5.The Politics of Apology

In recent years the Japanese government has been repeatedly criticized for its failure to accept “war responsibility.” Japan has been urged to apologize for its wartime actions in Asia, particularly the “Nanjing Massacre,” the activities of Unit 731, the forced conscription of Chinese and Korean workers, and the promotion of “sexual slavery” in the form of comfort women. And when Japanese politicians have apologized, the sincerity of their remorse has been deemed unsatisfactory.

Take a look at list of apology statements issued by Japanese government leaders as compiled by Wikipedia

Some questions for critical thought:

  • Why have these apologies been insufficient?

  • And why do the majority of these apology statements (and the related demands for apologies) come in the 1980s and especially in the 1990s – 50 years after the end of the war? Why not earlier?

  • Compare the process of reconciliation between former World War II enemies Germany and France and Japan and China or Japan and Korea. Compared with Europe, why has it been so much more difficult to achieve reconciliation in Northeast Asia?

  • Finally, what role has the United States played in the politics of apology?