About Ito himself; well, the 四十七士 were criminals, right? Simply because an action is illegal does not make it wrong; there is no incompatibility between Ahn being both a criminal and a hero. The Japanese of all people should understand that better than anyone else; their national epic is the tale of illegal revenge by the retainers of a lord, who, if you consider the full story, was definitely in the wrong; he was too impulsive and too unwise to avoid being forced to commit seppuku. It was a completely pointless action; which is why you venerate the 誠 of the ro-nin, whose actions ultimately resulted in their deaths. And like the 47 Ro-nin, Ahn turned himself in to authorities and was ultimately executed.
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And well, if you say that the Chinese and Koreans are children for not being able to forget the events of a hundred years earlier; in East Asia, we have a higher incidence of long MAOA genes, which scientific research claims disposes us to violence. But amazingly enough, in East Asia, we all tend to have a high level of civilization; while there are places where people tend towards uncivilized behavior, we're not like the Americans, who have a culture of violence and think it's acceptable to settle things like cowboys.
What recent research is showing, rather, is that MAOA is not actually a violence gene per se, but rather a justice gene; which incites its carriers to hold onto long grudges. It is part of the orderliness of our societies; in that we know that a crime committed decades ago will not go unavenged, so it's better off not to commit the crime in the first place. While the legacy of Japanese imperialism need not be settled with violence; it ultimately must be settled.
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I think the point is that Japan needs to acknowledge its status and state as an East Asian nation and to do so, it must come to terms with its post-Meiji history in East Asia.
The key factor is the rise of China; by the end of the year, the Chinese economy will be twice the size of the Japanese economy, and by the end of the decade, the Chinese will be on par with the United States as a major economy.
The Chinese, for better or for worse, are historians in their blood; whereas in other countries myth and folklore may take up the space of tradition, for the Chinese, they talk about events that have occurred more than 2000 years ago as though they happened yesterday. The Chinese are probably psychologically incapable of forgetting slights that occurred even 150 years back, and will not indulge the Japanese on this affair.
Japan, as an aging country with an increasing debt load and economic stagnancy (Taiwan overtook Japan in PPP GDP per capita in the past few years) cannot play a decisive role in the region, and ultimately needs to come to terms with its past and integrate with its neighbors.
This can be done through either peaceful or violent means; I'm not suggesting that China will end up trying to conquer Okinawa or land troops on Honshu, but Japan has a history of making rapid about faces when the superiority of its enemies is evident; as Ruth Benedict mentioned, this is one of Japan's strengths. When the Yamato expedition to sake Baekje was destroyed by a combined Tang-Silla force, Japan began studying Chinese culture and civilization to learn the secrets of their strength. When the Europeans made evident their military superiority in the Anglo-Satsuma Wars and other small wars before the fall of the Shogunate, the Japanese restored the Emperor and began learning the secrets of Western industrial civilization to save itself. When the Americans nuked Japan at the end of World War II, Japan accepted Americanization in order to rebuild and rejoin the ranks of the leading nations.
The problem is whether it's necessary for Japan to receive yet another show of force. Japan, to some degree, thinks itself the superior of its neighbors, with some justification; the Chinese lack craft, art, and discipline, while the Koreans are lacking in high-culture. They have their own different virtues, but they're not apparent to the Japanese. And Japan was never properly defeated by either the Chinese or the Koreans; on the continent, Japanese troops reliably defeated both Communist and Nationalist forces even into the closing months of the war, and while the Allies were planning to perform amphibious landings of Nationalist forces onto Honshu, the nuclear attacks on Japan removed the necessity. Were the Nationalists transported into Japan to be given their own opportunity to commit atrocities, like the Red Army getting their own back as they advanced into Germany, we wouldn't be in this position.
However, By 2030, East-Asian relations will be markedly improved, with a better understanding of history on all sides, more mutual respect on all sides, and an end of long-term enmity in the region. The question is what happens around the 2020 timeframe; will Tang and Silla again act to defeat Yamato, or would all parties peaceably back down and extend their humanity?
As to the Ito incident; the Koreans are being creative in their resolution of long-standing issues. The Koreans and Chinese dislike Japan over its past actions, but what really upsets them is that Japan will not admit to it and will not achieve a consensus on its past history of imperialism. What upsets them more than comfort women is when Japanese politicians try to explain it away or deny it without being punished by their electorate, what upsets them more than the Nanjing Massacre is when the Japanese political organs try to whitewash it. By celebrating a nationalist Korean terrorist, they are sticking the finger back to the Japanese and letting the Japanese understand how the Chinese and Koreans feel about the Japanese right. In the same way, there are plans for an atomic bomb museum by the Chinese and Koreans, that celebrates the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
It's a step forward; in that by giving the Japanese grievances against the Chinese and Koreans, there becomes something for the Chinese and Koreans to trade away in negotiations.
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