▲ Hosaka Yuji, a professor of Sejong University and expert on Korea-Japan relations poses for a photograph. © weeklymonday
Hosaka Yuji was born and educated in Japan but became naturalized in 2003. He has written many papers and books on the history of Korea-Japan relations and controversial issues between two countries, including “Joseon Seonbi and Japanese Samurai” and “Dokdo, Its 1500-year-old History.” He is also Director of Dokdo Research Institute in Sejong University and has found critical evidence to support why Dokdo is part of Korean territory. – Ed
Q: Although you have been naturalized as a Korean, you haven’t changed your Japanese name. Is there a particular reason for it?
A: Well, two reasons. First, my name represents my work. If I change my name, the public wouldn’t be able to recognize what I have previously worked on. Secondly, since my works are mostly about refuting the Japanese unreasonable assertions, the Japanese name would add credibility to my work. Personally, I think the Korean system of allowing the naturalized citizens to keep their original names is more reasonable than forcing to change their name, which is the Japanese system.
Q: What is your major research subject, Professor Hosaka Yuji?
A: Throughout my masters and doctoral degrees, I had worked on the topic of Japanese colonization. Territorial disputes over Dokdo, and issues about comfort women and the East Sea, all these have happened during or are related to the Japanese colonization era.
Q: Could you tell us more about the Dokdo and comfort women issue?
A: Well, in the dispute over Dokdo, the main point is why the Japanese tried to put the island into their territory in 1905. The fact that they tried to “take away” the island and put it into their territory already proves that the island was not theirs. In fact, Dokdo was just part of the land that had already been colonized along with the mainland. By insisting specifically the island as theirs, they were showing the truth about the territorial dispute over Dokdo.
About the comfort women issue, too, the Japanese government is insisting that the comfort women were willing prostitutes, by slyly connecting the issue with other Japanese administration systems, denying it the status of a war crime.
Q: What do you think about the Japanese government’s decision on releasing Fukushima water into the sea?
A: The key point on the issue is that the Japanese government had not discussed or asked for consent by any neighboring countries. They simply reported Fukushima water is clean and unpolluted. Actually, the scientific evidence is just numbers that blinds the public from the real “political issue,” the political dispute over building a nuclear powerplant. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had also been deceived by faulty Japanese reports, but recently decided to send a board of inspectors after pressure from the Korean and the Chinese governments.
Q: You have mentioned that the Japanese government should admit and apologize for their transgressions.
A: Yes, I believe that is the only way. However, that may sound too ideal at the same time. I think the key actions to be taken after apologizing is reformation of education, I mean, they should teach the young generations what had truly happened in the past. Germans teach their younger generations on the Holocaust and World Wars in detail, not to repeat the same mistake. Japan, rather than teaching the truth, tries to cover up the truth and brainwash the nation with wrong information. For example, the Japanese government use the term “comfort women” with the meaning of women in prostitution, removing the word “Japan” from it to erase its responsibility. Also, in the term “forced labor”, they erase the word “forced”, for students to unknowingly accept it as simply fair labor during war time.
Q: Do you think there is a cultural difference between the two countries?
A: Well, because we look alike in appearance, we expect Koreans and Japanese to think and act similarly, but I believe it is wrong. Korean culture is fundamentally based on Confucianism, while Japan is based on the Samurai spirit. Basically, “good” in Confucianism means being morally right, while in Samurai culture it means winning over the opponent. “Bad” also means conducting harm to others and be morally flawed to Korean people while, in Japanese culture, it means being defeated by the opponent. This fundamental difference ends up with difference in tactics and actions. The Japanese plan and make details carefully and sophisticatedly. However, Korean people are apparently so focused on what is morally right. Being truthful matters, but sometimes, details are considered less.
Q: As citizens in this globalized society, what values and attitudes should young students from the two countries have?
A: I strongly believe that there should be more interactions and cultural exchange between them. They should accept facts as facts and fight for what is right. In the process, they should stop the hatred and enmity toward each other. Actually, they are doing much better than the adults, and we should learn from them.
In addition, I want to tell this to them. We are all the same human beings. There is no difference that justifies any kind of hierarchy. Thinking we are different, that is the basis of hate crimes, biases, and prejudices. We must caution against blind nationalism and work to develop an open-minded attitude to other human beings.
[Weeklymonday No.60 Monday, May 31, 2021]