Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Aidan Foster-Carter - "Why can't Koreans see Japan straight?

Aidan Foster-Carter has a new article up on the Web site Asia Times entitled "Why can't Koreans see Japan straight?" It talks about how Korea's obssession with the past is clouding its future. He starts out his article by suggesting that Korea might need to see a psychiatrist to help it put its past behide it.
Why might you need it [therapy]? When there is stuff in your life, past or present, that holds you back. So, deal with it, or bury it; that's often the problem. But you want to get over it: put it in a place where it not longer hurts so much, or stops you seeing straight and getting on with your life. You can't change the past - but you can put it behind you and move on.

As with individuals, so with nations. At the risk of losing friends in my favorite country, I shall stick my neck out and bluntly ask: Why can't South Koreans see Japan straight? (The same goes for North Koreans, for that matter.) Shouldn't they, dare I say, get help on this?
Notice how Aidan Foster-Carter seems worried about how Koreans might react to his mentioning the obvious, which suggests to me that Korean watchers and historians are often not free to speak their minds when it comes to Korean history because they know how easily Koreans get their feelings hurt, which may result in their lose of career-enhancing friends and supporters in Korea. That also suggests to me that we are getting a Korea-friendly version of history from our Korean historians.


  1. Thank you for very interesting article.

    It is so-called Korean 恨(grudge) which can hardly be seen in any other nations. It was observed even a century ago.

    『Korea and Her Neighbors』written by Isabella Bird Bishop: an English lady who traveled through Japan and Korea before and during occupation period.
    (p81)"from 20 to 30 Japanese soldiers were quartered in the yamens. The people hated them with a hatred which is the legacy of three centuries, but could not allege anything against them, admitting that they paid for all they got, molested no one, and were seldom seen outside the yamen gates."
    (p104)"There, as elsewhere, though the people hated the Japanese with an intense hatred, they were obliged to admit that they were very quiet and paid for everything they got."
    (p115)"During the subsequent occupation the Japanese troops behaved well, and all stores obtained in the town and neighborhood were scrupulously paid for. Intensely as the people hated them, they admitted that quiet and good order had been preserved"
    (p155)"At Cha san, as elsewhere, the people expressed intense hatred of the Japanese, going so far as to say that they would not leave one of them alive; but, as in all other places, they bore unwilling testimony to the good conduct of the soldiers, and the regularity with which the commissariat paid for supplies."

    Koreans had still had a grudge against Japanese for the invasion of 300 years ago(Imjin War) in early 20c.
    Even though they had to admit Japan did something good to them in the bottom of their hearts, they couldn't say it openly especially in front of other Koreans. That kind of suppression dominates over Korea even today.

  2. I'm really worried about this problem that has been lying in Korea for centuries, not only recent years. Koreans seem to lack perspective when they see history. It becomes notable when it comes to the issue related to Japan.
    Followings are descriptions in books written by foreigners who observed how Koreans have been purposely forging their own history.

    『The New York Outlook : "Japanese in Korea"』(Nov.11.1905) George Kennan
    "The Koreans are mostly exaggerators or barefaced liars, by heredity and by training, and it is impossible to accept without careful verification, the statements which they make with regard to Japanese misbehavior."

    『Corea the Hermit Nation』(1882) William Elliott Griffis
    (p150-151)"This is a good specimen of Corean varnish-work carried into history. The rough facts are smoothed over by that well-applied native lacquer, which is said to resemble gold to the eyes. The official gloss has been smeared over more modern events with equal success, and even defeat is turned into golden victory"

    The way they see Japan/Korea history is almost paranoid.

    Koreans insist Japanese drove metal piles into the ground all over Korea in order to cut off the earth veins and DEMORALIZE Korean land during occupation era. They call them "Japanese Curse Piles".
    As a matter of fact, they are just "surveying stakes" Japan set in the process of the land research project. The farming area was expanded and Korean farmers finally could get their own farms without being exploited by Yangban because of the project.

    Koreans insisted Imperial Japan has interpolated the inscriptions on the Gwanggaeto Stele. Because it says Japanese controlled over the southern part of Korean peninsula in 4c.
    But it was found the inscription completely agreed with the original rubbed copy which was discovered in China.
    Japanese never altered the inscriptions. Koreans' insistence was confuted.

    In contrast to Korea, every other Asian countries occupied by Japan in the past have objective eyes and are teaching their students about both good things and bad things Japan has done without being biased.