Saturday, February 13, 2010

Why it is wrong to react to the Korean resentment

This is a rebuttal to Tobias Harris's framing of Japan-Korea relationship.

I agree with Tobias's general assertion that building good relationship with South Korea is important for Japan's security. However, I do not agree with his idea that the resolving remorse or resentment on the Korean side is the basis of such relationship. Let me explain why.

First, Japanese past relationships with Korea and China are totally different. Japan was fighting war not against Korea, but against China. Korea was mostly under peaceful annexation, but in China, hot war was raging with massive number of people being killed.

Second, even though Tamogami's attitude looks diplomatically unwise, many points he raised are factually correct. Or I would say they are much more close to the reality than the Korean version of the narrative. Yes, the population doubled. Yes, public health was improved. Yes, cities were modernized. Yes, Japan built Seoul University. Yes, Japan built railways. Yes, Japan planted trees on bald mountains. Yes, Japan promoted Hangul (actually the first Hangul dictionary was created by Japan), except during the last several years of the crazy war.

Third, there are many points factually wrong about popular Korean myths. Japan did not conscript 200,000 sex-slaves from Korea. By the way, Japan did not change the name of Sea of Japan. The sea was named by Europeans. Japan did not force draft on Koreans until the last year of the war (Sept 1944). Before the draft, joining the IJA was voluntary, and there were massive applicants to the chosen few spots. Actually, the late president Park was educated in military academy in Manchuria. The numbers of applicants to IJA are as follows. Considering that the population of 25 million in the Peninsula (1944), 0.3 million young male applicants to IJA is not a small number. Half of the population is women, and if one assumes a quarter of population is in appropriate age, then this means one in ten of the eligible people applied.

Korean applicants to Imperial Japanese Army (year/applicants/accepted)

1938 2,946 406
1939 12,348 613
1940 84,443 3,060
1941 144,743 3,208
1942 254,273 4,077
1943 303,394 6,000

Population in Korean Peninsula (year/millions)
1753 7.3
1850 7.5
1906 9.8
1910 13.12
1920 16.91
1930 19.68
1940 22.95
1944 25.12

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