Mindan-Chongryon reconciliation unreconciles

from the Korea Times

Failure of Reconciliation in Japan
Continuous Efforts Needed to Achieve Mindan-Chongnyon Amity
It is regrettable last month’s historic reconciliation agreement between pro-Seoul and pro- Pyongyang Korean residents in Japan has unravelled in less than 40 days. The hugging and handshaking between Ha Byong-ok, leader of the pro- Seoul Korean Residents Union in Japan (Mindan), and So Man-sol, chairman of the pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongnyon), at the headquarters of the latter on May 17 was hailed as an end to the long-standing enmity between the two groups.

However, mounting opposition from Mindan’s rank and file has derailed the agreement. Discord among Mindan members was caused by the unilateral move of its leadership in declaring reconciliation with the Chongnyon. In a central committee meeting last Saturday, Ha said “we are virtually in a state of undoing our earlier reconciliation declaration.”

The primary responsibility for the confusion lies with Ha who hastily proceeded with the reconciliation, disregarding the opinions of provincial Mindan organizations. We can’t help but believe Ha’s personal ambition of achieving something as a leader disrupted the long-standing move to reconcile with its rival group. The important fact we have to consider is that reconciliation came at a time when the hostile mood of Japan toward North Korea is reaching a peak in connection with the abduction of Japanese citizens by North Korean agents.

Some of Korean residents belonging to Mindan were alienated from their Japanese friends after the report was released that Mindan reconciled with Chongnyon. Some Japanese are displeased with the reconciliation, asking: “Is Mindan also becoming an enemy to Japanese society?” The leadership failed to read the underlying sentiment of Japanese society and the hostile attitude of Japanese society strengthened opposition among Koreans to reconciliation.

The Korean residents’ groups have been at odds the last 50 years, symbolizing the territorial division of their fatherland. The invisible barriers between people of the two organizations in Japanese society were said to have been stronger than the DMZ dividing South and North Korea. But, we believe the ideological confrontation among the Koreans was a waste of energy for Japan’s largest ethnic group.

Though Korean residents are divided by the organizations with conflicting ideologies, they are living together in Japanese society where a market economy based on democracy has fully blossomed. We believe it is not so difficult for ordinary members of both groups to become friendly. What is important is that a change of attitude by Pyongyang is crucial to expedite reconciliation of both Korean groups in Japan. It is also hoped Korean residents in Japan continue their efforts to achieve ethnic solidarity through reconciliation in days to come.


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