Tuesday, July 15, 2008

"Aggression and Madness"

Update (here and at bottom):

The Donga Ilbo unsurprisingly argues that netizens are using rumors about Dokdo to try to rekindle the candlelight protests. Something I didn't mention below is that all of the photos of the protest last night show very few 'Dokdo' related signs - most of them are typical candle girl (or boy) posters and anti-LMB posters - suggesting that perhaps the media is making too much of it - for now.

Original post:

So the candlelit protests continued last night at Cheonggye Plaza, but with an additional issue tacked on: Dokdo. Why might that be?
President Lee Myung-bak will recall South Korea's ambassador to Japan Wednesday in protest of Tokyo's decision to define South Korea's easternmost islets of Dokdo as its territory in guidebooks for history teachers. Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Yu Myung-hwan also called in Japanese Ambassador Toshinori Shigeie and delivered a message of protest.

"It is deeply regrettable and disappointing that Tokyo has once again laid claim to Dokdo, which is part of South Korea's territory, historically, geographically and under international laws,'' Lee said. "I will deal sternly with any attempts to ignore Korea's sovereignty over Dokdo.''

Political parties also called for strong action against Japan. In a statement, the governing Grand National Party (GNP) called Japan's claim an "act of aggression and madness.''

The strong words came after Tokyo said it would refer in a middle school teaching guide to the islets as Japanese territory. The document for teachers and textbook publishers is non-binding, but will likely influence textbook contents.

Korea's Ambassador to Japan Kwon Chul-hyun visited the Japanese Foreign Ministry in Tokyo in the afternoon to officially protest the "distortion.''
The article has a photo of another protest yesterday, complete with a burning Japanese flag. The protest last night also took place in front of the Japanese Embassy. At any rate, it's nice to Lee Myung-bak announcing that he will "deal sternly" with the Japanese, perhaps announcing his intention to follow in the steps of Roh Moo-hyeon, who declared 'diplomatic war' on Japan back in 2005 when Shimane Prefecture in Japan declared a "Takeshima Day" claiming Dokdo. It certainly helped improve Roh's low approval rating at the time. Dokdo always seems brings out the worst in people. It certainly is not a subject around which much non-emotional debate can be had, as can be seen with the GNP's description of the new education guidelines as an "act of aggression and madness.'' This can spill over into other issues as well (or conjure old controversies out of thin air):

(From here)

The poster on the left says "Dokdo is our land. Daemado is our land." Daemado is the Korean name for Tsushima Island, which played an important role in relations between Japan and Korea in the past, and which, during the Dokdo controversy in 2005, was declared Korean territory by the city of Masan, who decided to have their own Daemado Day, which was not particularly appreciated by Seoul (more information here too). It's much easier to travel to Tsushima from Korea today (which is closer to Tsushima than mainland Japan), though apparently some Korean tourists' antics aren't always appreciated there.

Ah well. At least there will be more chances for nationalist advertising:

I mean, if you can't use an image of a giant Yu Gwan-sun chasing Tokugawa era Japanese sailors away from Dokdo to sell chicken, then what can you use? I'm sure she would appreciate that her sacrifice has been put to good use.

This lengthy article (may freeze firefox) looks at the patriotic bomb throwers of the colonial era who did a bit of property damage and hurt or killed a few people, and at the end we're told ‘Our lives today would be very different if these men had not sacrificed themselves.’ Actually, I doubt they changed much, unlike the peaceful protesters who took part en masse in the Samil Uprising in 1919. The aftermath of the uprising led to the implementation of the cultural policy, while the bomb throwers changed nothing in the events leading up to Korea's liberation at the hands of the allies. I understand that heroes would be made of these men (and other, more famous patriots and assassins), but what was it all for? So they could be used in chicken ads? Perhaps one day the famous photo of the Kwangju Uprising seen here will be used to sell chicken (all you need to do is replace the baton the soldier is holding with a drumstick) - a process perhaps helped along by the Hankyoreh cartoon also displayed in that post. Think of how you could dress up statues: Yi Sun-shin could be holding a bucket of fried chicken, MacArthur could be holding a chicken burger instead of binoculars - the possibilities are endless! And they're about as tasteful as trying to claim Daemado after hundreds of years of Japanese living there.


Or if you call it art and say you're being ironic, then you could have a lot of fun with altering images. I found these in a magazine (I forget its name, but it was well worth browsing through) at Vinyl in Hongdae, and snapped a few pictures. The first photo is of Lee Han-yeol, moments after he was fatally injured by an exploding tear gas cannister on June 9, 1987. To its right is a banner made of that photo. Below is what I took to be an ironic take on the photo, obviously made during or after the 2002 World Cup.

Using a famous image of a tragic moment like this to comment on materialism or nationalism (or whatever you want to make of it), to me, is fine, as long as you're not using it to sell something.


King Baeksu said...

Don't forget what the sign on the right (under the candle) says: "Leave Dokdo and take Myung-bak (with you)" Love how that young student uses the highest 존댓말 when referring to her elder! Who says Confucianism in Korea is dead?

King Baeksu said...

Speaking of madness, I went to the convenience store at 9pm tonight and saw a bunch of protesters holding "candlegirl candles" (complete with the logo on the cup) on their way from Ch'onggye Plaza to the Japanese Embassy. I saw one of the yebiguns I know and asked him, "What's the connection between protesting Lee and Dokto?" He replied gravely, "I hate Lee Myung-bak, and he was born in Osaka." Trying not to guffaw, I said, "But hasn't Lee been criticizing Japan strongly over Dokdo?" He countered, "Lee is New Right, and I hate Japan!"

At some point, it beoomes hard to use logic when all you have is half a dozen prefab protest slogans, I suppose.

Celebith said...

Posters on Google's new Knol service are already propagandizing about Dokdo, copying from the Wikipedia entry on Liancourt Rocks, editing out references to Japan and neglecting to cite sources.


Also, love the entry on Takeshima,

which begins: Takesima is Dokdo. belongs to Korea

Anonymous said...

Heh, I remember when that ad for the giant Yu Gwan Sun came out. It hung on the wall of my office for years.

"Dokdo Chicken and gravy", we'd tell the noobs it meant, meaning that the Japanese people she's menacing in the picture were the gravy.

Ah, it's been ages. Thank you so much for posting that.....