In contrast with Europe, where 60 years after World War II major progress has been made toward forging a shared perception of the past, in East Asia history remains a contested area. Accusations and denials about incidents, some of which date back more than a century, are traded frequently and publicly by the region’s top leaders. Territorial disputes linked to a troubled past stand in the way of improved relations between Japan and all of its neighbors: China, Korea and Russia. Public opinion surveys show that recent disagreements about history have eroded the friendly feelings Japanese and Chinese once had for each other. It is clear that without progress on the history question, regional economic integration and continent-wide security arrangements that have made possible prosperity and peace in Europe will be difficult to replicate in East Asia.
At this time of strained feelings about the past, research on the key role of civil society organizations in achieving historical reconciliation in postwar Europe offers opportunities to take a fresh look at the history problem in East Asia. While visionary leaders such as Willy Brandt, Konrad Adenauer, Jean Monnet and Robert Schumann pointed the way ahead, the building of bridges to former enemies and victims was done by churches, labor unions, local governments, sports clubs, student organizations, journalists and various types of foundations which worked together with counterparts in neighboring countries. Although East Asia lags behind Europe in development of civil society organizations, in Japan and South Korea NGOs are beginning to play a greater role in both domestic politics and international affairs. In China too, the government has begun to encourage the growth of non-profit organizations.
In this symposium, we will discuss what “transnational non-state actors”, which at times collaborate and at others compete with governments, can do to overcome the burden of the past. Scholars and practitioners from the United States, Europe and Japan will tackle this question with a view to stimulating new ideas on historical issues in the hope of finding policies and practices appropriate to East Asian needs and circumstances.
Date: Friday, 7 April 2006, 12:30-17:00
Place: German Culture Center (OAG-Haus)
International Center for the Study of Historical Reconciliation at Tokyo Keizai University
Goethe Institute Japan in Tokyo