Japan recently apologized to South Korea for its colonial rule from 1910 to 1945, seeking, an Associated Press report said, “to strengthen ties between the two countries ahead of the 100th anniversary of the Japanese annexation of the Korean Peninsula.”
During Japan’s occupation of Korea, many Koreans were forced to fight as frontline soldiers for Japan’s Imperial Army, work in slave-labor conditions or serve as prostitutes in brothels operated by the Japanese military. Sound familiar?
Substitute “Taiwan” for “Korea” in the news reports, and the picture becomes clear. Japan also owes an apology to Taiwan for drafting young Taiwanese men to fight as frontline soldiers for Japanese military campaigns and for forcing thousands of Taiwanese women, many of them Aboriginal girls, to serve as “comfort women” in Japanese military brothels. Just as many older Koreans still remember atrocities committed by Japan, many older Taiwanese also remember.
Although the issues do not remain as sensitive here in Taiwan all these decades later, the mental and psychological toll of the Japanese colonial rule of Taiwan cannot merely be airbrushed away by Japanese spin doctors.
“For the enormous damage and suffering caused by this colonization, I would like to express, once again, our deep remorse and sincerely apologize,” Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan told the Korean people earlier this month.
His statement was intended specifically for the ears of South Korean people, in contrast to earlier apologies by Japan for wartime actions made broadly to the Japan’s Asian neighbors, including Taiwan.
Kan also said Japan plans to return some “stolen” Korean cultural artifacts, including historical documents that it “acquired” while ruling the Korean Peninsula.
History is a cruel reminder of what some nations do to other nations, and while many South Koreans were glad to hear of Kan’s remarks, many older people in Korea told reporters covering the story that Tokyo’s most recent apology was insufficient, saying it should be backed up by specific measures, such as reparations for victims, prosecution of wrongdoers and a record of the Japanese military’s history of sexual slavery in Japanese textbooks.
After Kan’s remarks were publicized, a small group of activists protested in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul, urging Japan to offer a more sincere apology and return all Korean cultural artifacts in its possession.
One activist said: “We no longer welcome apologies of words without action.”
Kan’s apology comes ahead of the 100-year anniversary of Tokyo’s annexation of the Korean Peninsula on Aug. 29. The 100-year anniversary of Tokyo’s forced annexation of Taiwan occurred in 1995.
Will Japan also agree to return some of Taiwan’s cultural artifacts that were also transported to Japanese museums during the colonial days and also apologize in a humble and heartfelt manner for forcing young Taiwanese women into sexual servitude for Japanese soldiers during the war years, some as young as 16 and 17?
Certainly, war is terrible and ugly, and unspeakable acts often occur, but where are the apologies from Japan. Germany, after World War II, apologized to the world, and it has been in apology mode ever since. Has Japan ever really apologized for the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, for the atrocities committed all over Asia during what it calls the Pacific War, for the unspeakable horrors that the Taiwanese, Dutch and Korean comfort women had to live through?
Will Taiwan ever get a similar apology from Japan? Only history knows, and for now, history’s not talking.
Dan Bloom is a US writer based in Taiwan.
Over the past year, scores of gargantuan Chinese sand dredgers have deployed themselves in territorial waters off the Taiwanese-administered Matsu Islands, where their activities erode beaches and ruin fishing shoals. These Chinese ships are mercenary; a small 5,000 ton ship could sell a load of sand for the equivalent of US$55,000 to Fujian construction firms — or to the People’s Liberation Army for use in building its artificial reefs in the South China Sea. They also frustrate Taiwan’s government, which tries unsuccessfully to cooperate with Beijing on environmental stewardship of their contiguous waters. Each day, Taiwanese Coast Guard vessels can
On Monday last week, a formation of 16 Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) warplanes flew over the South China Sea near Malaysian Borneo and intruded into the airspace of Malaysia’s exclusive economic zone. Although it was not the first incursion into Malaysian airspace by Chinese military aircraft, it was the first time such a large formation had been dispatched by China. It was yet another worrying indication that Beijing senses an opportunity to aggressively shape the post-COVID-19 world in its own image and has stepped up its plans to expand the frontiers of its empire well beyond the limits of its
With Taiwan’s COVID-19 “ring of steel” breached, the public is demanding vaccines, and politicians are calling for vaccine imports to be expedited. However, the manner in which the debate is being conducted leaves much to be desired. Some people believe that companies and nonprofit groups should be allowed to import vaccines. This is not as simple as it sounds. The mRNA vaccines made by Moderna and BioNTech need to be stored at extremely low temperatures during their transportation from overseas manufacturing plants to the clinics that administer them. Regarding the BioNTech vaccine, its export from the EU requires complex paperwork and procedures.
With more controversies upsetting the nation’s fight against COVID-19, government agencies need to regain the public’s confidence. Being more transparent would be a good start. Over the past week, several politicians have apologized for failing to prevent more COVID-19 deaths, including President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) and Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中). They must be frustrated to see their globally acclaimed victory from last year being denounced. However, their apologies must ring hollow to the grieving families and those who have no access to rapid testing kits or COVID-19 vaccines. To make matters worse, a Taipei-based clinic