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Home arrow History arrow The History Problem : The Politics of War Commemoration in East Asia

After the Asia-Pacific War, Before the History Problem

During the immediate postwar period, the history problem did not really exist. Not only did Japan lack diplomatic relations with South Korea and China, but also discussion of Japan’s past wrongdoings was deliberately suppressed by the governments of the three countries based on their economic interests and political calculations. Furthermore, the United States reversed the course of its policy objectives during the Occupation and allowed Japan to evade its past wrongdoings. The cross-national fragmentation of commemorations and the reverse course thus provided pol itical opportunities for conservative politicians who consolidated their power by creating the LDP and mobilizing support from the Japan Bereaved Families Association and other constituencies. Using their robust mobilizing structures, conservative politicians seized the political opportunities to dominate the government and promoted nationalism in Japan’s official commemoration. As a result, prime ministers engaged in speech and action rejecting the Tokyo Judgment, injured veterans and bereaved families were honored through government compensation, and the textbook-i nspection process tried to minimize descriptions of Japan’s past wrongdoings.

The JSP and the JCP, by contrast, adopted the logic of cosmopolitanism to commemorate foreign victims of Japan’s past wrongdoings. Yet, the opposition parties had weaker mobilizing structures and few pol itical opportunities to inject cosmopolitanism into governmental speech and action, compensation policy, and education, though they did moderate the degree of nationalism that the conservative politicians were able to institutionalize in Japan’s official commemoration. Moreover, while the JSP worked with A-bomb victims, who began to articulate the logic of cosmopolitanism to commemorate all war victims irrespective of nationality, their cosmopolitan commemoration was imperfect, because it failed to encompass foreign victims of Japan’s past aggression. Nevertheless, the imperfect cosmopolitanism that characterized the early commemoration of the atomic bombings was to play an important role in commemorating South Korean and Chinese victims after Japan normalized its relations with South Korea and China in 1965 and 1972, respectively. At the same time, normalization was also to expand Japan’s interactions with South Korea and China in both governmental and nongovernmental arenas, setting in motion the development of the history problem.

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