November 1, 2006｜Korean Peninsula
Assistant Professor, Graduate School of Agriculture and Life Sciences, The University of Tokyo
For me, born in 1960, Godzilla was my hero (heroine?) during my elementary school years. Unlike the first Godzilla movie in 1954, in which the creature remorselessly destroyed downtown Tokyo, the Godzilla of the 1960s became a more gentle avenger of crime. This Godzilla was active on a “southern island”. I still remember the scene in which, on this “southern island” covered with massive ferns, the Japanese expedition encounters a monster and Godzilla rescues them.
Incidentally, Godzilla has attacked the Japanese archipelago numerous times since the first movie, but as far as I am aware, the US forces stationed in Japan have never fought Godzilla. This is despite the Japan-US Security Treaty. However, this is unsurprising. This is because Godzilla, which is a metaphor for atomic and hydrogen bombs and air raids, actually represents the USA itself.
Why did the Godzilla of the 1960s, which turned from an antihero into a friend of justice, rescue the Japanese on that “southern island”? If we take the “southern island” to represent Southeast Asia, one can understand. For Japanese capitalism, which was forging ahead with high economic growth, the US was the “good guy” that would protect the attractive markets of Southeast Asia from “Communism”.
For our generation, which grew up during the 1960s, Asia referred to the dense tropical jungle of Southeast Asia. In contrast to this, our image of Northeast Asia was insubstantial. At most, what sprang to mind when Northeast Asia was mentioned were accounts of travels to Europe on a meager budget or the image of Nakhodka Port from a novel by Itsuki Hiroyuki that I read during my high school years. One could say that the division of Northeast Asia due to the conflict between East and West was also reflected in our images of the region.
When Northeast Asia suddenly came into the spotlight, following the policy of opening up in China and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, I encountered a map of the Japan Sea rim region in which north and south had been reversed; for the first time, I became aware that the Japan Sea truly is an intercontinental sea linking regions, like the Mediterranean. Although as a researcher of modern agricultural history in Korea, I should accordingly have had an interest in Northeast Asia, it seems that the scenery that I had imagined was not so different from that which I had imagined during my childhood.
The root of the division of Northeast Asia lies in the military conflict between the DPRK and the ROK. In recent years, these two countries have been building up various endeavors aimed at peaceful coexistence, but the military tension between them is now actually increasing.
Incidentally, in the second Godzilla movie, which came out in 1955, Godzilla was frozen on a northern island near Hokkaido. The military tension in Northeast Asia could eventually heat up and melt the ice of the “northern island” covering Godzilla. I realize that I am repeating myself, but Godzilla is a metaphor for atomic and hydrogen bombs and air raids. The image of atomic and hydrogen bombs implies the responsibility that the US must take for the current situation in Northeast Asia. Moreover, with regard to the image of air raids, if we do not stop at the position of victim and take this situation as the consequence of Japan’s invasion of Asia, does this not also indicate the historic responsibility that Japan still has, even now?