The New York Times reported on March 23 (local time) that the United States is becoming a battlefield in the diplomatic war between Korea and Japan, and the former is taking the lead as of now to enjoy more favorable public opinion.
Two examples of the diplomatic confrontation are the monuments for comfort women and the East Sea bill. The first monument was erected in 2010 by a Korean civic group in Palisades Park, New Jersey, and about 30 more have been set up across the U.S. since then. During the course, groups of Japanese residents in the U.S. have filed lawsuits with the municipal governments and launched fund-raising campaigns to block construction. More recently, Korean and Japanese ambassadors have flied to Virginia themselves to explain their stances on the East Sea bill, for using the designations of East Sea and Sea of Japan at the same time in textbooks provided for students in Virginia.
The two countries are striving hard to win over opinion leaders, too. “It seems that almost all of the full professors in the East Coast region have received at least one phone call from Korea or Japan,” said Jonathan Berkshire Miller, head of the Korea-Japan Working Group of the Pacific Forum Center for Strategic and International Studies.
According to the New York Times, the disputes surrounding the past were limited to Korea and Japan, but the stage has been moved to the U.S. because of Korea’s increased standing in the international community. “Korea, which is now one of the leading economies of the world, is challenging the 100-year-long dominance of Japan in Northeast Asia to shift the balance of power,” it said.
The newspaper added that it is Korea that is on the inside track for now. “The South Korean government has identified the conscription of comfort women with the inhumane war crime of the Holocaust, successfully attracting the attention of many, including mainstream media channels like CNN, with sufficient persuasiveness.” The NYT continued, “The current battle will further heat up with President Barack Obama’s state visit to Asian countries around the corner.”