A Korean admires Koizumi

This op-ed from the Chosun Ilbo by Tokyo correspondent Jong Son-U — entitled “We Can Learn Much From Japanese Patriotism” — provides yet another reminder of why it is unfair to view Japanese nationalism as a unique threat to the region.

Jong writes of a visit to Yasukuni by Koizumi last year:

I felt strangely envious at the Yasukuni Shrine that day. People criticize Japan leaders’ visits to the shrine as irresponsible, but that’s not how I was feeling at that moment. Instead I wondered if our own president could attract a thousand young Koreans to the National Cemetery in Seoul. I shook my head. Clearly we can’t compare Yasukuni with the National Cemetery; I use the analogy only to discuss the matter of encouraging patriotism in young people, whether it is right or wrong. In his inimitable way, Koizumi was able to use his innate gift for showmanship to further a state effort: a bill in Japan requiring the teaching of patriotism was passed into law this year.

In Asia, everyone’s (more than) a little bit nationalist. It’s just interesting to see a Korean journalist look to Japanese nationalism with envy instead of rage.

Perhaps that explains why, after initially reading this article over coffee this morning, I was unable to access it again to write about it until now. (I suspect there was some tinkering, but I can’t tell what has changed, if anything.)

In any case, it’s a good reminder that Japanese, Chinese, and Korean nationalists are not all that different: each is interested in interpreting history to show their nation in the best possible light, each seeks to assert the broadest possible claims on national territory, and each feels more than a little uneasy about the activities of nationalists in neighboring countries.

It seems that the nationalism problem in East Asia may get a lot worse before it gets better, but this is hardly surprising, as the region’s powers are reaching their maturity as modern nation-states, just as Europe’s nation-states slouch into the post-national retirement home that is the European Union.

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