Yoichi Funabashi’s opinion pieces are usually well-informed, thoughtful and sane. It’s a disappointment to find him now writing as a patriot. His article “Tokyo, Seoul and the weaponization of history” in the Oct. 11 edition boldly broaches urgent issues but fails to come to terms with the main one.

He lines up the points of contention: stricter controls over exports to South Korea of “certain materials for semiconductor production;” the sharing of military information; South Korea’s Supreme Court decision to hold Japanese companies liable for wartime compensation, despite a 1965 agreement between the two countries that was meant to settle all claims.

Moreover, he aptly characterizes a crucial aspect of the bilateral relationship. Japan and South Korea, he writes, are “bound together by dense ties of economic interdependence.” In addition, he recognizes “the entanglement of historical problems with economic interdependence.” The “dense ties” between the two countries are more than economic. They share a long, complicated history.

Funabashi makes clear that Japan has the upper hand in the economic dispute. His country has “chokepoints” and leverage to damage South Korea’s economy.

Despite Japan’s disproportionate economic advantage, he cautions — the voice of sanity — against inflicting “catastrophic damage” to the South Korean economy.

Here, however, is Funabashi, the patriot: “South Korea chose to weaponize history, while Japan has weaponized economic interdependence.”

History and economic power are false equivalences.

Can history be used as a weapon? Can the South Korean government adopt a policy of ignoring the years under Japanese rule?

South Koreans, on their own, will remember how their country suffered under Japanese rule for as long as Japanese will remember the barbaric atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Even though we don’t seem to learn from history, keeping it alive is important. Japan’s efforts to weaponize denial will win less respect than ridicule.


The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

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