Elections Show A Nostalgic Japan and A Forward-Looking Korea

The Japanese flag outside the Diet building. But who will return as Prime Minister?

The Japanese flag outside the Diet building. But who will return as Prime Minister?

This December, a Japanese general election and a South Korean presidential election will almost coincide.

Apart from the scheduled time though, there are very few similarities between the two elections. In Japan, the incumbent self-described progressive party, the DPJ, is faced by a more conservative party, the LDP, which has held almost continuous power since the 1950s, whilst in Korea, it is the leading conservative party, the Saenuri party, which is faced by more progressives forces in the form of the Democratic United Party and the independent supporters of Ahn Cheol-soo. The contrasts between the two countries as they both simultaneously gear towards elections have attracted the interest of the international press.

When the Financial Times published an article about this in China, the Yahoo! News Japan item describing the contents of the article became one of the site’s top trending articles.

From Yahoo! Japan:

A Japan That Wants a Return to the Past and a Korea That Looks Towards the Future: The Differences Between Both Nations Apparent Through Their Elections According to An English Newspaper

On December 7, 2012, the Chinese language edition of the Financial Times published an article entitled ‘The Differences Between the Japanese and Korean Elections’.

There will be a Lower House election on December 16 in Japan and a presidential election on December 19 in Korea. Both Japan and Korea are showing the full furor of their election campaigns. Some interesting facts become apparent when you compare the two countries. One thing Korea and Japan both share is that the smaller opposition parties, even if they don’t ultimately win, have a casting vote. However, while Ahn Cheol-soo, who has a progressive and forward-looking image, fills this role in Korea, in Japan the popularity of the right-wing is growing from the disappointment with traditional government circles.

A nostalgic mood is growing today in Japan. In the case of the Japan Restoration Party, the things they feel nostalgic about go all the way back to the 19th century. In this mood, it doesn’t seem important for Abe Shinzo, the president of the LDP and the most likely candidate to become the next Prime Minister, to make it clear how he is different from his grandfather, Prime Minister Kishi Nobusuke. Korea is the exact opposite. Park Geun-hye apologized for the human rights violations committed by her father President Park Chung-hee. One specialist explained this was like Park Geun-hye spitting on her father’s grave.

In terms of economic issues, how to redistribute wealth and how to avoid the two ruts Japan fell into during the 1980s at the expense of its workers are important debates in Korea, while how to achieve economic growth is the biggest issue in Japan.

Finally, while foreign policy is not all that much of a major issue Korea, it is hugely significant in Japan. The reason Japan maintains such a strong stance about the Senkaku island dispute with China is because politics are becoming more right-wing.

A typical Japanese ballot paper

A typical Japanese ballot paper

Comments from Yahoo! Japan:


If we look towards the future, we’re probably not going to give a damn about comfort women or Takeshima.


A forward looking Korea…there’s no way a country that has only fabricated the history of its past could have a decent future


Yeah well, Koreans have backwards laws so it’s normal to want to modernize


We can’t go back to the last 3 years where the DPJ were given power and took the country down the wrong path. Abe is definitely looking towards the future. We should cut diplomatic relation with Korea, he really understands that. I really want him to do this. Clean the country.


Japan has a past it wants to go back to and Korea has a past it doesn’t want to go back to.


Forward looking anti-Japanese forgeries?!(笑) They forge history from the past (grrr)


China and Korea are ultra-right wing compared to Japan.


Well, for its defense capacity, Japan is just going back to being a normal country.
‘looking towards the future’ and ‘wanting to go back to the past’ doesn’t mean anything


They are only saying that they want to make a Japan which protects what it should protect and says what it should say. Those who say that they’re saying the same thing as the DPJ make me laugh. For your information, a country which fabricates things has no future. It’s only lies piled upon lies!


Yeh well they do wanna go back. It’s weirder to go back on a road which we know slips into a huge abyss instead of going forward.


It’s only the difference between a country which knows glory and a country which only knows shame.


An English newspaper doesn’t know how it really is. Some people are looking out for the revival of strong Japan.


Dear Korea, how about stopping stealing in the future? Is stealing products from the past really a future? ^^


Don’t want to be told what to do by a Chinese Communist Party which has no future


Fuck off!! Outsiders should just shut up! Stupid idiots


Maybe it’s because I’m sleep-deprived, but I don’t understand what they’re saying.

Share This Article
Help us maintain a vibrant and dynamic discussion section that is accessible and enjoyable to the majority of our readers. Please review our Comment Policy »
  • AlexSt

    Oh Japanese netizens, I read the article and couldn’t possibly imagine how they would turn this into Korean bashing again. “Well, but at least our past is worth returning to.”
    It’s like with conspiracy theorists, these “politics otakus” you wouldn’t be able to make them take another view, if you hit them with that article.

  • Both countries should just modernize to the future.

  • Erdos

    lol wut? The average Japanese never had a hatred of Korea until Koreans started pushing the apolojuice thing.

    You can’t just emotionally blackmail people for years and expect them to put up with it.

    It’s the same with how we whites feel about how non-whites are trying to exploit guilt from us. I sympathize with the Japanese.

    For the record, Japan has apologized numerous times for the Pacific War.

    • ChuckRamone

      Well, for all the times people like you tell Koreans to get over the past, it looks like they’re doing a better job of it than the Japanese who want to go back to some imaginary Golden Age because their current and future prospects aren’t looking stellar.

      Why do you keep repeating yourself that Japan has apologized? Apologies don’t count when they are later denied.

      • Erdos

        Japan will be fine so long as they keep a strict immigration policy.

        Japanese officials have apologized, some other officials, usually of lower rank, have enunciated their own beliefs concerning the matter. They’re free to do that.

        • ChuckRamone

          Yeah, and Korea, China and whoever else are free to not accept apologies that are later renounced by mainstream Japanese politicians. We’re not talking some schmoes on the street or the Internet. We’re talking big time Japanese politicians doing this. If they are not representative of the Japanese government, I don’t know who is.

      • Ummm, Korea doesn’t have a bright future as well. Reunification will transform Korea to a poor country. If reunification doesn’t happen then Korea will be heading towards Japan’s situation as well with its low birth rate (lower than Japan’s birth rate) and high suicide rate (higher than Japan’s suicide rate). Oh, North Korea constantly threatens the South, if North Korea does actually go to war, then all that hard work that the South Koreans have done to make their country prosperous would all vanish

        To me, Korea’s future is just as uncertain as Japan’s

        Oh, and Japan has apologized

        Japan will never apologize the way Koreans want them to and Japan will never compensate the Korean comfort women. Why? When Japan and South Korea established diplomatic relations in 1965, Japan gave South Korea more than $800 million in compensation. Afterwards, South Korea promised no more. Japan will stick to that promise

        • chucky3176

          Unified Korea, at first will be tough for South Korea. But in the long run, Korea will be a lot stronger, possibly emerging as another regional superpower. Japan would not benefit from that at all. Neither would China. That’s why both countries wouldn’t mind a status quo.

          • Paul M

            A lot of people are hoping that it would be like when East and West Germany reunified. The German economy slumped dramatically after reunification however it recovered and is currently bankrolling the EU. However Germany didn’t have conglomerates with a stranglehold on the economy and huge political influence. When the Korean economy nosedives after reunification I’m not as optimistic that it will recover as well as Germany did.

          • Let’s not forget, North Korea is a lot poorer than East Germany.

            East Germany was the most developed in the Communist world.

            North Korea is dirt poor. The country has no electricity (except Pyongyang) a lot of its people have no access to the internet, cars, phones, all those modern technologies we Westerners take for granted.

            Imagine the billions the South Korean government will have to spend just to get the North Korean people to keep up with the times. I don’t think hardship for a Unified Korea will last temporarily like a Unified Germany.

          • chucky3176

            North Korea has at least $10 trillion worth of natural resources including natural gas, gold, uranium, and other unexplored resources. The value goes up everyday as the raw material prices go up. Are you kidding me? Once North Korea opens up, all of the Korean businesses in China and South East Asia will stream out of those countries, to relocate in North Korea in no time. The rebuilding of North Korea will skyrocket the South Korean economic growth, it will be the new economic engine. The payment of rebuilding of North Korea will be paid for by all the foreign investments, and by the selling of North Korean raw materials. It will also mean now that land transportation is open to those countries of Europe, China, and Japan. And Korea will be that final land bridge, that bridges Japan to the rest of the world. I imagine Japan will be using Korea to ship and receive huge amounts of goods – much like how Netherlands is used in Europe. Korean routed trade will shoot up overnight.

            Germany? Ha!. Their mistake was trying to get East Germany up to living standards of West Germany overnight. That ain’t going to happen. The Korean unification will be of multiple stage steps, until North Korea catches up. It took South Korea which had nothing, about 30 years to rebuild the country, the north will take far less time, because unlike South Korea, the North will have benefit of the South Korean know how and technology, plus their unexploited minerals. I say about ten years is plenty time to rebuild North Korea to decent standards, out of poverty, to about 50% of living standards of South Korea. And then ten more years after that to equal South Korea.

            But does anybody want to see this happen other then Koreans? I would say not, especially China and Japan.

          • “Germany? Ha!. Their mistake was trying to get East Germany up to
            living standards of West Germany overnight. That ain’t going to happen”

            It already happened. It took Germany to modernize East Germany 20 years. Germany today is the main economic leader of austerity struck Europe.

            Your optimism of Korean reunification amuses me. German reunification was the most unique in world history because something of that sort has never happened before (where a high income country unifies with a middle income country) and to say that they made a “mistake” is foolish because as I said, they didn’t know what to expect because this has never happened before

            North Korea is completely backwards. It’s going to take a lot longer than 20 years to modernize North Korea. Also, imagine the millions of North Koreans that will flock to the South when reunification happens. You’re going to see plenty of slums. Also, imagine the millions of North Koreans that will be discriminated against by the South Koreans. Today, the North Korean defectors in the South suffer from hardship and discrimination. They are a very small community, only in the tens of thousands. Imagine if it was 20 million of them……

          • chucky3176

            It only took South Korea 20 years to half modernize, from 1961 to 1981. North Korea will modernize two times faster, because this time South Korea will be helping them and rebuilding them. Don’t underestimate the Koreans to surprise. Nobody thought in 1945 that South Korea will be what it is today.

          • ….and nobody thought Japan would be in the situation that it is in today. Back then, people thought Japan would overtake the US but that never happened. Looking at South Korea’s social situation (which is far more extreme than Japan’s) South Korea will likely enter Japan’s situation as well.

          • Finally something i agree with Chucky. S Korea is already saving money and putting planning into reunification. As well there are some economic advantages such as more land, a bit more natural resources as well as a link to China – this could help tourism, freight transport etc.

          • Guest

            Well, then there’s the case of Germany. They’re just now getting over absorbing The Totally Democratic Republic of Germany in financial terms anyway.

            I think quite a few South Koreans can see that and realize the implications of a reunification.

        • ChuckRamone

          I can’t predict what Korea or Japan’s future is. I’m only addressing their current states of mind, and the fact that people are always criticizing Koreans for being stuck in the past, when it’s evident that’s not entirely the case. And you failed to read the part where I said, yes, Japan has apologized multiple times, but it has also retracted its apologies multiple times.

          • You mind giving me proof where the Japanese have retracted its apologies? The people that are criticizing the Koreans as “being stuck in the past” are criticizing them for being upset about something that happened in the past when their generation wasn’t even alive and affected in those times. In Vietnam, the population is very young and most of them weren’t alive during the Vietnam war. You can’t deny that the US has done plenty of mistakes in Vietnam (My Lai massacre, Agent Orange, the millions of Vietnamese civilians that have perished, etc) and do you see many of them asking for the US to apologize? No.
            The US has never apologized. Look at this report from 2000. US president Bill Clinton said Vietnam does not deserve an apology http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-500164_162-249593.html

            I remember watching a report on CNN about Vietnam’s economic growth and the reporter asked some guy about the Vietnam War. What did that guy said? “That was the past, we have to move on.”

          • chucky3176

            What are you joking or something? You have Shinjo Abe, the strong candidate to be the next PM, saying the comfort women issue was a fraud made up by Koreans. That’s one latest example. But seriously already, stop with this Japanese apologist attitude.

          • I’m not joking. Besdies, an apology solves nothing. Also, Shinzo Abe has flip-flopped but guess what? EVERY POLITICIAN FLIP FLOPS. You mind giving me more proof that Japan has retracted its apologies? Japan has apologized more than once. I’m not surprised and I already knew Shinzo Abe retracted his statement. Japanese nationalists are very proud, just like Chinese nationalists. In China; they take away the Tiananmen Square massacre, the famine after the Great leap Forward, the invasion of Tibet, and more from their history textbooks because of nationalism

            Japan will never apologize the way Koreans want them to. I mean Koreans aren’t really saints. Look at North Korea.

            A country that’s starving with a failing economy and one of the world’s worst human rights record is spending millions on nuclear weapons and long-range missile technology

          • chucky3176

            You just said he flip flopped. You’re asking why we don’t accept individual Japanese politicians apologizing as official apologies representing Japan. Yet, when individual Japanese politicians later refute the same apologies made, you’re saying they don’t represent Japan? Not to mention Japan still refuses to return all Korean cultural artifacts that were forcibly taken from Korea.

            During the talks between Japan and Korea in 1953, Kubota Kanichiro (久保田貫一郞), one of Japanese representatives, stated that “Japanese colonial rule was beneficial to Korea…Korea would have been colonized by other countries anyway, which would have led to harsher rules than Japanese rules.

            In 1997, Abe Shinzo (安倍晋三), an ex-Prime Minister of Japan, stated that “Many so-called victims of comfort women system are liars…prostitution was ordinary behavior in Korea because the country had many brothels.

            On May 31, 2003, Aso Taro (麻生太郎), another ex-Prime Minister of Japan, stated that “the change to Japanese name (創氏改名) during Japanese colonial rule was what Koreans wanted.

            On October 28, 2003, Ishihara Shintaro (石原愼太郞), Governor of Tokyo stated that “The annexation of Korea and Japan was Koreans’ choice…the ones to be blamed are the ancestors of

            In 2007, Shimomura Hakubun (下村博文), Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary of Japanese government, stated that “The comfort women system existed, but I believe it was because Korean parents sold their daughters at that time.”

            On March 27, 2010, in the centennial of Japan-Korean annexation, Edano Yukio (枝野幸男), Japanese Minister of State for Government Revitalization, stated that “The invasion and colonization and China and Korea was historically inevitable…since China and Korea could not modernize themselves.”

            And there are more, but add them all up, and the list of apologies made by individual Japanese politicians have all been canceled out by statements following each apologies.

            If Japan gives out apologies, then no-one should say later, “we really didn’t mean it that way, you guys deserved what you got”. If you are really sorry, then apologies should be final, and should never be qualified.

          • chucky3176

            Which doesn’t excuse linette’s country of China burning and rioting on the streets to bashing and killing anyone driving Japan made cars, and generally acting like lunatic uncivilized people that they are.

            All I’m saying is that no-one has to accept insincere apologies.

          • linette lee

            where do you see chinese killing people protesting against Japan? More lies and propaganda again? Many chinese didn’t agree with the protest. They felt it was unnecessary to go that far protesting against the Japanese.

        • linette lee

          Let the north and south korea reunite. IT will be good for korea, china, or maybe even good for USA. Let all the korean refugees go over to the south korea. China is tired of spending billions to take care of them. China needs to use those money on themselves. After reunite maybe usa won’t stay in south korea anymore saving usa taxpayer millions.
          And trust me, the south Asians, south east Asians, and blacks don’t want to live in korea or have businesses in korea. No way they will invest money in korea. You can trust me on that one.

          • chucky3176

            If China is tired of spending money on North Koreans, then why aren’t they letting North Korea collapse, linette?

  • fsun

    I’d advise all these netizens to start prepping for a career in elderly care—in a few decades Japan will be the world’s largest floating nursing home

  • 3ayo

    I find it funny how netizens rave about returning to Japan’s past. If anything, the past they’re returning to is not the booming post-WW2 Japan, but pre-Meiji era and Kanagawa treaty Japan. The Japan that was isolated and minuscule on a global scale. It’ll be unfortunate if they return to this, but the world is changing awfully fast economically, politically and *slowly* socially. If Japan can’t, or refuses to, keep up it’ll happen. And this time around isolation will do more harm than good.

  • PixelPulse

    That second comment was such bs. Country’s should want to move forward, not stay in the past to basically stay in a runt. Not to mention Japan’s own past horrors.

    • Jennster

      To Japanese the period leading up to 1900s was the best for them and especially during ww2, like tang dynasty for them plus the massacres.

    • I believe that comment was translated very poorly. As far as I understand it actually says something to the effect of “The ‘future-oriented’ Korea that keeps fabricating its past can’t possibly have a decent future”.

      I’ve also noticed a few other errors. The fourth comment is actually suggesting that it’s Ahn (安) who wants to sever the Japanese-Korean relations, not Abe (安倍). せいせいする could have a number of meanings in this context, and I don’t think “Clean the country” is the most fitting one. The eighth comment is talking about Japan’s defence capability (防衛力), not the JSDF (自衛隊); basically that they want to become a normal country in terms of defensive capability once again.

      • chucky3176

        Ridiculous. It’s the Japanese netizen side that has been pestering with their comments to severe relations with South Korea. Korean netizens have said nothing about that, nor has any Korean politican said anything about severing relations with Japan. In fact, relations with Japan hardly comes up in topics in South Korea. There’s hardly any feelings left for that country, as if nothing is surprising anymore. The severing of relations crap have all come from increasingly crazy Japan. Right now, they’re looking more like a blinded bull, lashing out in the China store.

        • takasar1

          lol, as if anything a biased troll like you says has any significance or realibility

      • besudesu

        Thank you once again for pointing out improvements; of course we appreciate that our readers get involved. I think that you’re right about that second comment. As for the fourth comment, I’m really not sure. .. Ahn is not running for president — he stood down on November 23rd, and even prior to that he was calling better economic relations between the two nations…

  • Jennster

    Imagine if Japan can’t be revived like meiji times. What would Japan do. They are too stubborn they will all commit suicide lol.
    ebb and flow is natural. nothing lasts forever.

  • Your Sexy Cousin Rex

    Japan will forever be #1 in my world.
    Then again, my world revolves around AV and hentai

    • 404

      I see you like watching pixels bump into each other

  • chucky3176

    And people wonder why I’m still employed as a Japan commentator. Japan and China are about get into a war over the territories, and yet here, the only topic they want to discuss is bashing on Korea again and again and again. Why aren’t Japanese concerned about China where the riots wiped out their businesses? How is South Korea threatening Japan? Severing of relations because the SK president insulted the emperor? Go right ahead, nobody cares in South Korea. Japan’s leverage on Korea is zilch. Many Koreans don’t even know there are elections going on in Japan, well because.. it doesn’t effect them that much. The relations with Japan, is not even in the radar for most Koreans.

    • Ruaraidh

      What, you’re employed as a Japan commentator? As in it’s your job, as well as your obsession?

      • chucky3176

        I only get involved when Japanese are discussing about us.

    • takasar1

      you obviously have it the wrong way round. “The relations with Japan, is not even in the radar for most Koreans”

Personals @ chinaSMACK - Meet people, make friends, find lovers? Don't be so serious!»