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The Tokyo-Pyongyang negotiations -

Some reflections on reconciliation



By Johan Galtung, TFF associate
dr hc mult, Professor of Peace Studies
Director, TRANSCEND: A Peace and Development Network



Pyongyang, August 2000 - PeaceBoat, a Japanese NGO of which Japan can be very proud, just concluded its voyage No. 3 to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), with more than 200 participants. I conducted workshops on reconciliation and had the occasion to have dialogues with a number of well placed DPRK officials. My focus was on how North Korea sees the damage/suffering caused by Japanese imperialism, what kind of compensation they seek, and what they mean by "real apology". Some of the answers are well known, others are not; for completeness they are all included.

They mention six forms of damage/suffering: one million killed/tortured (also hibakusha); six million forced into war service including 200,000 comfort women; economic looting; cultural treasures seized or destroyed; the zainichi situation in Japan; and Japanese responsibility for the division of Korea between the USA and the Soviet Union, as a Japanese colony.

Compensation according to them depends on type of damage, and is not only in terms of money. Comfort women have to be compensated, but from the Japanese government, not from Asian Women's Fund. For the economic looting compensation in the form of economic infrastructure and social services may be adequate. Cultural treasures have to be handed back or compensated. The zainichi is a question of human rights in Japan. They demand wholehearted Japanese support in the struggle for Korean unification. And then an important principle: The victim will decide how much compensation is enough, not the perpetrator.

The North Korean conception of "real apology" includes six elements: it has to come from a Prime Minister in power; has to be in writing, preferably in a joint communique; has to contain the word "apology", not only remorse, regret; has to be specific damage/suffering in Korea; "deep", reflected in textbooks and Yasukuni visits; and should reflect apology/compensation trends in the world. Murayama was in 1995 a former PM and he did not specify Korea ("Asian nations"). A good model is the Kim Dae Jung-Obuchi joint declaration 1998 but not Japan-China with no apology for Nanjing and the 731 "experiments", for instance.

About normalization: compensation/apology is mentioned as precondition. They feel humiliated by Japanese laissez-passer documents instead of real visas; resent the word "abduction" and insist on the term "missing people"; want missiles discussed within the framework of a nuclear free zone for NE Asia; and reject US participation in military exercises from the Okinawa bases. They also reject the Japanese arguments that money has to be given directly to individuals concerned and serve people's needs, not to be diverted into palaces or military purposes. Japan is not in a moral position to dictate the use.

My own view: the DPRK position is reasonable except for the pre-condition. Negotiations flow better with all issues on the table, in no order. The two points about how money is used may be accommodated by Japan giving to infrastructure and social services. But DPRK also feels that Japan is not free to decide, does not dare be ahead of the USA, and searches for pretexts.

Only Japan can prove that this is not true. The two Kims showed the way in the historical 15 June meeting. 2K=2000, they opened a peace process for the century and deserve a joint Nobel Peace Prize. NGOs like PeaceBoat can be pilots in this process, work with North Korean NGOs on joint history textbooks, and a PeaceTrain Japan-Asia-Europe when the rail connection is a fact.



© Galtung 2000  


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