Why is Japan called Ilbon in Korean

■ Roh Tae Woo on state visit to Japan / Extreme security precautions and protests in Seoul and Tokyo

Seoul (taz / afp) - For the first time a Japanese emperor apologized in public to the Korean people for the 35 years of colonization of the peninsula by Japan. During the state visit of South Korean President Roh Tae Woo to Tokyo on Thursday, Emperor Akihito assumed responsibility for the colonial era. In his speech at the state banquet in honor of Roh, the Emperor said: “I think of the suffering that my country brought upon your people during this unfortunate period, and I can only feel the deepest regret about it. The state visit began under unprecedented security. In Japan, too, both right-wing and left-wing radical terrorists announced that they would turn the three-day visit into a debacle. Some because they don't want an excuse, others because they don't want an “East Asian prosperity zone”. It is now eagerly awaited what formulations Emperor Akihito will find during the visit in order to objectify the still extremely tense relationship between the two countries. The emperor Hirohito, who died at the beginning of last year, had avoided any hint of an admission of guilt for the Japanese subjugation of the smaller neighboring country until the end. The subject of negotiations will also be the legal status of Koreans based in Japan.

The foreign ministers of the two countries met in Seoul at the end of last month to clarify this sensitive issue in advance. The positive outcome of the negotiations was considered a prerequisite for Roh Tae Woo's visit to Japan.

Around 700,000 Koreans currently live in Japan. So far, they have all had to bow to the so-called four "evil rules" prescribed by the Japanese Aliens Act. These include the taking of fingerprints, the possession of a special alien identity card, the authorization to expel in the event of criminal offenses and a complicated re-entry procedure. Koreans find it particularly humiliating to be treated like normal foreigners. Most of them are descendants of the Koreans who were forcibly displaced to Japan during the Second World War.

For the third generation Koreans, the status has meanwhile improved. “But what about the Koreans of the first and second generation?” The Korean media have been asking for days. And they remember with bitterness the suffering that Japan inflicted on its neighbors in the 35 years of its colonial rule (1910 to 1945). The Korean victims of the atomic bombing on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the survivors of this catastrophe, who have received little support from the Japanese authorities, are also remembered. "The emotional gap between the two countries is far greater than the 40-mile-wide Korea Strait that separates them geographically," said a Korean publication. Little has changed in this regard even after diplomatic relations were normalized in 1965. "Ilbon-saram", in German "Japanese", is still a bad swear word on the peninsula. For fear that the youth might enjoy Japanese rock music or Japanese television films, they are not broadcast at all. The resistance of the older generation, which has been waiting for Japan to officially apologize for its atrocities, would also be too great.

"The Japanese should follow the example of the Germans, who sincerely apologized for their massacre of around six million Jews," wrote a Seoul daily, reminding its readers of Willy Brandt, who knelt down in Warsaw in 1970 to ask for forgiveness. It was also noted with interest that the new government in East Berlin has already officially apologized for the murder and persecution of the Jews.

Prior to this, Prime Minister Kaifu had publicly recognized the Japanese occupation of the Southeast Asian region in World War II as an invasion. Korea showed its readiness for reconciliation when Roh Tae Woo canceled the planned trips to the USA, Canada and Mexico because of the current domestic political difficulties, but at the same time stuck to his visit to Japan.

Sandra Uschtrin