[Editorial] A disturbing comedy
Published : Aug 2, 2011 - 18:47
Updated : Aug 2, 2011 - 18:47
The three Japanese Diet members who were turned back from Gimpo Airport nine hours after arriving in Korea Monday morning may still feel their airport-to-airport trip was politically rewarding. But they will be only remembered here for having performed a comedy, a very disturbing one at that, disappointing many who wanted growth of friendship and trust between the two neighboring countries.

There were a few charming scenes in the episode; they ate bibimpap and bought dried sea laver before flying back home after resisting immigration authorities’ order of no disembarkation. Thus they tried authentic Korean food like relaxed tourists while causing a lot of abhorrence with their politically-motivated trip to this country. This gesture incurred the wry comment from one of the protesters at Gimpo, “I’m afraid they may now claim that bibimpap is a Japanese dish.”

The Japanese politicians’ choice of the East Sea island of Ulleung-do as a symbolic destination to support Tokyo’s claim of territorial right to Dokdo, which is 80 kilometers from Ulleung-do, was a strategic mistake. Whoever looked at the map of the East Sea accompanying reports on the trio’s trip to Korea must have once again realized the relative proximity of Dokdo to Ulleung-do compared to the distance to the nearest Japanese territory of Oki Island, which is 150 kilometers away.

President Lee Myung-bak opted for the tougher action of turning them back from the airport instead of a softer reaction of officially ignoring the Japanese visitors and leaving them to the mercy of Korean public as some aides recommended. Special Affairs Minister Lee Jae-oh, meanwhile, stole the show a bit by making a “preemptive trip” to Ulleung-do and then to Dokdo Monday. We are impressed by his loyalty to the country and to the president, but his devotion of full three days in dealing with the Japanese politicians’ cheap gambit was a little excessive for a cabinet member.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano’s complaint on the Korean authorities’ “mistreatment” of the Japanese lawmakers was a fitting closure to the comedy. It would have been better if he thanked the Seoul government for the generosity shown to the oppositionists who were thirsty for a shallow popularity boost.