By Oh Young-jin
A foreign correspondent I once knew observed at the end of his Korean stint, “Korea is a heaven for journalists.” Few in our line of work would disagree because this country offers an unlimited supply of news both on domestic front and from overseas.
Last week was no exception with a familiar cast grabbing the headlines.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda upped the ante with more nationalistic nonsense in a pre-election campaign. He acted as if he was reacting to President Lee Myung-bak’s trip to Dokdo, Korea’s easternmost islands.
As described in our photo essay on the front page of the weekend edition, Noda reminds Koreans of Imperial Army Gen. Hideki Tojo, who led Japan in the Pacific War during World War II. By extension, Noda may be comparable to Adolf Hitler, leader of Nazi Germany.
Noda is trying to deny or dilute the severity of horrible misdeeds committed by generations of his parents and grandparents ― taking neighboring countries by force, enslaving their peoples and using them as cannon fodder in an unjust war that killed millions.
It’s hard to imagine that German Chancellor Angela Merkel would act like Noda and defend the actions of the Nazis.
Lee’s Dokdo trip should not be an excuse for Noda to carry out further misconduct because it belongs to Korea in the first place and his trip was part of his duties as head of state to exercise our territorial sovereignty.
The biggest difference between the two is that Noda leads the perpetrator-country that inflicted wounds on Korea, both psychological and financial, that are still not completely healed.
When Lee demanded that Japanese King Akihito apologize on behalf of his father for Korean women forced to work as sex slaves in Japanese Army brothels, he merely tried to remind Japan that it is indebted to Korea and other victim countries.
Noda has reopened wounds by making irresponsible claims that his ancestors didn’t conscript the sex slaves by force. If he were German, he would be considered as a Holocaust-denying skinhead.
It is easy to dismiss him as an aberration in the modern, sensible Japan. But he does not appear to be alone with other young politicians singing the same nationalistic tune.
The assertion that the geopolitics of today is totally different from the pre-Pacific War era so there are no worries about the resurrection of imperial Japan sounds ominously naive. Remember British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain who underestimated Hitler’s ambitions and ended up enabling him to go to war with the rest of Europe.
One old Korean folk tale warns us against becoming a Chamberlain. A grandmother with freshly-made rice cakes walks on a mountain path and faces a tiger that appears out of blue. The tiger tells the woman that he won’t eat her, if she gives him one rice cake. The tiger makes the same demand until she runs out of rice cakes and then eats her too. What if Chamberlain hadn’t signed the Munich Agreement and conceded parts of Czechoslovakia to Hitler.
We don’t want to be like Chamberlain with Noda and his Japan, do we?
The $1 billion jury verdict against Samsung Electronics in its patent dispute with Apple elicited lots of sentimental headlines in vernacular media outlets. Our newspaper had its share but most of them were made before the verdict was out.
One headline cried out, “Samsung loses on American patriotism” and ours was “Did Steve Jobs dupe us all?”
Being sentimental doesn’t necessarily mean being wrong.
A cooler head calls for a comparison between the Samsung case and that of Toyota.
Toyota was a king in the U.S. market with its utilitarian models but some fatal accidents forced it to run the gauntlet in the form of media scrutiny, political pressure and consumer disenchantment.
While the carmaker was taking a drubbing, the American “Big 3,” all basket cases, have recovered from the brink of collapse and are now back in the saddle.
In reaction to the Toyota bashing, much like Toshiba bashing before it, the Japanese firm hunkered down and took blows until the brouhaha blew over. It remains to be seen whether it was the best strategy but Toyota still remains active in U.S.
Can Samsung learn from Toyota?
We know that Samsung has a lot to lose financially and in terms of damage to its reputation if the verdict is upheld by Judge Lucy Koh. Samsung has every reason to call foul as pointed out by a number of experts.
But it can’t forever shake its fist and punch the air in disappointment once the ruling is made.
The alternative is obvious ― grit its teeth, take the blow and persevere like Toyota.
When you look at Samsung’s track record, chances are that it can absorb the punitive damages and still make its products available at the same quality and same price.
For Apple, its victory may be sweet but only temporarily, if it continues the late Steve Jobs’ novelty of calling unregistered patents his and his alone. If not, the San Jose verdict will only buy it limited time.