Monday, February 12, 2007

6PT & Japanese abductees issue

On Saturday I went to a Korea-Japan dialogue that was hosted by the Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy. Korean and Japanese graduate students, with a sprinkling of scholars, came together to discuss current Korean-Japanese relations. Unsurprisingly, there were divisions between what the Korean and Japanese students thought--some small, some big.

The 6PT came up and it was interesting to hear some background information on it. The Koreans were saying that the Korean government was initially unwilling to include the Japanese abductees issue into the 6PT because their biggest concern was resolving the nuclear issue. If the abductee issue was brought into the discussions it could potentially cause the break-down of the talks, which the Korean government did not want. Their mentality was: deal with the big issues first, then we can get specific. But they finally agreed to it (in part because Japan refused to start the 6PT without it on the table) and the general opinion in Korea regarding this was of incredulity. From the Korean point of view, they didn't understand how the Japanese could make such a fuss over a few abductees when they forced thousands of Korean women into sex slavery. What right did the Japanese have when they have yet to face up to the issue of the sex slavery? The vibe I was getting in the room from the Koreans seemed to generally agree with that line of thinking.

While I do understand and sympathize with the Korean p.o.v., it doesn't negate the fact that the Japanese families also have a right to know what happened to their relative. All in all, I was rather depressed when I walked out of the room because it made me realize the enormity of the differences of opinion on both sides. How can reconciliation begin when there is so much misunderstanding, mistrust and resentment on either side?


Sayaka said...

Very interesting. One thing I have noticed in group discussions that I had with Japanese and Korean students is that, although at the beginning there is a variety of different opinions among the same nationals, such differences are soon abandoned and they tend to draw a line between the two nationals. I'm sad not because there are misunderstandings, but because the identity that is forced upon individuals is based on nations. People do not have to represent their nations, necessarily.

snowume said...

welcome to the Conflict resolution field. It is very pessimistic and depressing to realize differences and misunderstandings. Yet, as sayaka said, we negotiate since we know that here is a commond ground, too.

Grace said...

At the group meeting there were a few Japanese students who were born in Japan but lived abroad in various places as well. I was rather surprised by their comments because I would have expected them to be less nationalistic and more liberal because of their experiences abroad, but I found it to be the opposite.

When I spoke about this with a Japanese-American friend, he said that it was not surprising and something he found as well. His explanation was that unlike the Japanese living in Japan who never had to defend Japan or its actions to other people (generally), those who live abroad constantly have to. Hence, they can become more "nationalistic" because of their constant defense of Japan. Sayaka, do you agree with this comment?

Sayaka said...

Hmm.. I don't know if I can generalize my experiences with Japanese friends who grew up abroad, but I have observed that there are two different tendencies among them. One is being very nationalistic -- trying to overcome their "identity crises" (although I don't like using the word "crisis" here; it's a value-loaded word). The other is ignoring the nation-state system -- becoming complete "third-culture" kids. It depends on their education/parents/social environments, but in either case, I'm sure they (not only Japanese but all people with mixed cultures) start thinking about nations and their identities at an earlier stage of their lives, I thnk.