Aug 30th 2010 5:42 GMT
I find it simply farcical when Westerners who know very little about the true origins of the long-held Korean hostility against Japan dismiss it as a light, once-upon-a-time happening. As a person born and raised in Korea, I deeply sympathize with the elderly who actually went through the Japanese occupation years as well as virtually almost all of the citizens who recognize the unforgettable scars that my country still bears in evidence of the past sufferings. This article, not to mention almost every other writing by foreigners (largely from the West) on the Korea-Japan relationship, seems to portray Korean people as some ignorant, grudge-holding lot who don't let bygones be bygones. The fact of the matter is that the Japanese government has long been reluctant to accept, let alone apologize for, the atrocities they committed against innocent Korean civilians not only during the 35 years of the Japanese occupation but also during the Second World War.
Starting with the assassination of the well-known, beloved Empress Myeongseong, the Japanese carried out cultural genocide against significant Korean customs, values, and so on, the most important of which was the valued Korean language. Numerous Korean texts that held enormous cultural value were trashed or altered to justify the Japanese colonization. People were forced to change their original names to Japanese ones and the use of Korean was harsly suppressed in schools all over the country. Now, here's what's even more horrific: Japanese soldiers were especially cruel to common villagers who were defenseless against the former's brutal treatment, which ranged from arbitrary execution, rape, forced labor, and clandestine military medical experimentation. During World War II, many Korean women, the majority of whom were teenaged girls, were forced into Japanese military brothels and were labeled "comfort women"; they were subjected to inhuman sexual slavery and physical abuse. The handful of survivors from this living hell, now very old and fragile, still suffer from serious illnesses, the remnants of those past years.
Now, let me come down to the bone of the problem. What infuriates the Korean people is the fact that the Japanese government has largely denied these charges, whether that be the atrocities committed during the occupation or WWII (the existence of Japanese military brothels, for example, is an established fact that some Japanese just won't admit), refused to pay reparations for the comfort women, and even meddled with their school textbooks. The Japanese government has covered up many incidents that would put in in a disagreeable position across the globe. Data falsification is rampant as well. The fact that some ex-millitary generals of Japan who were the very people who committed the war crimes still sit at the high society of Japan and lead convenient lives when many former comfort women suffer from fractured hip, missing teeth, bowed legs, and pretty much every other horrible sickness you can imagine is outrageous.
Unless the Japanese government unequivocally apologizes for all of its crimes and stops trying to bury the past, we Koreans' negative view of a world superpower won't change a bit.
Unless you see the sickening images of Korean civilians (many of them nationalists fighting against the cultural genocide and the oppressive Japanese rule) murdered in the most heartless ways and their honorable deaths mocked and dirtied (there's a picture of Japanese soldiers greening with the skulls of dead Koreans spiked on long sticks); unless you hear the heartbreaking cries of a former comfort woman humiliated by a Japanese attempt to cover up her protest for Japan to apologize for her past sufferings; and unless you really understand the whole generation of Koreans holding out their national flags on the Independence Day, you won't know why Koreans still hold on to the past. It's something you probably won't ever understand unless you're a person born on the Korean soil and raised to love the country as it is.
I won't lie and say ALL Japanese people are in denial of their war criems. There are also intelligent Japanese people who recognize their government's faults and even protest against the notorious cover-up attempts. I'm not supporting any racial/ethnic stereotype or generalization on the whole country of Japan.
But, again, what Koreans want is the formal, unequivocal apologies of the Japanese government. And an official war-crimes tribunal that would actually punish the former perpetrators, some of whom still enjoy comfortable lives.
A 100-year war of words The Economist Aug 30th 2010
"It's something you probably won't ever understand unless you're a person born on the Korean soil and raised to love the country as it is" 「韓国の大地に生まれ、ありのままの韓国を愛すべく育てられた人でなければ、決して理解できないだろう」と彼は言う。