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Remember Sugihara

Jan 17,2018
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Standing in front of television cameras with a stern face, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, “Sugihara’s courageous humanitarian acts are highly rated around the world. As Japanese, I’m very proud of him.”

Abe visited the Sugihara House in Kaunas, Lithuania, on Jan. 14 on his European tour. Chiune Sugihara, who served as the Japanese vice consul in Lithuania during World War II, is considered “Japan’s Schindler.” He issued Japanese visas to Jewish refugees who escaped Nazi Germany-occupied Poland. He issued more than 2,000 visas in 1940. Considering the number of family members who escaped together, some estimate that he saved the lives of nearly 6,000 Jews.

While Koreans condemn Abe for not sincerely repenting for Japan’s past wrongdoings during the war, he ironically visits Holocaust-related monuments more frequently than any other Japanese prime minister. It can hardly be a coincidence that Abe makes a visit when he is cornered for troubles with neighbors over historical issues.

For example, when his visit to Yasukuni Shrine led to protests in Korea and China in December 2013, he visited the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam in March 2014. There, he said, “We would like to face historical facts in a humble manner.”

Abe visited the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., during his visit to the United States in April 2015, when attention on the sex slave issue was growing worldwide. At the press conference following the summit meeting, however, Abe repeated the old rhetoric, “I am deeply pained to think about the comfort women who experienced immeasurable pain and suffering as a result of victimization due to human trafficking.”

Once again, Abe visited the Sugihara House as the discord between Korea and Japan escalated over the thorny sex slave issue. As the Japanese government claims, it is international common sense to respect and fulfill promises between countries. However, it is against humanitarianism and justice that Abe claims to value Sugihara’s humanitarian act and yet says, “We will not move even a millimeter” when it comes to the sex slave issue involving hundreds of thousands of innocent Korean women during World War II.

Sugihara would want to tell Abe that if he is really sincere about mourning the Nazi victims, he must also demonstrate even a modicum of sincerity to the comfort women victims.

JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 16, Page 29

*The author is head of the JoongAng Ilbo Japan.

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