Japan's grievance surrounds a tiny, 'antagonistic' map printed on the mango mousse.
Photo via Twitter
At the conclusion of their historic summit, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-In released a statement bringing an official end to the Korean War and pledging to completely denuclearize the region. “The two leaders solemnly declare [...] that there will be no more war on the Korean Peninsula and a new era of peace has begun," their declaration said, and the document was punctuated by handshakes and hugs. Meanwhile, Japan is still mad about a dessert that will be served after dinner Friday night.
According to the BBC, Japan’s foreign ministry has issued a “strong protest” over tonight’s mango mousse, because it is decorated with a map of the Korean peninsula that Tokyo has interpreted as antagonistic. Both North and South Korea are depicted on the dessert, as are a pair of islands that are claimed by both South Korea and Japan. “It is extremely regrettable,” a spokesperson for the Japanese foreign ministry said. “We have asked that the dessert not be served.”
The islands are located equidistant between the two countries, in a body of water that Japan calls the Japan Sea, but South Korea refers to as the East Sea. Japan calls the islands and its surrounding rocky outcroppings the Takeshima Islands, and says its records first referenced them in the 17th century. Japan claimed the islands in 1905.
South Korea calls the islands Dokdo, and insists that they were incorporated in 1900, and were referred to in records dating back to the sixth century AD.
A website dedicated to the disputed territory says that 900 Koreans list the islets as their residence—as do more than 2,000 Japanese—but the only two permanent residents are a South Korean fisherman and his wife. So it’s complicated, is what we’re saying.
“This is a good way for President Moon to grab some nationalist credentials at home [...] it's an easy political win for Moon,” Stephen Nagy, senior associate professor at Tokyo's International Christian University and distinguished fellow for the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada, told the Los Angeles Times. “Then Japan does the stupid thing and reacts, which makes the Koreans happy. It was really poor taste the way the Japanese government reacted to this. They could have expressed some kind of camaraderie and support for the summit."
The other courses on the menu are less contentious, and were carefully selected to honor both countries and their leaders. One appetizer, a Korean interpretation of a Swiss potato rosti, was chosen because Kim Jong-un attended school in Switzerland, while the roast dalgogi seafood dish is popular in President Moon’s childhood hometown. CNN says that the South Korean government selected the mango mousse as “a symbol of the energy of spring.”
Unfortunately, for Japan, it’s a symbol of something else entirely.