Monday, November 09, 2009

'You Die!' The Pervasiveness of anti-Japanese imagery

At the hagwon I used to work at, among the story books on the shelves in the kindergarten play room were two sets of books telling the stories of famous people. One set had stories about famous western people (like Einstein) and the other had stories about famous Koreans. Among the Koreans were people from the distant past like King Sejong, and Yi Sun-shin, as well as people from the 20th century like Kim Ku, Ahn Jung-geun, Yu Gwan-sun, and Yun Bong-gil. In the latter books, we find pictures depicting the following events:

The murder of Queen Min by Japanese assassins:


The torture of Yu Gwan-sun by Japanese police:


The suppression of the Samil protests by Japanese police:




In response to the murder and torture of (mostly female) Koreans at the hands of the Japanese, the stories present the following images of justified revenge. Among the acts of what was then perceived as assassination and terrorism that are depicted include the assassination of D.W. Stevens in 1908:



The assassination of Ito Hirobumi in 1909:



Yun Bong-gil's bomb attack which killed or wounded five Japanese officers or dignitaries in 1932.


All of these images are reminiscent of comic books, and would do well with some 'BLAM!'s or 'BOOM!'s added, as well as speech balloons saying 'DIE!' and 'ARRGH!' These aren't sophisticated in the least, but then, when aimed at children under ten (they're available for children under seven at the hagwon), they don't need to be. Showing these images to children who are too young to critically evaluate them does nothing but inculcate hatred for Japan.

Mind you, this is just one of many ways children are exposed to such images. Seodaemun Prison Museum presents these images to visiting children:



An April 2005 Ohmynews article describes a photo exhibition at Woninjae Station in Incheon which displayed photos of the colonial period such as this:


One wonders how the children viewing these photos felt:


Of course, this took place during the '2005 Korea Japan Friendship Year' that wasn't. This article by James Card gives a good overview of the 'diplomatic war' that took place that year after Shimane prefecture government declared 'Takeshima Day' on February 22 on the 100th anniversary of the islets' incorporation into that prefecture. As Card describes it,
In South Korean classrooms, all levels were taught in special classes about South Korea's sovereign rights over Dokdo with lesson plans supplied by the Korea Federation of Teachers' Associations.
Among the things even first-graders learned was the catchy 'Dokdo is our land' song.

Two months after the exhibit at Incheon's Woninjae Station, another station on the Incheon line, Gyulhyeon Station, displayed photos about Dokdo drawn by students at nearby Gyeyang Middle School (which can be seen here and here):

'Dokdo is whose land?' 'Ko...rea's...land'





I'm reminded of the student who, when asked 'when' he would like to go if he had a time machine, answered 'Hiroshima in 1945, so I can see Japan get bombed.'

On Thursday the Korea Herald (via Brian) reported that a 37-year-old man was caught trying to break into the Japanese Embassy Wednesday night with plans to set it on fire and take embassy staff hostage. He also planned to hold a press conference about Dokdo and Japanese textbooks. With the announcement that "Investigators were looking into his medical records to determine whether there is any history of psychiatric treatment," it's clearly being suggested that he may be mentally unstable.

This raises a question, however: If someone has spent their entire life surrounded by images of Japanese atrocities and has thus vicariously relived a narrowly defined version of Korea's colonial experience and has also been told repeatedly that Japan has done nothing to apologize for these outrages, instead whitewashing or justifying them, and in fact is attempting to steal cherished Korean territory once again, would burning down the Japanese embassy not be a justifiable response, especially considering the example provided by gun-and-bomb-wielding Korean nationalist heroes?

34 comments:

Peter Kim said...

What about Martin Luther King's museum and other slavery museums that candidly show how brutally African Americans suffered under the sad history of racism in the US? Are they doing wrong to their children?

And how about Jewish bring their kids to Auschwitz or show them holocaust movies to teach their children how horribly Jewish suffered under Nazis Germany? Are they doing wrong to their kids?

Aren’t French resistance praised for their sacrifice to defend their country from the ruthless Nazis Germany? Are they condemned because they committed attack and killed German invaders?

If Germany has kept stimulating other Europeans by glorifying Nazis war criminals and romanticizing their fascistic rules over Europe, wouldn’t other Europeans get upset as much as Koreans, Chinese and other Asians do over Japan?

If US government still tries to justify the slavery or discrimination against African Americans, wouldn’t African Americans get upset? Most probably riots will occur all over the US. Can you say the same comment to the insulted African Americans?

I cannot say that the phenomenon you presented here is healthy and desirable. But I would say that their reactions are understandable when we find out how Japanese government and politicians have stimulated and hurt other Asians by their continuous attempt to justify the colonial history.

kushibo said...

It's interesting, Peter Kim, that you would neglect to include the extensive exhibits at the Hiroshima Peace Park museum in your list of examples.

kushibo said...

I'm curious, matt, who is the publisher of the book you found at the hagwon. Is there any way of finding out?

By the way, I also thought of another example (like that of Hiroshima or Sŏdaemun Prison) where elementary school kids are taken for a taste of history, and that's the various Holocaust Museums and their partner Museums of Hate. The one I went to in Los Angeles would scare the bejeezus out of little kids, and arguably make them come away with a strong distaste for Germans.

Anyway, I think this begs a question, then. Since it's very easy to criticize how others are doing it wrong, what is the way in which you would do it right?

That is, how would you present (or not present) the atrocities committed against the people of the country (e.g., to whom, in what manner, what media, etc.)?

matt said...

Peter Kim:
Is the textbook issue the reason that it's understandable that children should be taught to hate Japan? Or is it because these apologies are not sincere enough?

Kushibo:
I can find out the publisher.

As for my suggestions, I wouldn't put them so graphically in children's books. This is my main complaint. I also would not put Disneyland-style mannequins being tortured, complete with screaming, or giant floor-to-ceiling photos like this in the Seodaemun Museum.

I've been to Auschwitz, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Dresden, and what marked them was calmness. "Look. Here is a lunch container with carbonized rice. Here is a piece of concrete with the shadow left by someone who was vapourized." "Look. Here are thousands of glasses. Here are hundreds of pieces of luggage."

As for Seodaemun, the aspects of it I have described above are like being punched in the face. Repeatedly. Now, if the basement cells had no mannequins (like the basement of Auschwitz), or some other displays, and didn't have the giant photos, then there would be little to find fault in. Now that I think about it, however, that might be asking too much. Taking Seodaemun and other exhibits into account, I realize the disgusting display of the photos of Yun Geum-i (complete with umbrella stuffed inside her) and the crushed middle school girls may not be a tactic of only the left in Korea. The message these send is "Whoever suffers the most, wins." (What better example would there be than this? 3-4 million my ass.)

As for the subway exhibit showing the severed heads, I think that's inappropriate for a public spot. Remove the graphic stuff and it would be fine.

The problem with portraying the Japanese constantly in a negative light is that there isn't much to balance this out. It was only 11 years ago, if memory serves, that the ban on Japanese pop culture was (gradually) lifted. The overwhelming majority of students I taught over the years perceived Japan in a negative way (if not an outright "I hate Japan.")

kushibo said...

I don't think your prescription is a bad one.

One quibble:
I've been to Auschwitz, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Dresden, and what marked them was calmness. "Look. Here is a lunch container with carbonized rice. Here is a piece of concrete with the shadow left by someone who was vapourized." "Look. Here are thousands of glasses. Here are hundreds of pieces of luggage."

You don't recall, at Hiroshima, the mannequins depicting people walking around with their skin hanging off? (I haven't yet been to Nagasaki, so I don't know what's there.)

And then there were the pictures, lots of pictures to go with the many descriptions of painful deaths.

Fermentation said...

One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter.

I remember learning about the terrible invasions of Korea has suffered in the past then learning about how the attack on Tsushima was a positive thing.

Peter Kim said...

Matt:

I made it clear that "I cannot say that the phenomenon you presented here is healthy and desirable". The pictures are displeasing and inappropriate to minors. I agree that the textbook makers should more carefully consider the psychological development of the youth.

Now, what sincerity of apology are you talking about? Japanese politicians did not stop paying visits to Yasukuni Shrine and glorifying the war criminals. Read this, this, this. They are the most recent news reported. They are just a small number of examples in Japanese politicians' justification of colonial history.

And here is the quote from the last news article:

"The Japanese government last Friday announced its official stance that visits to the Yasukuni war shrine by the country's elementary and middle school students would be suitable. It said the guideline set by the Education Ministry in 1949 prohibiting students from visiting religious sites in accordance with the policies of the Allied General Headquarters had become obsolete with Japan regaining its sovereignty following the 1952 San Francisco Treaty. The Japanese government has made this official in the name of its Cabinet. The Education Ministry is said to be planning to inform schools across the country of this fact through regional boards of education. Following this decision, school visits to Yasukuni are expected to rise."(Chosun Ilbo, 2008)

And Here is a picture of Japanese wearing Imperial army uniform and marching at the Yasukuni shrine on August 15, 2008. Do you seriously believe that it is mentally normal and acceptable when Germans marching on the street wearing Nazi uniforms under the flags of Hitlers Kreuz on the day when the Hitler Germany was defeated by allies?

Helen said...

They might be 한국 위인 전집published by (주)노벨과 개미 which is well known publishing company for children's books. The writers are different for each book. but what for?

Contrary to your concern, children never read those series at there.
(they might see the pictures by chance) They are too serious for little kids.I picked up 안중근 and looked around it before. It was great to make children have animosity against Japan.

Isn't history the record of the past? I think children need to be taught by objective and realistic basis regarding their ages. Judgement should be left for their share. Planting hatred to children dwelling in the past just blocks their progress.

Shinbone said...

when i was an exchange student in korea, there was another exchange student who had come from japan. we used to hang out with the same people a lot and people who seemed to be really virulently anti-japanese warmed up to her pretty easily.

i'd ask them how they could hate japan so much but adore her. the answer was ususally along the lines of 'well, she's one of the good ones.'

i think there ought to be more cultural exchange between japan and korea on a personal level in that way.

Brian said...

As far as anecdotal evidence goes, my (Japanese) fiance's friend teaches Japanese to kindergarten students, and many of them told her they hate Japanese people but like teacher. Certainly the hatred is alive some elementary and middle school students I taught, though again it was more hatred of an idea than a particular person (because as preteens they've likely nevermet a Japanese person).

Last year the students were doing a lesson plan about the Korean flag, and at the end they had to draw their own should North and South ever reunite. One student drew one that included Japan. He changed it when I said my girlfriend was Japanese, though I didn't indicated I wanted it changed. Nor was his flag representative of what most students drew, and I acknowledge that in any class of 36 in any country you'll have a couple students draw nasty things (usually things with boobs on them), but certainly he picked that theme up from somewhere.

Changing topics, though Koreans may object to it, I have no problems with visits to Yasukuni, and I don't really think it's germane to this conversation. Each country has its own way of remembering its war dead. Visiting the shrine isn't paying homage to those convicted of war crimes---after all, plenty of Koreans were convicted of war crimes, too---but remembering the whole spectrum of war, death, and loss, and that the biggest crime is war itself.

Do you object to Americans who visit the Vietnam War Memorial, in honor of those killed after being pressed into service to destroy a foreign country?

matt said...

Kushibo:

Completely forgot about the skin-dripping mannequins (it's been seven or eight years). I remember them in a dark room - I just went to check the pamphlet I still have from the museum and that memory is correct, but also remember a dark room with remains of a church in Nagasaki, but I'm not sure if there were mannequins there or not. Perhaps I'll post some of the photos I took in those two cities. Okay, then - how about 'no screaming mannequins and no female mannequins with their breasts exposed'. If I have to narrow it down, then, I suppose it's the screaming - the soundtrack - that bothers me most. Still don't think kids should be seeing that kind of thing til they're older. Neither A-bomb museum placed the dropping of the bombs in the context of Japanese war atrocities, though Hiroshima's did make it clear that it was a military city. I don't remember the photos of burned people being as large and overwhelming as the ones at Seodaemun. One wonders what the Nanjing massacre museum is like.

I imagine there must be comparative studies of such museums...

Fermentation:

I wonder if Masan still celebrates 'Daemado Day'.

Peter:

You did say that "their reactions are understandable", which prompted my question.

I don't agree that children should be sent to such a revisionist museum that glorifies that era. If the war criminals were removed and the museum changed the shrine itself wouldn't be so objectionable, but considering the attitudes of those who run it, that isn't going to happen.

The main thing I wonder is what actions the Japanese could undertake to that would lead Koreans to think "They have sufficiently reflected on their actions and apologized for them and now we can move on"? Are the apologies of someone like Obuchi simply canceled out by Koizumi's visits to Yasukuni? I think speaking of 'Koreans' and 'Japanese' is not useful because of the differing opinions existing among both groups. There are likely always going to be people who believe Japan was justified in its past actions (it's unfortunate so many of these people make it into public office), just as there are always going to be people in Korea who will never forgive Japan for its past actions (it's unfortunate so many of these people make it into public office).

Helen:

Those are likely the ones - the red (Korean) and blue (western) history books. They do have some great photos in them, but the way those pictures were drawn bothered me.

Shinbone:

I remember reading about a Korean-Japanese friendship association in Seoul and the troubles they faced. But more of these kind of exchanges would be a good thing. A friend who is a high school Japanese teacher started an exchange where classes visiting from Japan would meet her classes (though the easiest way to communicate, one of the students told me, was in English). And the boy who wanted to see Hiroshima nuked visited Japan and came back wearing a good luck 'charm' from a temple - it seemed it was a good experience for him.

Brian:

I do wonder how the war is remembered in Germany. Is there the equivalent of a cenotaph to remember the German war dead? I don't see a problem with that. What's interesting to note, is that while Germany has apologized for 1933-45, it hasn't, as Robert Koehler has pointed out, ever apologized for its actions in Africa prior to WWI.

As for the Korean/Japanese flag, I'm reminded of that 'nationalist wet dream' map of 'Corea' controlling much of east Asia and where Japan is a 'colony of Corea'. The irony is that the area controlled by Corea is the same area conquered by Japan in the 1930s and 1940s, which suggests that for such nationalists the problem wasn't what Japan did, but that Corea didn't do it first.

kushibo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kushibo said...

If I gave an adequate response to everything here, I'd be writing a short book. Or a long one. But this comment stuck out in my head...

matt wrote:
Neither A-bomb museum placed the dropping of the bombs in the context of Japanese war atrocities, though Hiroshima's did make it clear that it was a military city.

Why should they place them in the context of war atrocities? Was either city bombed because of the Comfort Women, Unit 731, the Rape of Nanjing, etc.? If they were, that's some very sick stuff on the part of the Americans.

No, they were, so the narrative goes, bombed to end the war, which would have been the same need (or not) whether such atrocities existed or didn't.

And Hiroshima does make a very clear case not only that Hiroshima was a war target, but also that Japan had waged an unnecessary and brutal war.

Indeed, the Hiroshima memorial narrative comes about as close as any Korean could reasonably expect an atomic memorial to get in terms of addressing the wrongdoings of the past and the suffering that resulted, including that of Koreans.

Did you know the Americans (likely) killed more Koreans on August 6 and August 9, 1945, than the Japanese did in the preceding thirty-five years (not so sure how the Sino- and Russo-Japanese Wars and the suppression of the Righteous Armies might skew the numbers, so I start at 1910)? Well, the Hiroshima people certainly are aware that somewhere around 20% of Hiroshima's victims were Korean.

Anyway, the Hiroshima narrative is in stark contrast with the Yasukuni narrative, which is laid out in black and white in their museum. A visit to Yushukan Museum at Yasukuni will make clear that this is no mere shrine. Right-wing apologists for Japan's imperial past have essentially hijacked it with their enshrinement of the architects of the Pacific War in the 1970s, after which even the Emperor has refused to visit. It is now used as a litmus test for those who seek the support of the a right-wing that wants to scrap Japan's pacifist constitution and thinks that the actions of Imperial Japan in the sixty years prior to the end of World War II were justified.

What this all means is not lost on some Americans, either.

I visited Yasukuni shrine in 2005, and there was to be some tweaking of the displays there around 2007, so perhaps I should pay another visit. I wonder if it still blames America for World War II and hints that Korea still rightfully should be a part of Japan.

King Baeksu said...

The picture of the Japanese flag done up funeral-style, suggesting the entire country's "death," is really beyond the pale. The fact that it was allowed by the teacher(s), and furthermore displayed in public, constitutes hate speech as far as I'm concerned, and some of the other images created by those kids and put on display are equally inflammatory.

Who wants to bet that their teachers were members of a certain union whose name we all know quite well?

matt said...

The same union that showed pictures of the middle school girls' crushed bodies to grade six students, perhaps? (I wish I had a link).

Actually, Kushibo, the criticism of 'lack of context' was one I read elsewhere, but couldn't remember much of the message communicated at the Hiroshima memorial. You make a good argument for such things not to be included. I remember elsewhere reading that Hiroshima's museum was the left wing version of Yasukuni, which I disagreed with.

Has anyone been to the Osaka Human Rights Museum, which focuses on discrimination against Burakumin, Koreans, Ainu, etc in Japan?

kushibo said...

matt wrote:
The same union that showed pictures of the middle school girls' crushed bodies to grade six students, perhaps? (I wish I had a link).

It is their m.o., absolutely. I would be floored if it weren't one of them behind it.

Actually, Kushibo, the criticism of 'lack of context' was one I read elsewhere, but couldn't remember much of the message communicated at the Hiroshima memorial.

I don't think it's fair to expect Hiroshima and Nagasaki — the residents of which were themselves the victims of a war atrocity — to have to account for Japanese war atrocities committed by other people in other places, just because they were also Japanese.

I think a reckoning of their country's actions just in military expansionism and war-mongering is enough.

At any rate, that was the first part of the museum, a laying out of how Japan did some very bad things and brought war upon East Asia. I don't think they could have made it any clearer.

You make a good argument for such things not to be included. I remember elsewhere reading that Hiroshima's museum was the left wing version of Yasukuni, which I disagreed with.

I myself have made such a case about Hiroshima and Yasukuni:

I encourage anyone I know who travels to Japan — be they Koreans, Americans, etc. — to be sure to visit two places: Yasukuni Shrine's Yushukan Museum, which lays out with pride and frankness the all-excuses-no-apologies version of modern Japanese history, and Hiroshima's Peace Memorial Museum, which starts out by doing nearly the opposite. The two are like bookends for the contemporary Japanese mindset.

In my experience, Japanese are generally more Hiroshima-ish (though I have met some who, at Pearl Harbor itself, said that Japan "had no choice" but to attack the US), and I'm satisfied with that point of view.

The one problem with the Hiroshima view is that, for the less introspective, it provides an easy opportunity to see Japan as a victim — "we were the only ones ever atomic-bombed" — while failing to see the greater context. I guess that's a bit of a hybrid Hiroshima-Yasukuni view, one that scraps much of the Hiroshima message of Japan having been largely responsible for its own plight.

Has anyone been to the Osaka Human Rights Museum, which focuses on discrimination against Burakumin, Koreans, Ainu, etc in Japan?

I have not. But I'll try to go next time I'm in Osaka (I'm usually just passing through).

Anonymous said...

"...though Koreans may object to it, I have no problems with visits to Yasukuni, and I don't really think it's germane to this conversation. Each country has its own way of remembering its war dead. Visiting the shrine isn't paying homage to those convicted of war crimes---after all, plenty of Koreans were convicted of war crimes, too---but remembering the whole spectrum of war, death, and loss, and that the biggest crime is war itself."

"Do you object to Americans who visit the Vietnam War Memorial, in honor of those killed after being pressed into service to destroy a foreign country?"


Yasukuni Shrine is certainly germane to the discussion. Why are the Japanese honoring the men who perpetrated and orchestrated great destruction across all of east Asia as members of the fascist-military leadership? It should anger anyone who experienced the horrors they have wreaked--and survivors of state-level Japanese crimes certainly still remain. This is hardly a domestic concern: it is international.

And to compare these Japanese scum to the Americans who were fighting the Viet Cong on behalf of a fledgling Vietnamese democracy is disturbing, absurd, and lame. I think it is poignant to compare the generally friendly feelings the Vietnamese have for their former enemies, the Americans and South Koreans, with the level of antipathy, if not hate, Koreans have for the Japanese. If there is any unresolvable hate lingering between America/ South Korea and Vietnam, it is the hatred felt by members of large Vietnamese enclaves in southern California and elsewhere for the communist government of Vietnam. Certainly, even the mere display of the Vietnamese flag is highly controversial in California because the local Vietnamese become enraged by it. By contrast, Where in all of Asia do you find large groups of non-Japanese defending and supporting the imperial ambition of the Japanese?

Anonymous said...

Also, do Koreans honor Koreans who were found guilty of war crimes on behalf of Japan? They do not honor the Korean kamikaze pilot. And they certainly despise collaborators. How is this comparable to the Japanese honoring their own war criminals?

Anonymous said...

I think one of the reasons for the rapid thaw in Vietnam-America relations is due to the fact that the Vietnamese can see how large and vocal the anti-war movement was in America. Furthermore, the Vietnamese and the Americans have had many frank and honest discussions about the nature of their involvement in the war. But this level of discussion does not and will not exist between the people of Japan and Korea because the Japanese find the issue embarrassing, tiresome, and unnecessary, whereas, the Koreans refuse to admit the role their own incompetence had in their own colonization. Hatoyama intends to change this relationship, but, unfortunately, Hatoyama's move to bring the Korean and Japanese people closer together has to be seen in the context of the DPJ's strategic goal of positioning themselves for the leadership position in the region, one which must be shared only with the Chinese and must be independent from America. The fact is, the more effectively the Japanese and Chinese keep America out of the region, the weaker the Americans, the Koreans, and the southeast Asians will become.

...

Actually, the American issue, which more closely resembles the Yasukuni issue, is the Dixie flag issue in the southeast, particularly in South Carolina. The South Carolinians say that Dixie is only a symbol of regional pride and culture; everyone else views it as a symbol of violence, racism, and defiance of the white supremacy movement.

kushibo said...

Anonymous, I agree with most of your point just above except for the idea that Hatoyama's vision of leadership necessarily includes China and necessarily precludes all others.

Hatoyama would be tickled pink if Japan were bolstered by its democratic former colonies, Korea and Taiwan. Japan, including Hatoyama, fears China. And while making a deal with the devil, it wants as many angels on its side as possible.

I think Hatoyama represents a new opportunity for a sincere partnership between South Korea and Japan, an improvement over even the Obuchi-DJ accords of ten years ago.

Anonymous said...

"The main thing I wonder is what actions the Japanese could undertake to that would lead Koreans to think "They have sufficiently reflected on their actions and apologized for them and now we can move on"?"



The fact that the Japanese have apologized on occasion and on record is highly misleading. The issue is not whether they have apolgized; the issue is whether their apology has the weight of sincerity.

Intial apologies tended to be vague and made it seem as if misforture had visited Asia with only vague involvement by the Japanese. For complex reasons, it took decades for many of the particular issues to come to light, including medical experimentation, massacres of civilians and POWs, cannibalism, sexual slavery, and industrial slavery. And every time the Japanese people are confronted by the facts, political leaders call the revelations lies until actual documentations surface, at which point leaders pretend the evidence does not exist. It does not help that Chinese and Korean nationalists have mixed forged historical documents with real ones, which gives nationalist Japanese real evidence to apply FUD tactics on the issue. All the while, Japanese leaders insult the victims, questioning their motives as publicity stunts aimed at making money off the Japanese taxpayers' expense.

Aso Taro, even after being personally confronted with proof that his family used Korean and POW slave labor, continues to refuse to acknowledge it. More famously, it took decades for the Japanese to even acknowledge that they forced Asian and Dutch girls into sexual slavery. Consider that even at the Hiroshima Peace Park, it wasn't until 1999 that the city leaders controversially acknowledged that many Korean slaves had also experienced the nuke blast and allowed a memorial to Korean victims to be placed on its premises. And it was still later before the Japanese courts ruled that Tokyo must assist the Korean slave victims suffering from the effects of the bombs. And despite all this, even Koizumi Junichiro implies that the lawsuits brought about by victims of the Japanese war machine are more interested in making easy money than receiving justice.

And then when you add to this the complex issues involving state boundary, state-level directed falsification of history in both nations' textbooks, Korean assassination attempts and kidnapping cases on Japanese soil, the consequences of colonialization, assimilation levels of the zainishi, the disparity in the level of development in the two nations, and the fact that the two peoples do not agree on their own shared history, the issue of sincerity and good faith becomes the lynchpin around which progress may or may not be made in reconciliation between the two peoples.

...

It is often noted that Gen. MacArthur's actions on behalf of expediency related to the onset of the Cold War allowed conservative Japanese to hide evidence of their crimes.

But I think the Korean people are not completely blind to the fact that some Japanese have shown remorse since.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Miyazawa Kiichi's famous 1982 apology was probably the best opportunity for the Japanese to begin to develop closer ties between the peoples of Korea and Japan. But the instant rebuke and disavowel of the wording of the apology by Tokyo pretty much ensured that Koreans and Japanese will always feel some level of enmity and mistrust toward each other. Had the powerful and popular conservatives not acted as rashly as they did then, Korea and Japan likely would be working more closely together today, I believe.

Nowadays, the Koreans are demanding that the emperor apologize to the people of Korea. This obviously is a non-starter.

Peter Kim said...

Matt:

When I said "their reactions are understandable", I meant I could understand the Korean children’s "anger" reactions. They reacted with anger because they were Koreans.

If they were Japanese kids, they might have reacted more with guiltiness or fear. White American kids might have reacted just with displeasure and anxiety.

That doest not mean that I am in favor of the pictures to be shown to the kids. It is a matter of pedagogical methodology and consideration of psychological development.

And I doubt the pictures you presented came from official Korean history textbook produced by education department of Korean government.

As you said, it was from a storybook you found at "Hagwon". I do not think all Korean kids read the storybook you brought up here. Could you clarify more detailed information on the storybook?

You wondered “what actions the Japanese could undertake to that would lead Koreans to think "They have sufficiently reflected on their actions and apologized for them and now we can move on"?”

If German politicians who represent Germany kept visiting Hitler’s shrine (if it ever existed) and commemorating the war criminals even 60 years after the end of World War II, wouldn’t other Europeans got upset and concerned? They may start demonstration against it. Some of them may get violent. Are you going to still keep focusing on other Europeans' anger reaction?

If the President and Congressmen of the United States expressed, out of lip service, their remorse for the history of slavery while kept visiting “slave owners’ shrine” (if such a place ever existed), African Americans will get surely offended and hurt even almost 150 years after the Emancipation Proclamation (1862). They may start rioting all over the US.

I would understand why African Americans react like that, even though I do not agree with their violence. And are you still going to focusing on highlighting the African Americans anger reactions without providing proper contexts?

I understand you post this out of concerns for Korean children and for your hope for the reconciliation between Koreans and Japanese. But this matter should be more comprehensively dealt with.

And I absolutely agree with many commentators’ opinion that there should be more cultural exchange in the civilian level between the two countries.

Anonymous said...

"Anonymous, I agree with most of your point just above except for the idea that Hatoyama's vision of leadership necessarily includes China and necessarily precludes all others."

I think you misunderstand me. Japan absolutely would prefer that China not be given a leadership role in the region. And for decades, the Japanese have arrogantly tried to exclude China. The problem is, China's influence has already surpassed Japan's in the region. Japan's recent moves to acknowledge China's role as a co-leader in the region merely reflects Japan's acquiescence to reality. Any attempts to establish a regional bloc must acknowledge China's place at the table. At the same time, any successful attempt to create a regional bloc must limit China's and Japan's influence. But neither China nor Japan is willing to give up such influence for the greater good. And why should they? China is the hegemon; Japan has the expertise and technology.

...

Ultimately, the DPJ wants independence from America and wants to lessen the involvement of America in the region. I believe they will fail because the Koreans, Australians, and many other nations in the south east will insist that America stay involved. America--and not Japan--is the only credible power that can balance China. India may play a role in east asia in the future, but for now, they seem more intent on dominating their own borders and not flexing their power over ASEAN. The fact is Japan is fatally tainted as an Asian leader exactly because of their refusal to offer a credible and timely apology. Everyone, including the Koreans, realize that Japan is not a military threat and that their days as a colonial power is over. So, everyone will accept their investments, but that likely will not affect political calculations much. Chinese investment, however, profoundly will. And that is what concerns America, the ROK, Australia, New Zealand, India, and ASEAN.

Within a long 200 years, the Chinese will develop the best trained, best equipped, and most powerful army and navy in the world. Current Chinese leaders claim they have no expansionist agendas aside from Tibet, Taiwan, their northwest, and possibly parts of North Korea. But who knows what future Chinese leaders will think. Even in America, there is a big difference in the behavior between Republican interventionism and Democratic multi-lateralism. In other words, America's hegemonic behavior and motives can turn on a dime after any election. China will experience something similar in their own internal disputes between their own multilateralist liberals and militarist conservatives.

But I think the Koreans feel that Hatoyama is being personally sincere in his desire to bring the Koreans and Japanese closer together. The Koreans I think really wish to be on friendlier terms with the Japanese. I think the Koreans feel a profound envy and respect for the Japanese, despite the rhetoric. And as Hatoyama opens the window wider on building trust, the Koreans will pounce on the opportunity.

My saying this however does not contradict what I wrote above, which is to say that their envy and respect will be colored by feelings of great enmity, which has nothing to do with jealousy.

kushibo said...

I think a better analogy than the one Peter offers would be a shrine to Germany's war dead, the keepers of which decided sometime in the late 1970s to add a bunch of high-ranking Nazi officers who heretofore had not been included. I mean real Nazis, Hitler's inner circle (not non-Nazis mistaken for Nazis).

That very act would make it unpalatable. Am I the only one old enough to remember Reagan's visit to Bitburg Cemetery in Germany, which offended a lot of people because of the presence of SS officers? And those weren't even architects of the war and atrocities!

kushibo said...

anonymous wrote:
think you misunderstand me. Japan absolutely would prefer that China not be given a leadership role in the region. And for decades, the Japanese have arrogantly tried to exclude China. The problem is, China's influence has already surpassed Japan's in the region. Japan's recent moves to acknowledge China's role as a co-leader in the region merely reflects Japan's acquiescence to reality. Any attempts to establish a regional bloc must acknowledge China's place at the table. At the same time, any successful attempt to create a regional bloc must limit China's and Japan's influence. But neither China nor Japan is willing to give up such influence for the greater good. And why should they? China is the hegemon; Japan has the expertise and technology.

If Japan is moving toward China merely as acquiescence, why are they moving away from the US at all?

And I mean actual movement, not just lip service. Frankly, I don't think it's really there. Japan is not going to squeeze out from the US's embrace only so it can jump into the arms of China.

Rather, I think Hatoyama has a bit of Roh Moohyun Disease, where he wants to talk tough but still remain a partner with the US. Roh MH was very ham-handed about how he handled that, but ultimately it was a more equal relationship with the US that he wanted, not a severed one. From what I've seen, this is along the same lines as what Hatoyama is doing.

Okinawa is the one thing where Hatoyama has to play the Yankee Go Home role, but I think what Hatoyama envisions, if he envisions a more "independent" role for Japan's military at all, is for Japan to "independently" join US-led efforts in other parts of the world, on a nominally equal footing with the US, much like what Lee is seeking for South Korea.

And this essentially is a hemming in of China, not a partnership with China.

Anonymous said...

"And as Hatoyama opens the window wider on building trust, the Koreans will pounce on the opportunity."

I should clarify this before people pounce on me. I mean that the Koreans will use window opened by the DPJ, to build more cultural and business ties between the two peoples. But, outside of a joint missile defense program, which includes America, I do not see the Koreans and Japanese forming any kind of meaningful security partnership. But this is the way all of Asia will be. Everyone will eventually build economic and cultural ties with each other, and yet few will trust each other on security; and only the faraway Americans will be seen as an acceptable hegemonic force by most of Asia (Iran included). This is my guess. :p

Anonymous said...

@Kushibo:

I am not saying at all that the DPJ intends to form an alliance with the Chinese. Rather, I'm saying that reality has forced Japan to acknowledge that China has to be taken seriously as their direct rival for influence in the region. This is a rivalry in which Japan will see herself steadily decline as a world power and China far surpass her.

On the topic of what kind of role the Japanese want for America, I think they will fail to define or confine America's role because they are tainted and because America is the single most vital strategic entity in the region. It is America, and not China or Japan, which acts as the region's stabilizing force. America is not leaving the region. All I am saying is that despite the desire of Korean and Japanese liberals to keep America out, they will and must fail.

kushibo said...

Anonymous wrote:
and because America is the single most vital strategic entity in the region. It is America, and not China or Japan, which acts as the region's stabilizing force. America is not leaving the region. All I am saying is that despite the desire of Korean and Japanese liberals to keep America out, they will and must fail.

Well now you're sounding so much like me that I'm going to be accused of sockpuppetry.

Anonymous said...

@kushibo

Well, to be fair, you wrote that piece in late 2005, when America was seen as the world's greatest destabilizing force since the fall of communism. America regained its role as east Asia's security stabilizer only with the election of Barack Obama.

Obama's election instantly flipped on America's trust factor in the region. Regaining the favor of the peoples of South Korea, Japan, and ASEAN, particularly Indonesia, is the reason we can say America's value as security provider is back in the region. George W. Bush had one notable success in the region, and that was to get India to find us trustworthy. I expect that Obama will continue and deepen Bush's policy there over the next couple of years, though he has not really spent much time on this as I would like.

...

Also, I didn't know that there was an actual Marmot at the MH.

Anonymous said...

"when America was seen as the world's greatest destabilizing force since the fall of communism."

Goodness sakes, I should clarify this also. I should have written:

"when America was WRONGLY PERCEIVED to be the world's greatest destabilizing force since the fall of communism."

My personal view is that the greatest destabilizing force in the last ten years has been the rise of Islamic terrorism.

Anonymous said...

"I think a better analogy than the one Peter offers would be a shrine to Germany's war dead, the keepers of which decided sometime in the late 1970s to add a bunch of high-ranking Nazi officers who heretofore had not been included. I mean real Nazis, Hitler's inner circle (not non-Nazis mistaken for Nazis)"

Since I was a little child at the time, I never got to learn of this public relations nightmare. Thanks for bring it up to my attention. But the impression I get from the wikipedia entry is that the location is simply burial grounds out in the middle of nowhere and not a shrine, which German leaders make a point to visit yearly specifically in willful defiant support for the war criminals.

I think the Americans should have cordially explained why it was unacceptable for an American president to do the ceremony there and the Germans should have been accomodating.

But the principle point needs to be made that Germany is tightly integrated into the EU and nobody is enraged by the actions of present Germans because they have made their timely and sincere display of regret. The Japanese glaringly refused to do so. Instead, they hurled insults and lied despite evidence. The fact is, making an unqualified and sincere apology would have allowed everyone in the east to similarly move on. But instead, Japan would not do so. And now, the apology issue has been allowed to balloon into something impossible to deflate.

Hatoyama is trying, but some kind of solemn and official ceremony involving the entire region, and including former POWs from Oceania, Europe, and America, the relinquising of claims over Dokdo, the acknowledgement of Nanking, the elimination of the state-level agency responsible for authorizing textbooks and whose function is to promote the values and revisionist history set forth by conservatives, and the closure of Yasukuni are probably what is required now to permanently end the enmity.

Which is to say that enmity toward the Japanese will never end. I think the Japanese are fully willing to move on and live with the consequences. But this is the prerogative of people who do not need their neighbors.cousinci

LastnameKim said...

I think most Koreans would agree though that to not properly educate the younger generation about history instead of just promoting the hatred towards Japan is absolutely wrong. I think what we have here is the educational system trying to show the attrocities of Japan's brutality and that obviously leading to hatred as 7-year olds don't have the maturity to interpret it otherwise. The odd thing is that it seems as if the teachers allow this to go on without letting the kids understand the consequences and results (negative results) of such hatred. I have to admit, I was kind of snickering when I saw some of the drawings, but the underlying (and obvious) danger of allowing kids to hate Japan is very counter-productive. But nothing new here, I know..but just thought I'd repeat my 2-cents.

JW said...

Homework problem for Matt:

"How to teach 7 year old kids about the takeover of Korea by Imperial Japan without risking any chance of getting them slightly agitated for any period longer than 5 minutes"

Wait, I think this one's been solved already, so maybe we can try out them japanese textbooks!

Peter in Japan said...

Everyone here has way more information on Korea than I do (I'm an American who's lived in Japan for 20 years), but FWIW, here's a post I made on Japan's last apology, a few months ago. Hope it's of interest to someone.