Saturday, February 13, 2010

What is the basis of anti-Japanese sentiment in Korea?

This is the fifth piece of my rebuttal to Tobias Harris's post.

Then what is different in South Korea (Republic of Korea)?

First, ROK needed an emotional narrative of the foundation of a state.
ROK did not fought for independence. Independence was a free gift from USA.
On the other hand, in Taiwan, since KMT won the war (even though they lost the civil war), they did not need to fabricate the history. Every nation has to create or fake a history and authenticity of the regime, if they do not have it already. As King George was called the absolute tyrant in USA (the declaration of independence is filled with resentment towards the king, occupying two thirds of the space), the previous ruler should be vilified. This gave the political momentum to the anti-Japanese sentiment in South Korea. The situation in North Korea is similar if one replaces USA with USSR and add USA to bad bad Japan. To secure the authenticity, ROK governments used educational system to reinforce the narrative. However, if they go outside the political arena, they are not so anti-Japanese. For example, ROK still bans Japanese Manga comics on the political surface, but it is widely pirated and accepted by many in real life. Some even believe Doraemon is Korean. Banning Japanese culture might be an excuse to massively pirate Japanese Manga. Although anti-Japanese sentiment was widely advertised, many South Koreans visits Japan and some simply stay. This type of emotional reaction will decrease as the society matures, because democratic election will build the necessary authenticity gradually. Okada Katsuya could apologize for hurting the Korean pride, but that does not change anything. Perhaps, "matter of fact"ly attitude is the only important aspect of it. I do not think narcissistic view does any good to ROK, but Japan should refrain from politicizing the futile topic.

Second, traditional Sino-centric world view created prejudice.
In North East Asia, China was THE superpower. Japan successfully prevented two Chinese invasion in 7th and 13th century (Tang dynasty and Mongolian dynasty). Korea was not so fortunate because they did not have Sea of Japan. Korea was subjugated by Chinese empires, one after another for two thousand years. This is why Korea ended up having the world view that China is first, Korea is second, and Japan should be beneath. Unfortunately, the Japanese rule totally contradicted this world view. If the physical wound is the cause of the resentment, as Tobias says, millions of death caused by Chinese military intervention during the Korean war should be more serious and fresh. However, ROK government did not demand apology when they established their diplomatic relationship. Apology is not even a topic because China will laugh at their face. This asymmetric attitude comes from the skewed Sino-centric view: China is the ruler and they have their way. Since 1635 when the emperor of Qing dynasty conquered defiant Korea and made them build a monument honoring the generosity of the emperor himself, for 250 years Korea was paying respect, money, women to the Qing emperors. The independence gate in Seul was built after Japan expelled Chinese influence from Korea by Sino-Japanese war. But nowadays, Koreans in Seoul falsely believe that the independence gate is meant for independence from Japan, which is not. This is not "love of their country" like Tobias says. This is loving the stronger power. By the way, China in Chinese (中華) means "center, flourish".

Many people might know that ROK has been claiming that Imperial Japan changed the name of East Sea into Sea of Japan. This I think is the silliest international dispute, but they do not think so. It is as if they think name defines the ownership of the sea. If that is the case, USA would have renamed Mexican Gulf several times over. Historically speaking, Sea of Japan was established after Russian and Japanese geologists explored northern periphery of the sea and defined the area. Without Japanese archipelago, Sea of Japan is Pacific Ocean. For this reason, Europeans named the sea Sea of Japan. If Japan names the sea, it could have been Korean Sea or North Sea because those are the landmarks that defines the sea viewed from the Japanese side of the sea.

My point is, Koreans call Yellow Sea as West Sea. Chinese simply laugh at them and correctly point out that Yellow Sea is Yellow Sea, and "East Sea" is west of Japan.

24.この2年でいろいろと思い通りになったあなたがたは、中国に「日本海」を「東海」と表記するよう求めています。しかしこれは全くもって噴飯もの。あ なたがたに教えて差し上げましょう。「日本海」というのはこれまで慣習として呼ばれてきたもので、「日本の海」という意味ではありません。インド洋、アラ ビア海、ベンガル湾然り、皆その国に属してませんよね。
日本の国の面積と人口はあなたの国より遙かに多く、数百年という欧米との交流の歴史をも ち、国力も強大がため、この海域が日本海と称されるのは必然的な要因があったのです。
それに日本はその片側半分をこの海域に浸しています。その長 さから見ても論拠には充分で、あなたがたが「東海」と呼ぶ海域は、日本からみれば「西海」ではありませんか。
中国では古来、この海域を「青海」も しくは「鯨海」と称していました。唐代の渤海は現在のウラジオストックから日本海をまたぎ、十数回と渤海使を派遣して日本と交流をおこなっていたのです。 このときに中国はこの海域を「日本海」と呼んでいます。精巧で美しい海図と多くの文献が残されています。古地図を展示するのが大好きなあなたがたがまさか それを知らない筈はないでしょう。

25.あなたがたは60年代あたりから、黄海をこっそりと「西海」に改めるよう国際社会に働きかけてい ますよね。いまではあなたがたの国の出版社はすべて黄海を「西海」と表記しています。でも無駄です。英語読みで黄海は「Yellow Sea」。黄海は永遠に黄海です。

Third, Korean history does not relate to real history.
South Korea almost abandoned Chinese characters. (North Korea abandoned Chinese characters completely and uses only Hangul now.) This is a serious problem because all history documents before the Japanese era are completely written in Chinese characters. Hangul, the phonetic letters, were not for official use before then. Even the first communication between Meiji Japan and Korea (Li dynasty) was written in Chinese. When 袁世凱 interrogated 大院君, the father of 高宗, the communication between the two was written Chinese. The records during the Japanese era are written in Japanese with massive Chinese characters. Therefore, younger generations in South Korea have no basic skills to read the historical records other than what is written in Hangul. This makes Korean history education into Orwellian form: students cannot verify the original source or do they care at all? Koreans are now claiming they have 5,000 years of history.

The first history book in Korea 三国史記 (history of three nations, meaning three Koreas) was written in 12th century, 500 years after the Japanese one. Chinese wrote the first history book 史記 in 1st century BC. All historical records of Korea before 12th century relies either Chinese or Japanese records, as if they were not important at all to Koreans. Hangul was created in 15th century. Nothing was written in Hangul before then, and everything was written in Chinese. Japanese phonetic alphabets, the counterpart of Hangul, were established in 8th century. 三国史記 places beginning of Korea at right after the occupation by 武帝 of Han dynasty (1st century AD). Since Chinese have all the documentation, 三国史記 could not fake the history before that, but at least the author read and knew the Chinese documents. Japanese were again fortunate (?) in that sense, because in the first two history books written in 7th century, they could place the origin of Japan (and the emperor) in 7th century BC.

The Orwellian system could be found in the purest form in North Korea, because they completely abolished Chinese characters. They can create and recreate the history as they wish and as often as they like. Now, Kim Jong Il was born in mountain shack in North Korea, when actually he was born in Russia under the protection of Soviets.

For these reasons, past history means something different from the actual history in South Korea, which is reinforced through their educational system motivated by political agenda and their fear for identity. This situation makes politics of history completely futile. Therefore, Japan should leave history to historians and direct things to more pragmatic aspects.

1 comment:

apple407 said...

Your research and scholarship is impressive. But, I feel you remain too focussed on your (impressive) details that you fail to brush in the larger global picture for the cause of so-called Japanese war of aggression: African continent-colonized by Europe; India-colonized by Britain; China-about to be colonized; South-east Asian zone variously owned by european interests; not to omit Russian expansionist intentions in Mongolia and in China and in the middle east.

Didn’t these wider global trends instruct Japan in its own survival strategies?