terms of 解寃(meaning exoneration), 相生(meaning living together), 協力(cooperation), 造化(meaning creative working).
If we try to abide by these precepts or commandment, the reconciliation of international conflicts among the three Asian nations have no problem at all. This is to say that China, Japan and Korea can unite together and cooperate to the effect of perfect institutionalization of the Asia-Pacific Community.
4. What is the Truth about Japan?
Japan is a nation-state among some more than 200 nation states in the present day world. Obviously, the real image of Japan may differ according to the each individual. I should like to present my view of Japan as follows; (1) Japan is traditionally the land of Bushido(Samurai) spirit. This is contrasted to the idea of Korea that is the land of Civilian Ideals(士精神). The Japanese tend to view a society as vertical relations(種族社會). whereas Koreans tend to view their society in a different image unlike the Japanese . Parenthetically, Japan is the nation built mainly by the immigrants from the Korean Peninsula.
The Japanese may have thought to themselves; Japan is larger than Korea and has greater number of population. Japan is ruled by The Emperor who is the descendant of God family. China is no doubt bigger in size than Japan and has a much larger population, still lacking in its dignity of legitimacy. Hopefully, Asia and the world should be ruled by the Japanese Emperor. This means that Japan had maintained the legitimate dream of the world domination, even though their dream was miserably crushed by the Japan's defeat in World War II.
By and large, everybody loves oneself and hopes to live on the idea of self respect. Japan had been proud of their national origin ruled by the descendant of God family to which the nation has been supporting with the unchanging loyalty to the emperor. For this reason, Japan has never been defeated by any alien forces. This was the Japanese belief that it continued until the United States army landed in 1945.
Nonetheless, Japan has been maintaining the economic power, only second to the United States. This is a very unusual case as for a nation, defeated in war. The reason was because the United States wanted Japan to remain strong in fear of the expansionistic drives by the Communist bloc.
Now, Japan has seemingly been looking for a new national identity and a new role in the changing world. Japan seems to feel insecure about the present state of affairs under which Japan is incapable of military armament owing to the present constitution, while China has grown to become one of the G-2 states, and continuously is strengthening the military armament, often giving military pressures against Japan.
The conservative political leaders have raised the voice that Japan should become a normal state, having the military armament to defend the national security of the Japanese territory. In so doing the constitutional amendment is required. Nevertheless, China and Korea seem to feel very insecure at the prospect of Japan's advancement up to the position of hegemonic power.
5. Is a Defeated Nation-State Capable of Reaching the Position of World Leadership?
Japan has rapidly transformed into a state of liberal democracy after their unconditional surrender to the democratic allies led by the United State in 1945 and also has surprisingly been capable of becoming an economic world power. Japan's standing has arisen to a high position of worldly economic power owing to their continuous economic contributions to the world affairs, particularly towards the underdeveloped areas.
On the other hand, China and Korea have comparatively been in the status of frustraed nations. In view of the realities under which the most unqualified nation state like Japan, playing the role of benevolence-giver, while the two nations have not yet overcome the painful economic hardships. The government and peoples of the two countries seemed to be forced to feel some jealousy and rancor against Japan. Notwithstanding, Japan felt also no less frustrations, having been incapable of getting out from the subordinate position under the United States leadership. Japanese economy had often been subjected to the pressures coming from the United States while Japan had to pay the greatest share of charge everytimes for world affairs.
The conservative groups were also mindful of the growing power and pressures coming from the strengthened military armament of China, and felt that Japan must strengthen their military defense against the increasing external threats. Japanese have preferred to use the word of normalizing the state affairs, indicating their strengthening of the military defense in the name of 'normal state'.
They have also strengthened their defense against the criticisms from outsides. 'Japan was not an aggressor state from the beginning' 'The disarmament Conference of 193l was responsible for the Japanese repulsion in the form of military offensive which led to the Pacific War. Japan was not a war criminal state from the beginning. It was the presures of United States and the Great Britain against the supply of raw materials for Japan which caused Japan to take the military actions in the Southeast Asia in 1930’s and 40's.
There is a proverb, saying that a rat will attack a cat at the time of no way out. The Japanese conservatives shifted the responsibility of the Pacific War to the Democratic allies headed by the U.S. denying the accusation of war crimes on the ground that the war was not caused by the Japanese invasionism. The public opinion and the mass media of China and Korea resumed all-out attacks against Japanese conservative political leaders who have denied Japanese invsionism and their adamant shifting of war responsibility.
The Japanese Samurai are by its origin the Asura which is a warlike spirits, residing in the middle echelon between animals(wild beast) and human being, according to the Buddhist classification. However the Japanese Asura should be divided into two kinds: the enlightened Asura and unenlightened beastly Asura. The Japanese Samurai can be classified as the educated and enlightened Asura who belong to some higher class of human beings. We must therefore distinguish the two kinds of Asura, one is humanly enlightened Asura which is the self image of Japanese citizens, whereas China and Korea regard the Japanese residing in the level of the unenlightened beastly Asura.
Previously we have contrasted the militaristic Japan as opposed to the land of civilian supremacy, Korea. We may raise a question; who should be more responsible when the militaristic Japan invaded and conquered the land of civilian supremacy that is namely Korea? According to the Japanese Asura-like way of thinking, the Korean government and people are 100 % responsible for their own defeat. Once Korea was conquered, the Korean people should have accepted the control of the Japanese master without complaints; i.e. according to the rule of vertical relationship.
According to the believers of the Civilian supremacy, however, Japan had no right to conquer the people and the land of Korea. The Korean people had no reason to abide by the rules of the Japanese imperialism. The Korean people have had the legitimate right to resist against the unjust rule of the Japanese power.
In view of the aforementioned differences and cultural conflicts between Korea and Japan, there is no way of harmonizing or unifying the two national cultures under one regional Community. Still if we have to make the effort of reconciliation and/or unification, either Korea or Japan has to concede their own rights to the central sovereign authority which belong to all the participants. one is that Korea concedes to the leadership of Japan;, the other alternative is the method of Japan giving into Korea. As far as I am concerned, however, the second method seems to be more realistic, because non-violence, meaning intelligence can win over the military forces. In a low level society, intelligence cannot win power, because only naked violence can control the situations. But in a higher level society, violence should not oppress the wisdom originated from an intellectual power.
At the time of Japan-Korea annexation in 1910, Japan had both the military power and intelligence, while the Yi Dynasty had neither military power nor intelligence, let alone a national consensus. Speaking of the beginning of the 21st Century, however, Korea possesses the military power as well as intelligence, both, all the more so as long as Korea can get the full support of China. On the other hand, Japan has neither military power nor the moral supports sectors of population. Now Korea can lead the Japanese minds owing to the Korea's role on the matter of the Asia Pacific Community plan.
In 1910, Japan has absorbed the state of Korea. Coming to the 21st Century, Korea may be able to protect and lead Japan into a higher level of human society allying with the sober and sound sector of the population. Holding this idea in our mind, Korea should behave with greater thoughtfulness to the Japanese people. Genuinely Intelligent persons in Korea will neither openly criticize nor antagonize the conservative sector of Japan, because conservativism is the real heart and the original source of the Japanese minds.
Without encompassing the conservativism and their minds, no one can embrace the Japanese minds and culture forever. Fortunately, their culture and behavior have been originated from the identical ancestry since the remote past.
6. The Past, Present and Future of Korea-China Relations
Some 3200 years ago, King Wu(武王) of the Chou Dynasty reportedly invited Kija(箕子) a nobility and well known wiseman Kija asking for the manual of state governance. In response, reportedly Kija(箕子) recommended the book called Hongbumkuju(洪範九疇) to abide by. In appreciation of Kija's advise, the King Wu(武王) appointed Kija as the King of Chosun. Regardless of the authenticity of Chinese document, there is little doubt that China had been profoundly influencing Korea's culture and history thereafter.
Speaking about the nature of influence, it may have been the model of relationship between the big and small state, the central state vs. peripheral state, larger state versus smaller state.
At present, however, we are living in the age of international equality. The power and influence of a nation is no more derived from the hard power such as the size, population, economic and military power of the state. However, the influence of cultural and social power is rapidly growing. For this reason, small states such as the Republic of Korea may be able to exercise a greater influence upon the bigger nations including China, Russia, and the United states.
The second point we should raise is the width and scope of the influence small states can exert. Provided that the Republic of Korea should play the leading role in the establishment of the Asia-Pacific Community, the nation shall be capable of exerting greater influence over the member states of the regional community.
The third point I can raise is the dismantling effect of the triangle relationship observable in East Asia. In the past, observers often mentioned about the confrontation of the triangle relationship of North and South, exerting much influence upon the international relationship in East Asia. Whereas the U.S is the center of Southern Triangle relations, China has been regarded as the center of Northern triangle.
Nonetheless, this picture has changed gradually to a great extent. For nowadays China is much eager to expand their influence into the maritime forces. As a result, China's relationship with the United States has become more important, compared to its relationship with Russia. Also the closer relationship of China with the Republic of Korea becomes increasingly important, while North Korea is losing is their standing ground.
In the past, the relationship between China and North Korea was considered much more important, compared with South Korea. Nowadays, however, the Republic of Korea has become much more important than North Korea to the extent that China should discard the military alliance with North Korea. for this reason, the concept of military alliance has also been changed. This will bring a great deal of change in the international relations in East Asia hereafter.
7. Unity and Solidarity of the Three Nations is the Key to Success of the Regional Community
Lee Kwangyu commented: The slogan of Tokwang Yanghoe(韜光養晦) was what Tung hshao-ping had phrased, meaning that cover up the light while increasing China's own strength. This is a very wise method. China should not follow the Japanese model of rapid growth and early decline. China needs 30 to 40 more years for its national growth. In the meantime, China should make all neighbors close friends of China, maintaining the present status quo without antagonizing any other nations. This is the right way of maintaining China' model of national growth.
Lee Kwang yu regarded Shi Ching Ping, the new leader of China equating with Mandella of South Africa. On the other hand, Munhwailbo(Korean News paper), dated August 9th, 2013 (p.14) presented the view of Sung Lunghwa, Secretary, the Chinese Association for Public Diplomacy, The Sino-Japanese diplomatic relations have retreated to the level of the previous stage of cold peace. The proofs include; (1) no mutual visits among the VIP of the two countries; (2) no large scale economic cooperations; (3) the intensive animosity among the two peoples; (4) no summit meeting between two governments owing to the issue of Sengkaku islands;and (5) no meeting of foreign ministers at the recent ASEAN conference. This sort of cold peace atmosphere is ascribed to the new right wing trend of the Japanese ruling party. The Chinese Secretary expressed his misgivings about the cold war situations that the present status of Sino Japanese relations constitutes a serious problem or a grief in Asia.
As far as I am concerned, the negative attitudes of China and Korea toward Japan appears as an excessive or extraordinary behavior in foreign relations. As a rule, foreigners have no right to meddle in Japan's decision regardless either left turn or right direction. Nevertheless, Korea and China seem to attempt to punish Japan for their right turn tendency, taking it as Japan's recurrence to old invasionistic policy in the past.
In my opinion, Korea and China should wait and watch whether or not Japan's right turn policy will go into wrong directions for evil doing. The expulsion of Japan from the three nations' unity should be determined after the end results are perfectly clarified. It is my strong hope that the enduring unity and solidarity among the three nations continue on the basis of mutual trust and selfless devotion, until the Asia-Pacific Community begin to operate successfully.
As mentioned earlier, the prospect of unity and cooperation among the three countries are not at all optimistic at this moment. The purification of our minds and the work of cleaning our social cultures are no easy tasks to accomplish. In short, the purification means the state of selflessness, because the selfishness, ego centricism, individual passion for self-interest and domination are the sources of human evil and social pollutions which lead to all kinds of anti social behavior. Buddhhism stresses that selfish avarice, anger and irrationality are all source of human evils. This is the very reason why human beings must be purified through ceaseless efforts of self-introspections and social criticism.
Finishing my presentation of my view on the international problems related to the trilateral cooperation secretatiat, I have just begun to enter into the area of moral philosophy and also into the religious problems of international relations. This is a good time to pause my argument at this point. I should like to finish my paper with the following last words; 'good actions done for others return to ourselves without exception. One more words to say.
Without embracing the Japanese minds and culture, there will be no enduring unity and solidarty in the East Asia. Fortunately, their culture and behavior have been originated from the identical ancestry since the remote past. This can be the reason for our optimism in our future. (The Korean Association of International Studies, 2013 KAIS Summer Convention in BUSAN, Revised copy, August 23-24, 2013.)