October 28, 2005
“History will be kind to us, gentlemen, for I plan to write it”, said Winston Churchill.
There has been a gaga in South Korea over the alleged distortion of the Japanese history textbook that was designed for the middle-school students in Japan, and a series of mass rallies against Japan was held in Seoul, demanding the government’s action and seeking anti-Japanese product campaign by the ever-present civic group.
One of red-hot protesters bit his finger to write his deathwish against the Tokyo’s approval of distorted textbook with his dripping blood, which is common both in Korean and Japanese culture, and several “comfort women”, who served Japanese military during the WW II as forced prostitutes, showed their displeasure pumping wobbly arms up in the air.
However, quite a contrary to the nationwide protest, the Korean Government, has kept mum about the issue, while his foreign minister was reluctant to react against the Japanese government, suggesting that they have no realistic ways to sanction Japan for the matter, and took a symbolic gesture of recalling South Korean ambassador to Japan.
As every Korean Presidents, the factotum for the US neo-colonialism, have buckled humiliatingly under the pressure of the U.S. Administration with regards to the engagement policy vis-à-vis North Korea, the South Koreans are in no position to counter economically, politically, and militarily against their old colonial master, Japan.
“History is the memory of states”, wrote Henry Kissinger in his book, and Columbus later wrote, “Let us in the name of the Holy Trinity go on sending all the slaves that can be sold,” after he returned from the voyage to the New World, during which he took more than 500 Native American men, women, and children to Spain for sale who half of them died on the ship.
Kissinger tells the history from the viewpoint of political leaders, queens and Kings ignoring the millions who suffered from those statemen’s policies.
Columbus wrote the history of his voyages from the looking glass of Spanish conquerors, and felt no wrongs to massacre Arawak Indians for not bringing in gold.
The US President, Woodrow Wilson, was referred as the father of the national self-determination to the Korean students who were taught from the history textbook that was revised by the obsequious South Korean government to the Americans at the end of WW II.
No Korean history teachers knew that Wilson supported and executed the “righteous conquest of foreign country” in order to obtain foreign market for the American products, even if sovereignty of unwilling nations would be abused in the process.
Mandarins from the Education Department of Sygnman Rhee’s government have forced newspaper editors, history teachers, and scholars to change the description of America in Chinese character from “rice country” to “beautiful country”.
During the Vietnam War, Gen. CH Park, a vicious military dictator who most of South Koreans honor him a national hero and want to build the memorial hall for him, dispatched over 50,000 Korean soldiers to the independent-seeking country, raping, killing and marauding innocent Vietnamese men, women, and children under the guise of protecting democracy.
The history textbook in Korean school notes that the South Korean veterans in Vietnam War were national heroes and patriots, and students were never taught on the war that was one of the most unjust and cruel conflicts to humanity in modern history.
Recently, the South Korean news media fanned people’s anger over civilian killings committed by the US soldiers during the 1950 Korean War, without telling that fact that past Rhee’s government colluded with Americans in the massacre of innocent civilians beginning from 1945 to the end of the war, through a series of Kurchang massacre, Cheju Island revolt, and other numerous atrocities.
When the South Korean people devote exclusively to bolstering the orthodox history that rhapsodizes about Korean virtues and glories fed by their school, with no mention of their own shameful past history that leaves out anything might reflect badly upon Korean character, Japanese people can only see the Koreans soul full of ignorance and mouth full of hypocrisy.
“Traditional history” tends to project a Manichean world in depicting the world affairs: on one side, Japanese is an imperial evil intent enforcing their hegemony upon its neighboring countries simply because Japan was an occupier and conqueror in the past and refuses to admit the past wrongful activities.
On the other side, the Korean was the victim of Japanese colonialism, deserving compensation and apology from Japanese, no matter what the Korean does the same thing to other countries.
One of the typical lands that prevails a Manichean mind is the United States of America… Americans view their national history from the top down, to be deeply revered and not critically examined.
For example, since America is the land of opportunity, the poor have only themselves to blame and the riches deserve their wealth because the former was indolent and immoral and the latter was diligent and good. It is as simple as black and white, as in Cold War, Russia is bad and America the beautiful.
This mindset of American mentality never allows them to apologize, even though they hurt their neighbor, as in the Vietnam War and Spy plane incident in China. (When you hear repeated sorry from traveling American who bumps into your path, he does not mean “conventional” meaning of apology, but simply regrets what he has done and would not settle the matter without legal wrangling if saying sorry hurts him financially.)
In the high school textbook widely used throughout the United States, it said almost nothing about the anti-colonial nature of the Vietnamese struggle, the ecological destruction and massive bombings caused two millions of civilian casualties.
As history is largely a one-sided record compiled by the victors, the heterodox or loser’s history may offer a better learning experience than orthodox or winners records.
Koreans wisely are sided with American historians who note in history book that Japan was sole imperial force that expand their hegemonic power to conquer the China and Southeast Asia, which caused the Pacific War.
As a loser in the war, Japanese historians insisted that Japan did not have much choice in 1940s but to fight against the American Pacific Empire that strangled the commercial routes of Japanese industrial resources, such as tin, rubber and oil from the Southeast Asia and imposed total embargo on scrap iron and oil in the summer of 1941. (Japanese reminded American consuls in China initially supported the invasion of Japanese troop to China, and the US government exchanged notes with Japan saying that US government recognizes Japan has special interests in China.)
American always demanded an open door policy upon China, Korea, Japan and other countries, while they insisted on a closed door in Latin America with the Monroe doctrine and frequent military interventions.
During 36 years of Japanese occupation, many Koreans obediently kowtowed to the orders of Japanese occupiers without any significant resistance, and many of them became the loyal viceroy of Japan, torturing and jailing their own people and paid homage to the Japanese Shinto temple.
There were no organized guerrillas fighting against Japanese authorities except some banditry in the northern part of the country bordered with China.
The late leader of North Korea, Kim Il Sung claimed he was the ringleader of partisans roaming around the border, harassing and marauding the village people.
When the Japanese occupation has ended in 1945, the US army simply replaced the Japanese occupiers in the southern part of Korea with the help of a batch of Korean collaborators to Japan, including Gen. CH Park who was a lieutenant in Japanese Imperial Army stationed in Manchuria, and a majority of politicians, military officers, policemen, and civilian mandarins in the new South Korean government were former lackeys of Japanese imperialism.
The first thing Gen. Park did when he got the power with putsch was begging money from Japan, sending an emissary, JP Kim, then-KCIA chief, to his former employer, Imperial government of Japan, and Japan gave him $3 billion for the compensatory payment for the 36 years of Japanese occupation.
The Japanese payment was the seed money for the future development of the fledgling industries in the South in conjunction with the flow of scrap iron, raw materials and other resources that were robbed from the Vietnam War by the South Korean mercenary forces.
When media and civic leaders in Seoul pump anti-Japanese product campaign in the air, the former colonial masters in Tokyo laugh at the abject ignorance of poor “Senjin” (derogatory word for Korean).
Everyone in both Japan and South Korea knows that the export industries in the South Korea collapse if Japanese economy goes down the tube and the South Koreans can not live a day without Japanese products or technology.
In the future history book of Korean school children, it is a moot point whether the United States of America would be depicted as the savior of Korean democracy and prosperity or the neo-colonial power that emptied and exploited the national treasures leaving the South Koreans in despair.
However, if Koreans rely entirely on the textbook fortified by the official rendition of benign and rhetorical history, chances are they may never know where they are until they find themselves stark naked, chained, and work in the neo-colonial slave system.
It is not a time for the South Koreans lazily shouting against the past enemy, but must look into who the present enemy is and where their pied piper, their Government, leads them.