Photo/Illutration"Korean envoys" participate in a parade in the Izuhara Port Festival in Tsushima, Nagasaki Prefecture, on Aug. 4. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

During the Edo Period (1603-1867), Confucian scholar Amenomori Hoshu (1668-1755) served as the Tsushima domain's official in charge of hosting Joseon Tongsinsa, Korean diplomatic missions to Japan.

At the time, the governments of both Japan and Korea were extremely touchy about their respective national honor and prestige, and Hoshu was often caught in the middle. The stress of his work caused half the hair on his head to turn white, and a Korean delegate referred to him as "Half White" in a written report.

Acclaimed as a prodigy from early childhood, Hoshu went on to master the Korean and Chinese languages and became an expert in continental affairs. But he fell ill from time to time because of the sheer strain of his professional responsibilities, and even submitted his resignation on one occasion.

The Tokugawa Shogunate was so obsessed then with its own prestige, it insisted that Korea refer to the shogun as "Kokuo" (King).

Were Hoshu alive today, his hair would probably turn completely white.

South Korea has pulled the improbable stunt of unilaterally ending the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), a military intelligence sharing agreement with Japan.

Unable to fathom Seoul's true intention, Tokyo is in shock, as if suddenly stripped of crucial proof of mutual collaboration. What sort of a future are we to envision now of our relationship with South Korea?

Back in the Heian Period (794-1185), a Japanese scholar of letters penned and recited a Chinese poem during a banquet, held in honor of a departing diplomatic mission from Balhae, a multi-ethnic kingdom that consisted of Manchuria, the Korean Peninsula and the Russian Far East.

The poem wished the delegation's safe journey to their far-away home.

In any age, it is never easy to maintain an amicable and stable relationship with any country whose culture and language are different from ours.

On the Nagasaki Prefecture island of Tsushima, where Hoshu was laid to rest, an annual festival to re-enact Joseon Tongsinsa's visit was held this summer.

However, South Korean legislators sat out the event, and the planned arrival of a replica of the delegation's ship--which was to take place for the first time--was also canceled.

I understand that this year's event lacked its usual festivity.

Let me quote this line from Hoshu's book on diplomacy: "Do not betray each other, do not bicker, let the truth bring you together."

Hoshu preached "sincerity" throughout his life. I wonder when the light of sincerity will shine again in Japan's relationship with South Korea.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 24

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.