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Signing of 1965 normalization treaty sparked sharp contrast in reactions

by Kanako Takahara

Staff Writer

Fifty years ago, when Japan and South Korea signed a treaty to normalize diplomatic ties on June 22, 1965, their leaders toasted the signing in Tokyo as police in Seoul tear-gassed thousands of protesters and politicians who were opposing the move, according to archived reports by The Japan Times.

The treaty is “an example set for the whole world that whatever may be the relations existing between the neighboring nations, they can be adjusted in a friendly manner through spirit of mutual understanding,” said Prime Minister Eisaku Sato, calling the treaty “historic,” it said.

“Our two countries have trod a thorny path up to the present. A great deal of effort and patience were required to reach this day which promises to erase the nearly half century of unfortunate relations and which has ushered in a new era of mutual cooperation,” said South Korean Foreign Minister Dong Won-lee, who signed the treaty on behalf of President Park Chung-hee, the father of Park Geun-hye, the country’s current leader.

But the ceremonial atmosphere contrasted sharply with the rallies in Seoul, where many refused to forget the brutal actions taken by their colonial rulers, and with smaller rallies held in Tokyo by students affiliated with the pro-Seoul Korean Residents Union of Japan (Mindan).

In Seoul, police threw up a wall in the capitol compound to prepare for a possible attack by protesters, and about 6,000 students joined a pitched fight with riot squads numbering in the hundreds, it said.

In Tokyo, meanwhile, the Japan Socialist Party, the main opposition force, attacked the treaty’s signing as an “arrangement forced upon both Japan and South Korea by the United States in line with its strategy in Asia,” The Japan Times reported.

The JSP claimed the treaty was aimed at creating a “Northeast Asian Military Alliance” among Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, the newspaper said.

Political observers pointed out that the confrontation between the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and the opposition parties was likely to intensify when an extraordinary Diet session was to be convened later in the year to ratify the treaty, it was reported.

After the treaty was inked, U.S. Ambassador to Japan Edwin Reischauer released a statement welcoming the move.

“Great credit is due to the statesmen on both sides who have worked so hard to make possible this achievement, which I believe is greatly to the benefit of the two countries concerned and to the whole world.”