chapter  1
“Inherited” responsibility and historical reconciliation in East Asian context
ByJUN-HYEOK KWAK AND MELISSA NOBLES
Pages 17

The rapidly changing global environment calls for a new paradigm for peaceful coexistence in East Asia. This quest for a new paradigm is clearly revealed in the proposals made by East Asian political leaders in 2009, on the heels of the Lisbon Treaty, which finalized the protracted political integration process of the European Union. Japanese Prime Minister Hatoyama Yukio envisioned an EU-style “East Asian Community” as an alternative to both the APC (Asia Pacific Community) and China’s regional ambitions. Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd proposed an “Asia Pacific Community” that includes the United States in its conception of Asian regionalism. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak articulated his vision of a “New Asia Initiative” that intends to lead ongoing debates on Asian regionalism. Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong used his first bilateral meeting with Japan’s Hatoyama to emphasize the need to include the United States in the planned East Asian Community. At the same time, current scholarly views on the East Asian Community concentrate on either creating a regional identity or searching for a way to generate regional prosperity through economic exchange and a multilateral security system. However, all of these diplomatic and scholarly efforts have been unable to create a regional identity or shape an East Asian Community. One of the main reasons that these efforts appear to be ineffective

is the different and contesting interpretations of historical wrongdoings in East Asia, which sometimes stimulate virulent nationalistic sentiments. Contemporary East Asian societies are still struggling with complex legacies of colonialism, war and domination. Years of Japanese imperial occupation followed by the Cold War have entrenched competing historical understandings of responsibility for past crimes in the region. In addition, most East Asian countries, including Japan, tend to view themselves as victims and condemn others as evil perpetrators. In the end, the impressive economic and cultural networks of the past decades have failed to secure peaceful coexistence or overcome lingering attitudes of distrust and misunderstanding. Thus, it is clear that some form of historical reconciliation is necessary to generate and sustain cross-national mutual trust and prevent nationalist sentiments from reemerging.