South Korea’s president has caused a scandal by demanding “the Japanese king” grovel before the Korean people in apology should he wish to set foot on that peninsula’s sacred soil.
South Korean president Lee Myung-bak made a public address at a university at which he told an audience of student teachers “Japan’s king” should “kneel” (i.e. kowtow or dogeza, the most grovelling form of apology possible in East Asia) before the Korean people in apology for daring to maintain its claim over Takeshima, should he wish to pay a state visit to Korea.
He further compounded the insult by referring to Japan’s emperor as “the Japanese king” instead of “emperor” as is customary, with both comments being unprecedentedly undiplomatic as such things go.
The Japanese government has avoided any official diplomatic response by suggesting his remarks were “surely only his personal opinions?” – although what exactly the difference is when a president makes such comments to a public audience in an official address is not clear.
Japan’s government and royal family have made numerous apologies for Japan’s earlier imperialist ventures, but China and Korea have tended to ignore them and instead press for apologies of ever greater humility and acknowledgements of crimes of ever inflating magnitude.
Opportunistically fostering internal public hatred of Japan and maintaining Japan’s economic “aid” are often cited as factors involved in otherwise bizarre efforts to maintain Japan as the region’s foremost aggressor nation.
The South Korean president had only just finished making the first presidential visit to the disputed Dokdo/Takeshima islets in the Sea of Japan, which the Japanese government urged him not to do and then called “regrettable.”
This followed on from a South Korean footballer being thrown out of the Olympics in disgrace for waving a placard proclaiming Korean sovereignty over the territory at a match, although the Korean response appears to have been a series of further accusations and demands levelled at Japan rather than any gesture of contrition.
Whether or not it has any official consequences, the president’s antics have outraged a significant number of Japanese, with an insult directed against Japan’s imperial household beyond the pale for many:
“This is tantamount to a declaration of war!”
“I can’t believe he was so rude as to call him ‘king’!”
“He should never have gone near this.”
“This sort of thing used to cause wars…”
“They can get away with saying what they like about Takeshima, but insulting the emperor will not be forgiven.”
“I don’t think much of our imperial system but even so this is way out of line.”
“Was there an election coming up?”
“His approval is at like 20% so he is just desperately trying to grub up votes by stirring up hatred against Japan.”
“The South Korean presidency has a 5-year 1 term limit, so what is puzzling is that he has no need to fight to be re-elected… why is he so desperate?”
“His family and those around him are being investigated for corruption, and his older brother was arrested for bribery. He’s just earning brownie points for anti-Japanese activity so they don’t nail him too hard when his time is up.”
“He was really anti-Japanese even before, and was always being provocative like this. His government and the Japanese media just made sure to play it down.”
“He’s at the end of his term with no chance of re-election, so he can say anything.”
“He should be begging for his life.”
“Can we please stop our economic aid to them?”
“At least stop that huge currency swap we are doing for them.”
“This is an insult against the Japanese spirit!”
“The Japanese and Korean governments are actually cooperating – this time the Japanese government needed an external scandal to distract everyone from its huge tax increases.”
“He pretty much killed relations with Japan with that remark.”
“Sad to think someone like this is the South’s president – I guess it shows what kind of people they are.”