The Candle Light of Peace

Der lange Schatten des Yasukuni-Schreins
Symposium in Berlin und Heidelberg, Mai 2015
Deutsch, Japanisch & Koreanisch
Download als pdf:  de,  jp,  kr,  en

The Candle Light of Peace to Brighten the Shadows of the Yasukuni Shrine Should Glow in Germany and Be Spread throughout the World.

Suh Sung,  Ritsumeikan University, Special Appointed Professor

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II when the city of Berlin was captured by the Red Army. I remember watching a Soviet film called, The Fall of Berlin (directed by Mikheil Chiaureli in 1950), in my childhood. The most memorable scene to me was when Hitler shot himself in a bunker and Soviet soldiers, armed with PPSh-41 machine pistols, made the last rush to plug a red flag on the zest of Reichstag. On the other hand, the image of Japan's surrender which first comes to my mind is when U.S. General Douglas MacArthur landed at Atsugi Airbase in Japan with a corncob pipe in his mouth.

Japan did not have any experience of ground combat during the war except in Okinawa. After the Meiji Restoration, the Japanese army and police attacked and successfully conquered Okinawa (‘Rhukyu Kingdom’, at that time) in order to possess it as a colony under one empire. Besides, Okinawa was dragged into one of the cruelest ground battles in the history of amphibious warfare of the U.S in 1945 as a means of postponing the attack of the U.S to the mainland Japan. The order of the Japanese Army Headquarter was to fight until the death of the very last person in Okinawa. Although there were several severe attacks on the Japanese Mainland including two atomic bombs, Japanese people on the mainland did not experienced a ground battle during the war. This means that they did not directly experience the cruelty and suffering of war, and thus could not learn the deep-rooted fear of war.

In 1945, the Japanese Empire was defeated, and the year is signified as the “Year of Liberation” for the people in Korea and other countries in East Asia. They celebrate the year as being liberated from the destruction, slaughter and occupation of Japanese militarism. I was blessed as a Baby of Liberation. But this blessing of liberation did not last for me, my country nor the entirety of East Asia, because the Imperial power has continued to dominate the world. After the Second World War, the Cold War and division created another threat of war which consequently fueled the tragic wars in Korea and Vietnam. People living in the countries with divisions, such as Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam have been suffering from torture, kidnap, massacre, imprisonment and execution carried out by their own governments. I also was imprisoned for 19 years in South Korea.

The biggest problem of the post Second World War treatment is the handling of war criminals in East Asia. The Japanese Emperor Hirohito was not indicted or jailed for a war crime, but instead protected by the U.S. Authorities. Most “Class A” Japanese war criminals who were convicted were amnestied, but seven who were excuted in December 1948. Immediately after the Korean War started, the promise to dissolute Japanese militarism made by U.S. Army disappeared, and rather the history took the reverse course. The Japanese Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) was established, and Zaibatsu (a Japanese term referring to industrial and financial business conglomerates which cooperated with Army in the Empire of Japan) was restored to re-industrialize the munitions plants. Also, after Nobusuke Kishi, who was sentenced to life term as a “Class A” war criminal, was released from prison in less than 10 years, and went on to become the Prime Minister of Japan. Since then, Japanese militarism has sustained in this way and has even become deeply rooted within the society as a large numbers of convicted war criminals have occupied the central circle of Japanese politics.

The current Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, officially visited Yasukuni Shrine on December 2013. Mr. Abe is essentially accepting and admitting the fact that he not only has blood ties with his grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi, but also has a strong spiritual bond from the past to put forth the bud of Japanese militarism. While dreaming of himself to bringing back the glory of Japanese militarism, Abe's approaching the extreme conservative ideas in Japan. There are signs of the revival of militarism, such as creating the emperor as national head, promoting people to be loyal to the army and emperor, emphasizing the superiority of the Japanese, inwardly encouraging hate crimes and discriminating other ethnic groups living in Japan, especially Koreans. It seems like that he's now wishing to create a world centered Japan.

Abe's visit to the shrine conveys his deep reverence for the place in order to idealize the past war and re-position soldiers as “noble souls of dead patriots” who actually took the order of invading and occupying neighboring countries in Asia by the Emperor Hirohito. However, in fact, the Yasukuni Shrine is a military facility for psychological war for incubating “blind soldiers” who praise and even shed blood for the Emperor. His official visit threatens not only those countries in East Asia but also threatens the world's peace and is an offense on human rights issues.

After the Second World War, both nations of Japan and Germany had to accept responsibility for the fascist alliance which caused the war. But why is Japan still not sorry enough? Germany rightfully bears a great share of continuous responsibility and burden for the war, by accepting that they once committed crimes, invasions, destruction and massacres in order to repair the destroyed humanism and prevent a recurrence of Nazism which consequently have allowed it to earn the trust and goodwill of many global friends.

Japan, by contrast, has not admitted that they did anything wrong during the Second World War or during their long colonial role in Asia. In fact, Japan was treated differently and unevenly by the United States under the name of anti-communism policy born during the Cold War period. The Japanese policy of aggression, therefore, became more and more obvious and bold over several critical issues, including enforced army, comfort women, Korean bomb victims, distortion of history textbook, the territorial problem and hate speeches on Korean in Japan.

Today, I'd like to have this opportunity to appeal citizens of Germany. The liquidation of fascism hasn't finished yet. Because I believe that the liquidation of Japanese militarism hasn't occurred. Thus, German's war responsibility hasn't been completed yet as it was once aligned with Japanese militarism and provoked the war by dreaming together of world domination. After the Second World War, Germany has been tolerant and indifferent to the Japanese resurrection of militarism. And Japan even became one of Germany’s closest friends. In 1970, the Federal Air Force chief of staff of Germany visited Yasukuni and even planted commemoration trees. The trees are still growing in the yard of Yasukuni.

A decade ago, the “Anti-Yasukuni Peace Candle Action” was started to oppose the Yasukuni Shrine which metaphorically and psychologically connects the pre- and post- war periods of Japan and still now confined more over than 50,000 Korean and Taiwanese souls without any permissions of related in demoniac War Shrine. It's a collective action organized by groups based in four regions of East Asia; Korea, Taiwan, Okinawa and Japan. I sincerely wish this peace candle to be lit for the first time in Germany and help to break the darkness of Yasukuni in order to transplant “peace” in Japan to re-conciliate our friends in East Asia.