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The Japanese-South Korean Problem: my Two Cents (more Like Two Thousand Dollars)

Hanada Tattsu

12 Aug 2003
As we all know, in the year 1910, The Meiji Empire of Japan annexed the Korean Empire. It was the beginning of a thirty-five-year brutal occupation by the Japanese, ending in 1945, after many air raids in Japanese and Korean cities, such as Seoul, Busan, and Pyongyang.

Crushed and defeated, Emperor Showa (Hirohito) ordered the Japanese troops to withdraw from Korea, leaving the peninsula to be invaded by two powers, the south by the Americans and the north by the communist Soviets.

Of course, even though Nihon left Korea, the Koreans still never forgot their defeats at the Japanese hands, which was to prove disastrous in just five years.

From this time on, Korea lay divided. The South was a prosperous, modern country, and the north was a communist, developing country. When in 1950, the North invaded the South, America, England, Wales, and Scotland helped the South liberate itself, while Red China, which too, like Korea, had been liberated from Japanese rule just five years before, helped the fellow Red North.

Japan, which was still under American occupation, wanted to send some troops into Korea to help the Nationalist South. However, the S. Koreans resisted the idea.

Emperor Hirohito was angered. Here he was, going out of his way from his occupied country to help the South, but he was getting the cold shoulder from South Korea.

Of course, Emperor Showa hated Korea and thought of them as inferior, but he still wanted to show that Japan was not defeated.

As the Korean end drew to a close in 1953, Asia had been left divided. American troops left Japan, and Soviet forces left Mongolia and North Korea. These countries remained communist. American forces left South Korea in 1954, but the Americans left the islands of Ryuku and Okinawa in 1972.

In this time, in Korea and Japan, racism and hatred against both Koreans (in Nihon) and Japanese (in Korea, mainly the South) sprung up. The Koreans were still angry at the Japanese for the brutality of the occupation period, and the Japanese felt Koreans as being inferior.

Syngman Rhee, S. Korean prime minister, hated the Japanese, and in Japan, ministers of education did not put the brutality of the occupation in textbooks.

Emperor Hirohito, in the 1970s, ambiguously apologized, but this was not good enough for the Koreans.

By 1980, Japan had become terribly modern. Major cities which were modern like Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka, Nagoya, Kobe, and Sapporo started springing up. In South Korea, cities like Seoul, Busan, Inchon, and Daegu were also present.

Of course, South Koreans still hate the Japanese. At my Taekwando studio, which is obviously South Korean, I brought my Emperor Hirohito book one day, and all the South Koreans present in the studio glared at me.

IMO, the Japanese and Koreans are both to blame, but mostly the Koreans. Of course, the Japanese did indeed kill many Koreans for no reason, and the thirty-five-year occupation as a Japanese colony was uncalled for, but the Koreans must forget that.

South Korea and Japan must ally to fight North Korea. If this racism and inferiority continue, then both countries may get invaded by North Korea and face a brutal occupation themselves.

Of course, N. Korea and S. Korea are both much stronger (military wise) than Japan, which used to be strong, but still, they must ally and put aside their differences, for now, at least.
Easy to Forget?

To Hanada Tatsu:

I see that you are from the US, as well. Here is a message for you: Why are you so proud of Japan? Judging by your profile, you are one of those anime or video game otaku. Do you wish to be Japanese also? I cannot believe you base all your opinions about Japan and life on such things. I'm a big fan of Italian food, but would I base my opinions and life about Italy just because I am a fan of their food? Certainly not! There are far more aspects than just anime and video games, and those that can separate themselves from their hobbies in life and opinion are far more educated.

Dai Nihon, Great Japan, you say? I wonder if you are even aware of the sacrifice of your servicemen and women. Many died at the hands of the Japanese in an inhumane manner. I hope you know that you disdain those who sacrificed their lives and service members like me who protect your freedom day by day so you can live in peace in the US. Also, keep in mind that it doesn't matter how much you appreciate, love, and learn about Japan; the Japanese will never accept you as one of them, and you will always be a gaijin.

As an American who lived in Japan and Korea for quite some time, please allow me to share my viewpoints. What is interesting here is the fact that most people don't regard the Japanese colonization as a really terrible ordeal. They do not believe it was as bad as the Holocaust, which happened in Europe, due to the West's media influence. The Western World knows almost nothing about what truly happened in Asia at that period. Those who think Colonization is a "ho-hum yeah it was bad, but let's move on" is radically misinformed.

Firstly, Japan was responsible for the deaths of over 15 million people, almost three times the number of people who perished in the Holocaust. This included not only the people of the Japanese conquered territories but also the Prisoners of War. The inhumane acts were just as terrible if not worse than those committed by the Nazis: Medical experiments, massive murder, beheading for sport, use of comfort women, etc...Germany got what it deserved, and the Nazi criminals of war were tried and hanged at Nuremberg.

Many American, European, Australian, Asian, and other prisoners of war were treated inhumanely. To this day, many veterans who were POWs in the Japanese camps will forever hate the Japanese and never forgive them. I spoke with quite several veterans, and I do not blame them in some sense. Japanese soldiers, under the order of their commanders, killed POWs for spite. They loved to practice cutting heads with their swords, and their favourite targets were POWs of tall stature. Also favoured for "targets" were redheads, blondes, and anything other characteristics that were deemed "foreign". Very little, if any, food was given to POWs. They were also laboured to death, forced to endure torture, all for the Japanese's amusement.

At the end of the war, what punishment did Japan receive? Not much, really. Many were allowed to return to their lives without getting tried, and many countries didn't care enough to make this a full matter; India dismissed the incident saying nothing really happened. Thus, though stripped of power, Emperor Hirohito was not really charged with war crimes, like Hitler being pardoned for the Holocaust.

The fact of the matter is that Japan, as a nation, has never repented to those it has wronged. Actions speak louder than words; simply saying "I'm sorry" doesn't mean one repents. If Japan really regretted its past, would it have allowed history books to cover up issues such as comfort women, the Rape of Nanjing, the science experiments on human beings, etc.? Wouldn't the nation think twice about paying tribute to war criminals at the Yasukuni Shrine? One cannot help but notice these are RECENT incidents.

Does Germany censor anything about Hitler and the Holocaust? Do they pay respects to war criminals? Are human rights violations against foreigner tolerated? Ask any German citizen today, and they will flatly state that their country has committed unforgivable atrocities during that era.
Thus it is easier for the Jews to forgive and forget the incident than those who the Japanese conquered. It also doesn't help that the Western world and its media have only concentrated on the European aspects of WWII. Asia and the incidents there were clearly under the shadow.

Why do you believe it is mostly Korea's fault for not forgiving Japan? Certainly, through the actions, Japan has never repented. Why is such human rights violation being allowed against Koreans after the North Korean kidnapping incidents: threatening phone calls, screaming at, physical abuser, etc...
I can assure you that though there is racism in Korea against the Japanese, cases against human rights violations like those occurring in Japan seldom occur. I can provide many articles detailing the human rights violations against Koreans (also Americans and any other gaijin...or, to be more polite...gaikokujin....yeah whatever) in Japan. How many can you provide me with such human rights violation incidents against Japanese and other foreign groups in Korea?

Though I believe that there are faults in Japan and Korea, placing most of the blame on Korea is not the answer. Japan has clearly wronged many nations as well as their POWs.

Yes, I agree that the nations under Japanese occupation (namely Korea and China) can be hard-hearted when it comes to forgiving, but people of these nations have a valid reason to complain. Japan may have apologized in words, but definitely not through actions...as Germany has done. What is also interesting is that Japan blames its Asian neighbours for being stubborn about past mistakes. However, when North Korea was wronged on Japanese citizens being kidnapped, Japan is the one being stubborn to forgive.

Take a look at the information and pictures of the following websites:





Is this something easily forgivable? Are there any real differences between those pictures on the second website and those taken at the concentration camps in Europe? Was justice really served upon Japan? It clearly seems not.

Yet Japan constantly reminds the world of their wrongdoings in history, and are quick to point the finger, IE the atomic bombs dropped at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is also interesting that Japan blames its Asian neighbours for being stubborn about past mistakes. However, when North Korea wronged it on kidnapping Japanese citizens, Japan is stubborn to forgive. No country is free of wrongdoings, but it becomes an issue when it will not admit them.

While these were horrible acts, it pales compared to the number of atrocities the whole Empire of Japan committed during its occupation in Asia. Japan wants to forget and move on when it refers to its past actions. But it will not forgive and will be quick to point the wrongs of other nations and their histories.
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I am not sure I like writing this, but I think the poster of this thread is ignorant of the subject.

I'll say one thing: when you study history, you find out that every nation, with no exception, have, at least once, been the victim and the invader. Each nation has been invaded, and each nation has invaded. This is history; no nation is right, no nation is wrong. Each nation does what she thinks is good for its own sake, and it ends there.

Don't you say ''it's more the Koreans fault'' because this is proof of deep ignorance of the world's history?

Oh, and also for "Watcher", I don't know if you blame the Japanese people for what the Japanese ARMY did in the past, but I think if you do, you shouldn't. As I said, EVERY NATION did horrible things in the past, and every nation intends to do it again if necessary. And also, a nation's government DOES NOT represent its people. More importantly, a nation's ARMY does not represent its people's mentality. Do not judge the Japanese people, or many people, by the actions of their nation's army. You would be totally wrong, my friend.
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