Is bibimbap Japanese?
I loved late President Roh Moo-hyun for his consistent push for reform even in the face of strong criticism and sometimes derision from conservative politicians, professors and the media.
At the same time, I hated him when it came to his hostile attitude toward and shallow understanding of journalists. Roh even instructed ministries and other government agencies to shut down press rooms.
As far as his opinions on Dokdo are concerned, I was 100 percent with him. His rationale was clear-cut, and unarguably correct even though some Japanese might not agree.
His stance: Dokdo is not about fisheries or natural resources around the islets. It is about whether or not Japan regrets what it did in Korea during the 35-year colonial rule in the early 20th century. It is about whether or not Japan is ready to be a peace-loving nation in East Asia.
Considering what they have done of late, I think they do not regret their past actions and are not ready to become a good friend.
Some Japanese politicians have kept trying to visit Ulleung Island, near South Korea’s easternmost Dokdo islets, which are called Takeshima in Japanese. Japan has again described Dokdo as its territory in its Defense White Paper. Plus, Tokyo has banned its diplomats from taking Korean Air flights in protest against the airline’s test flight of a new A380 jet over Dokdo.
Some say that Japanese politicians are attempting to turn people’s attention to the Dokdo issue to raise jingoistic sentiment, which would help improve the low popularity of the governing party in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disasters following a massive earthquake and tsunami.
Others contend that Japan’s right-wing politicians and scholars want to draw public attention through the above-mentioned maneuvers over Dokdo.
No matter what the reason is, such moves are as toxic as radioactive leaks from the Fukushima nuclear reactors. The Japanese should remember that such schemes could cost them dearly.
Whenever Japan makes claims over Dokdo by commenting on historical materials or the San Francisco Peace Treaty, it reminds us that Japan does not sincerely reflect on its wartime atrocities; it is apparently not ready to become a good neighbor; and it does not want to march together toward a better future.
What if Germany claims sovereignty over a French island, which the Nazis took over in World War II? Would Europeans accept Germany as a responsible and reliable neighbor? Not a chance in a million.
The three Japanese lawmakers, who were denied entry this week at Gimpo International Airport near Seoul due to their controversial plan to visit Ulleung Island, reportedly ate the traditional Korean dish bibimbap, rice mixed with meat, vegetables and red pepper paste, at the airport.
I want to let the Japanese people know this. Do they know what Koreans are saying about them? We are saying half-jokingly that hereafter Japan might claim the Korean dish is in fact a Japanese one too.
It is not merely a joke. Feelings of Koreans are exactly like that. As bibimbap has been a Korean dish for such a long time, so has Dokdo been Korean soil. My advice: Grow up and be ashamed of what happened to Korea during the brutal rule between 1910 and 1945. Otherwise, Korea will have no choice but to feel that the imperialistic insanity of the early 20th century still lurks deep inside Japan.
Kim Tae-gyu is an assistant economic editor of The Korea Times. He can be reached at email@example.com.