Friday, September 13, 2002

In the next substantial move by North Korea, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi will head to Pyongyang for talks. The two key issues to be discussed will be the Japanese abductees and for North Korea, the issue of compensation. If information on the abductees alone is enough in the first meeting to spur further talks and open negotiations for compensation agreements then perhaps there might be a shadow of hope. If the Japanese demand their return, then I think things are looking dim.

Normalising ties between North Korea and Japan has significant undertones on the direction and change occuring within the reclusive self-reliant state. In the aftermath of the Korean war, the pain and bitter resentment of Japanese colonial rule was still fresh in the Korean mindset. Much of North Korea's juche philosophy emphasised the need to be self-reliant and independent in reaction to the subjugation and domination Korea had experienced at the hands on greater powers and especially Japan. South Korea too was extremely reluctant toward normalising ties with Japan after the war and only did so at the behest of US pressure and from the need to secure aid and assistance to build up the economy. But relations were not good and it was only in the last couple of years that regulations have eased to allow Japanese consumer imports including animations and cars into South Korea, a full fifty years after Japan was ousted from Korea.

But it would optomistic to expect too much from these talks. On the one hand we can be thankful that arrangements for former Japanese Prime Minister and frequent gaffer Mori didn't get to make the journey north. Instead we have Koizumi, better known for his controversial visits to the Yakusuni shrine, final resting place to many Japanese war criminals.

But the experience of South Korea could offer some insight for North Korea. Through the normalisation of ties the chance exists for much aid to pour from Japan. And like the early days of South Korean development, taking Japanese money doesn't mean you have to like the Japanese, it just means you should be polite to them...and not abduct their countrymen/women. Surely, that wouldn't be hard.

But I'm no expert; read more here.

Currently reading:

"Hell" by Yasutaka Tsutsui