Abe, the US, and ‘Korea Fatigue’: How Interested is the US in the Korean ‘History Issue’?

That is Wendy Sherman in Korea before the flap over her ‘history’ remarks.

The following essay was originally posted here, at the Lowy Institute.

The idea for this essay came from watching Abe’s successful trip to the US last month and just how much the Korean media wigged out that that was some major set-back for Korea. There were even calls at the time that the Korean foreign minister should resign, as if some how MoFA could have stopped Abe and Obama from sharing a glass of wine or whatever, and that that was some kind of cataclysm for Korea. Really? Jesus. Get some perspective.

Anyway, all the hullaballoo just reinforced that South Korea has an unhealthy obsession with Japan and an ‘enemy image’ of it that really doesn’t fly when you live next to the likes of North Korea, China, and Russia. Are Korea’s historical grievances with Japan legitimate? Yes, they are. Does Abe’s coalition have creepy righties in the shadows? Also, yes. But when you are more willing to talk to the modern day version of Big Brother (Kim Jong Un), than the elected leader of a liberal democracy with a 70-year history of good global citizenship, then something is wrong.

Anyway, I already got lots of hate-mail on this (try here and here if you want to troll me), so please spare me your ‘you-hate-Korea-and-don’t-what-you’re-talking-about’ and ‘Japanese-colonialism-was-good-for-Korea’ emails. I just delete them anyway.

Enjoy. …or maybe not. I don’t really care anymore…


“Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe recently completed a successful trip to the United States. As Brad Glosserman and Scott Snyder of CSIS argue, the trip came off about as well as anyone might have expected. Abe is the first Japanese prime minister to address Congress and seems to have built a good rapport with President Obama. The expected, almost ritualized South Korean and Chinese criticisms of Abe’s policy pronouncements seem to have left the US administration unmoved. Earlier in the year, US Under-Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said publicly that Korea’s fixation on historical issues was ‘frustrating’ and produced ‘paralysis, not progress.’ The Korean response was predictably sharp, but as Karl Friedhoff and Alastair Gale both recently argued, the Koreans are slowly losing this global perceptual struggle with Japan. What the Japanese call ‘Korea fatigue’ – exhaustion with South Korea’s relentless hammering of war-time issues – is hitting the US, which deeply wants South Korea-Japan future-oriented cooperation.

As Sherman and countless western analysts have noted, the real issue for the US in Asia is, of course, China. While the US is not openly balancing China, the days of US belief in China’s ‘peaceful rise’ seem to be fading. Increasingly, the relationship is becoming competitive, particularly as China’s South China Sea expansion continues. In this climate, a strong US-Japan relationship is critical. Japan is the only Asian state that can really go head-to-head with China, barring India perhaps. As I have argued elsewhere, Japan is a unique bulwark to the extension of Chinese power. It is the world’s third largest GDP and the lynchpin of the American structure in Asia. The ‘pivot,’ America’s defense of South Korea, any intervention to assist Taiwan, and all other US Asian engagements are premised on the Japanese ‘way-station.’ Abe emphasized Japan’s centrality before Congress, and both the joint Obama-Abe statement from their trip and the new US-Japan Defense Guidelines repeat this. As Friedhoff sharply noted, “Mr. Abe saved the biggest dig at South Korea for near the end of his speech. In one of his only explicit references to South Korea, he mentioned it as an additional partner to the ‘central pillar’ of the U.S.-Japan alliance. In doing so, he made it clear that he views South Korea not as an equal—which is how Seoul views the trilateral alliance—but as a junior.”

Unsurprisingly all this causes great heartburn in Korea. As a middle power, it deeply irks Korean elites when the US, Japan, and China engage one another over Korea’s head. The hyperbole of Korea’s response to Sherman illustrates this hankering for status in a region where Korea is dwarfed by its neighbors. Korea’s ruling Saenuri party retorted: “If the U.S. continues its stance of ignoring victims, its status as the world’s policeman won’t last long.” No less than American hegemony might be the cost of US disinterest in Korea historical issues! Obviously this is not so; rather the comment illustrates Seoul’s fear that the US is simply burned out with this issue.

An important, post-Abe trip editorial in Korea’s major center-left paper, The Hankyoreh, admitted this and suggested the previously unthinkable: that South Korea should give up defining its relationship with Japan through the lens of the war. Even the Park administration seems to realize this. And it was always a somewhat impossible hope that Japan would issue a monolithic, thorough-going apology that everyone in Japan would strictly cleave to permanently. Open societies just do not operate like that. To my mind, Korea’s concerns with Japan’s historical representation, particularly at the Yasukuni Shrine museum, the Yūshūkan, and Abe’s (somewhat creepy) coalition, are quite correct. But badgering Japan is not the way to encourage contrition. The needed internal reckoning is ultimately something Japan must do for itself on its own. In lieu of a society’s own initiative, outside pressure will only breed a nationalist backlash, as it does in Japan over the war or China over human rights.

But it is also the case that South Korea has built its national identity so much around Japan as competitor, if not enemy, that it is quite difficult to move on. Victor Cha acutely observed awhile ago, that South Korea teaches a ‘negative nationalism’ of ‘anti-Japanism,’ and that most countries would have accepted Japan’s two big apologies in the 1990s (the Murayama and Kono Statements) and moved on. But ‘anti-Japanism’ is now akin to a political correctness in South Korea; public officials dare not bend (particularly on the right, where many are the children and grandchildren of collaborators). Maximalism on Japan, such as the needlessly provocative campaign to re-name the ‘Sea of Japan’ the ‘East Sea’ or page 341 of this, is so common and strident that Japanese elites are all-but-certain to regard concessions as humiliations before a state and people who loathe them. In the language of international relations theory, anti-Japanism is a part of South Korea’s ‘ontological security.’ The contention is so formative that it is hard to let go.

For this reason, I flagged that Hankyoreh editorial above; it is so very rare to read such sentiments in the press here. But even there, one can see the ‘enemy image’ at work: Abe’s trip to the US, which is fairly traditional diplomatic activity that had little to do with Korea, is an “icy blast from Japan.” The US-Japan summit, by two democracies whose assistance with North Korea is crucial, is a “shock,” that sent Korea “reeling.” That South Korean diplomats could somehow not stop Abe-Obama bonhomie means they are “inept,” “silent,” “cowardly,” and so on. There have even been calls for the foreign minister to resign over the successful Abe summit with Obama. This zero-sum, if-Japan-is-up-we-are-down mentality is deeply ingrained.

I have argued elsewhere why this is so, and I am working on a lengthier article regarding this. But in short, I believe Korea’s national division explains this intense, almost dogmatic ‘anti-Japanism.’ North and South Korea are in a direct, permanent, enervating legitimacy contest. North Korea has long since been a racist, nationalist, almost fascistic, rather than Marxist, state. Defending the Korean race (the minjok) against foreign predators is its raison d’etre, and in doing so, it routinely damns South Korea as the ‘Yankee colony,’ selling out the national patrimony and race purity to foreigners. South Korea cannot contest such reactionary nationalist credentials; it is too internationalized and Americanized, complete with a foreign military presence. Nor does South Korea’s corrupted, elitist, chaebol-dominated democracy generate enough internal legitimacy to counter Northern minjok fetishism. So Japan fills in nicely. It is the nationalist whipping boy, generating ontological security for a South Korean state unable to ‘out-minjok’ its competitor.”

52 thoughts on “Abe, the US, and ‘Korea Fatigue’: How Interested is the US in the Korean ‘History Issue’?

  1. You’re doing some of your best work lately. This is excellently argued. Though I often wonder if you have actual concerns about your personal or job safety at times. It’s easy for others to suggest you do more work, but this legitimacy-through-martyr-complex theory might be a subject worthy of book treatment.

    Robert, I have thought of writing an article about the rhetoric of these statements (or a chapter in your book!). I know many Koreans privately scoff at these hyperbolic, overblown, superlative and buzzword-laden pronouncements in journalism and government promotions, and yet this style (we’re number 1 global leader passionate hub eco-powerhouse, unless Japan sincerely atones) shows up in my students’ papers. How long back in Korean history does this bombastic speech or writing style go– is it recent (Park Chung-Hee days) or might it even go back to pre-colonial times in poetry or other forms?


    • Thanks, Ken. Yes, sometimes I worry about whether there will be a backlash. But I figure I am too far below the radar. How many Koreans read the Lowy blog or my re-posts here?

      I will say that I don’t get invited to conferences like I used to. I figure that is a response to what I argue. No one wants to hear it. But if I get fired, I’ll be sure to come to you to work as an adjunct.

      And I’d rather have the positive commentary of my colleagues, such as you, the the approval nationalists whose benchmark is politicized.


      • glad you don’t get invited any more. Quality of your research is Ohio state level crap


      • Before you worry about how many Koreans read your post, you should know there is almost no Koreans that reads their history in their primary source materials.

        Just about all of their history is written in Chinese but there is almost no Korean that can read Chinese as they abandoned it. I’ve literally talked to hundreds of educated Koreans, but so far, I have met NO KOREAN that have read their official history books such as Sumguk Sagi or Annals of Joseon Dynasty in original. They cannot even read even if they wanted. Or, it is more like that there is not concept of primary source evidence for history education in Korea.

        South Korean Government exploited this situation to blatantly fabricates their history originally to raise their national pride to fight in the Korean War. Nobody can check who is telling the truth or lie as nobody can read Chinese characters in which their true history is written.

        I give you two examples of their obvious fabrications.

        1. In the Samguk Sagi, their first official history book, it says that all of Silla’s three King families, 朴, 昔, 金, are Japanese from Japan. But they are hiding this facts and teach Koreans that Japanese royal families were descendants from the Baekje royal family even though they stayed in Japan only as hostages.

        2. They say Dokko is Usando mentioned in the Samguk Sagi, and it was found by Silla in the 6th Century. However, Usando in their old maps are located in the west of Ulnendo, not in the east as it actually is.

        All these are quite obvious if you can read Chinese characters and make an effort to read their official history books in original (Their Hangul and the English translated versions are fabricated or deliberately mislead). But the government blatantly lies and fabricates knowing that nobody can check.

        You are right in that the Korea’s hatred towards Japan comes from not just from what happened during the annexation (or whatever they are taught have happened), but you are not quite right about where it comes from. It comes from Sojunghwa (小中華思想) and Confucianism; and the sudden needs of raising their national pride and the legitimacy of the government to fight in the Korean War as an instantly made country by US; and the fact that no present day Korean can read their true history in their original or official materials.


    • I’m not sure if this post is part of his “greatest work”. He complains about being “trolled” by nationalists, and yet posts like this actually is kind of nationalist trollbait. It’s basically focusing on how much Korea allegedly has never stopped hating Japan. Even as he’s criticizing it, he’s nevertheless dwelling in the nationalist narrative so to speak. How could he be disappointed that so many responses have been “nationalist trolling”? All I got from reading this post is “Look how much bad blood there is between these two countries” but little detail on why Japan and South Korea should more closely cooperate.


  2. I think that much of this is recently created. It certainly didn’t exist before pre-colonial times. I need to go back to find the article, but a while back I read an excellent article outlining the origin of the recent expression of anti-Japan rhetoric in Korea. The main point is that the current expression started in the post-democratization era, and that it is rooted in the national legitimacy argument so wonderfully expounded upon by Dr. Kelly. Also, the utility of the focus on Japan instead of internal social problems and addressing the North Korea situation cannot be ignored. It is interesting for me to watch as north Korea continually attacks South Korea in “surprise attacks”, but instead of an improved readiness for such a scenario, the government remains fixated on defending against Japan.


    • Anti-Japanese sentiment always existed since the colonial days, but you’re right, it didn’t really become this overt and heated until after the 1980s.


  3. Anti-Japanese sentiment goes back at least to the C14th Waegu (Japanese bandit) pirate raids (if not to Yamato Japan’s support for Baekje during its overthrow in the C7th), and – understandably – had its first climax during the 1590s Hideyoshi invasions. Relations slightly improved afterwards and Korea was the one country to maintain diplomatic relations with Japan throughout the Edo period, but they always regarded Japan as culturally inferior until the modern era.

    There was massive opposition to the normalization of relations with Japan in 1965 but until the 1990s South Koreans were obviously focused on their own domestic struggles and there was also heavy censorship so that maybe explains why the anti-Japan rhetoric wasn’t quite so explicit.

    Today NK and America are such politically polarized issues in SK, the one thing left to agree on – politically – is hating Japan. But most Koreans still enjoy going on holiday to Japan; many work there and quickly make friends with Japanese if they study abroad etc.

    The division of the peninsula and nature of NK currently cannot be solved, so I think, out of frustration people constantly look to the historical cause and a lot was left unresolved because of the immediate onset of the Cold War and US wanting Japan as a strong anti-Communist ally. This is then further politically exploited for the reasons given in this article. US is mistaken to presume that two neighboring states with such complex recent history could become comfortable allies – not without a big German style apology, but that is not going to happen; to my limited knowledge, no other country in history has ever made such an apology, so Germany is exceptional and not the norm as SK portrays it.


    • Great comment, Andrew. That last point is a really important one. Jennifer Lind has been saying that for years also. And a Willy Brandt-style down-on-your-knees apology is more owed to China than Korea. The Imperial army was far more brutal there.


      • Well, if I might vent a little about the topic, one thing I have noticed about the regular statements in the press about “Japan needs to sincerely apologize / sincerely atone” is that I do not believe I have ever seen journalists prescribe exactly WHAT a “sincere apology” entails, let alone a politician. It does give me the sentiment that the demand is purposefully ambiguous; if a Korean leader spelled out to Japan, here is the list: we want a Willy Brandt ceremony and a national day of commemoration and statues here and here, the worry is that Japan might call the bluff and DO it– removing the Korean position of strength as an eternal martyr (much like the Irish symbol of a mistreated woman, feminizing the idea).

        My point, other than this linguistic one, is that the wartime atrocities, although hideous, are somewhat of a proxy for the wider power game; the “apology” trope is a means to domination and submission between national powers. And as well, as Robert points out here, it serves domestic purposes in relation to North Korea. The good news is that when NK eventually does collapse or reform there might be a good chance of this policy becoming less necessary.


      • I agree. Demanding a Japanese apology has become central to Korean foreign policy. It’s hard to know what would be enough at this point. I’ve tried to note this also in my writing. Korea is demanding a level of complete, total, monolithic contrition bordering on grovelling and abnegation that no PM agree to and that no open society could abide by – there will always be dissenters – or will do at the badgering of others. That’s why I talk about this as part of Korea’s ‘ontological security.’ The contention with Japan is part of ROK identity now to the point where it’s not clear what the ROK would do without it. It’s baked-in – in the media, Arirang TV, textbooks, memorials and architecture, the ‘East Sea’ campaign, and so on. Some anthropologist should write all this up.


      • Obviously Japanese culture doesn’t allow acknowledgement of ones misdeeds which is a central aspect of this mess. But Koreans don’t expect someone from Ohio state to understand it


      • I think your first sentence might be partly true, but if it is Koreans don’t take into consideration this fact either. So why should Koreans expect “someone from Ohio” to understand something which they also don’t themselves?! But anyway, almost no country apologizes for past (or present) aggression so it probably doesn’t need to be explained in terms of culture.


      • Korea has not done anything wrong so no need to apologise? And countries like Germany did indeed apologise and Abe refused to follow. Germany might have slipped your mind


      • Wait, apologising might be too humiliating for Japan. How bad from Korea, it all must be Koreas fault.


      • Not that it would get them anywhere but if they wanted to be specific about an apology perhaps Korea should point to the American apology to Japanese Americans, an act of Congress. Abe will never go beyond what has been said he belongs to an influential right wing faction and they will not stand for it.


  4. Quite honestly, I find the anti-Japanism most depressing in the way it ends up as a diversion from domestic social issues. While no one can reasonably debate against South Korea as the “legitimate” Korea, South Korea as the pre-eminent East Asian democracy seems to be at least as desired a status for more than a few of the ROK’s bureaucrats. I think that, to an extent, among those for whom it is a concern, Korean politicians tend to imagine themselves operating, from a cultural-economic perspective, in a climate similar to Europe’s: Korea is just like, say France, to Japan’s Germany or U.K.

    From that viewpoint, South Korea’s human rights violations can be politically minimized, given an appropriate level of economic and technological competition is provided for Japan (hence the focus on growth and “development” at all costs), much like the France’s pop-cultural victories over Germany help equalize them, in the eyes of the public, despite Germany’s economic and technological advantages. Of course, given the demographic and economic disparities between those two pairings, that simply isn’t going to happen no matter how hard the ROK tries.

    However, given the difficulties inherent in trying to fix social issues, and what–at this point–I’m convinced is a very cowardly bunch of politicians, Korea tries to turn the focus on Japan’s social issues, while trumpeting its own relative economic competitiveness, whereas from a pure numbers perspective, South Korea would be much better off accepting its place as Japan’s “junior” from an international political-economic perspective, while leading on social issues. In other words, trying to be seen as the leading East Asian democracy, for which it has some hope, instead of the leading East Asian economy, for which it has really very little due to factors beyond its control.


    • Japan’s economy has been a big pile of dog poo for decades and why should Korea want. to be the junior of it? Totally ridiculous foreigner ideas


      • Oh no doubt, Japan’s economy has seen much better days. However, it remains East Asia’s largest democratic economy, and Japanese goods and technology are widely perceived as arguably the world’s best; “made in Japan” is still accepted as a general indicator of excellent quality, whether or not that generalization is fair.

        By contrast, people are at best ambivalent of “made in Korea”, which is probably not justifiable anymore, but the country still just does not have a consistent image as an economic powerhouse or purveyor of high-tech, high-quality goods.

        In my mind, this is in part due to South Korea’s mixed past and present as a democratic nation, where Japan has, in the minds of the international public anyway, a much better reputation. You can’t deny that there are economic effects of sociopolitical perceptions.

        With all that in mind, and the increasing rigidity of South Korea’s economy working against the ROK on the aspect of economically rivaling Japan,I think that Korea is better if working from the opposite end: try to make social reality better and hope to turn Japan into only an economic leader, instead of giving it the edge in international social perceptions, as well. This is a difficult task to separate from reforming Korea economically, maybe impossible, but I think the end result would given South Korea the diplomatic clout it wants.


    • This. The author seems to be playing victim at first, and then transition into over inflating the whole anti-Japanese sentiment that is present in South Korea, while at the same time, implying that South Koreans, as a whole, are not capable of logical reasoning or rational arguments. If he started his blog with a more diplomatic tone, then maybe his article might have more tone of credibility. Not to mention this article is completely one sided, only arguing against South Korea’s shortcomings, and not taking many different angles into perspective. Anyone happening to stop by this blog trying to gain some perspective on the Korea-Japan conflict would be well advised to take what this author is saying with the grain of salt.


    • This. The author seems to be playing victim at first, and then transition into over inflating the whole anti-Japanese sentiment that is present in South Korea, while at the same time, implying that South Koreans, as a whole, are not capable of logical reasoning or rational arguments. If he started his blog with a more diplomatic tone, then maybe his article might have more tone of credibility. Not to mention this article is completely one sided, only arguing against South Korea’s shortcomings, and not taking many different angles into perspective. Anyone happening to stop by this blog trying to gain some perspective on the Korea-Japan conflict would be well advised to take what this author is saying with a grain of salt.


  5. If I may butt in, I think the big issue in the Korean side is that they are letting the past interfere with what to do now and the future. Nobody is disputing the fact that what Japan did was wrong. They are letting the past interfere with the now. That is the biggest issue. If you perhaps packaged it like this and acknowledge what Japan did is wrong but you shouldn’t let history hold you back with what to do now perhaps Koreans will get a better understanding.
    History especially the atrocities and the raw deal that Korea got from the 19th century and early 20th century, this includes Theodore Roosevelt’s dealing which practically traded Korea for Japan not meddling in the Philippines and the anti americanism that pops up here and there, is to be used to remember and learn from it and make better decisions in the future as opposed to just hold Korea back.

    This sentiment is causing Koreans to really disregard the current situation which the current snapshot is that China is not the China of the Qing Dynasty or the ROC, Japan isn’t exactly the militarist Japan of the 30’s, and US isn’t the ignorant country that made some questionable decisions such as mentioned. The current snapshot would cause people to be repelled by China because of the questionable way it is being run by the CCP(so much for softpower for them).


    • Another thing that the article alluded to of the Lowry Institute about the point of Korea losing influence is that because it becomes very difficult to get anything done with Korea, it gets bypassed altogether. Hence the Japan-US thing that pretty much gave the cold shoulder to Korea. In short Park Geun Hye’s stance with no meeting with Abe backfiring, as if she needs another thing to make her look bad.


    • That’s why Korea has normalised relations with Japan. It also was relatively fine until Abe took over, you’d know that if you followed the situation longer than two months. Now abes agenda is to whitewash history in a way saying we apologised so forget about it and never mention it again. But that’s not how it works and if the west demands it then they should just go to hell.


    • Another point is even with sincere apologies, Germany is regularly confronted with its past by other western countries and Israel and closely monitored. Americans are just hypocrites and worried about China’s rise. It’s so obvious and makes the U.S. look so pathetic and dirty.


      • Do you mean pathetic like not being able to provide for your own national defense? By dirty do you mean like using a trash can next to the toilet to put used toilet paper into? Koreans completely overestimate their importance in their bilateral relations with other nations. You take all the help you can get and free ride, and then criticize because deep down you know how inferior you are. Go back to your mindless delusion that there is a “Korean Wave” spreading around the world that is powered by your country’s latest mindless bubblegum coping of western music and entertainment.


      • I think the problems here is that Koreans may be living in a bubble and have a disconnect between what they are fed via press and talking amongst themselves and what is perceived internationally. Influence is garnered by how much the country factors in the thinking of countries not by just doing a good job laying out the welcome mat. In order to do that there has to be a positive perception of the country which is directly influenced by things like low corruption, a government that is effective domestically and internationally in its policies, press that is credible, economically sound and such. Basically the everyday worries of Koreans. Instead you have a ridiculously obsession to education, press that reads like government cheerleader and feeds to false perception of the country and poorly researched articles. Law enforcement that is lax at times and so forth.

        In short influential countries are countries that have law, government, press, etc… By enlarge right. Kpop, movies, etc.. That is just frosting.


  6. My great-grandfather was born a slave in 1893 (over 90% of Koreans were slaves at the time) and was delighted when Japan annexed Korea in 1910 and liberated slaves because he would have never been able to attend schools if not for the Japanese. My grandparents were born in 1920’s and experienced Japanese rule firsthand. They had nothing but great things to say about Japanese. Then after the end of WWII, the anti-Japanese brainwashing began in South Korea. The military dictators such as Rhee Syngman & Park Chung-hee massacred hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of their own people. (google search “Bodo League massacre” for example) In order to cover up their atrocities and maintain legitimacy, they needed an enemy, and Japan was an easy target.

    My father was born in 1950 and was totally brainwashed in schools. My grandfather used to tell me that my father would come home from school and tell him how evil the Japanese were. My grandfather would tell my father that was not the case, but my father would have none of it. It was only after my father left South Korea that he realized he was totally brainwashed. Had he stayed in South Korea, he would still hate the Japanese, and so would I most likely.

    The average life span of the Koreans doubled from 23 years in 1910 to 45 years in 1945, and the population doubled from just over 12 million in 1910 to over 25 million in 1945 due to the institution of modern healthcare under the Japanese. (google search “File:Population of Korea under Japanese rule.png”) That doesn’t sound like a brutal rule.

    Professor Alleyne Ireland of University of Chicago was the leading expert on colonial administration in Asia. He gained deep knowledge of Japan’s annexation of Korea from his visit there in 1922. The following are the excerpts from his book “The New Korea” originally published in 1926.

    “My opinion of Japanese administration in Korea has been derived from the consideration of what I saw in the country, what I have read about it in official and in unofficial publications, and from discussions with persons (Japanese, Korean and foreign) who were living in the Peninsula at the time of my visit.

    It is true that at the time Japan annexed Korea in 1910, the actual conditions of life in the Peninsula were extremely bad. This was not due to any lack of inherent intelligence and ability in the Korean race, but to the stupidity and corruption which had characterized the government of the Korean dynasty, and to the existence of a royal court which maintained a system of licensed cruelty and corruption throughout Korea. Such was the misrule under which the Koreans had suffered for generation after generation that all incentive to industry and social progress had been destroyed because none of the common people had been allowed to enjoy the fruits of their own efforts.

    From 1910 to 1919 Japanese rule in Korea, though it accomplished much good for the people, bore the stamp of a military stiffness which aroused a great deal of resentment.

    The New Korea of which I write is the Korea which has developed under the wise and sympathetic guidance of Governor-General Saito. At the time of my own visit to Korea in 1922, the Governor-General had nearly completed three years of his tenure in the office. The following is the list of measures Governor-General Saito introduced upon his arrival in 1919.

    1. Non-discrimination between Japanese and Korean officials.
    2. Simplification of laws and regulations.
    3. Prompt transaction of state business.
    4. Decentralization policy.
    5. Improvement in local organization.
    6. Respect for native culture and customs.
    7. Freedom of speech, meeting and press.
    8. Spread of education and development of industry.
    9. Re-organization of the police system.
    10. Enlargement of medical and sanitary agencies.
    11. Guidance of the people.
    12. Advancement of men of talent.
    13. Friendly feeling between Japanese and Koreans.

    The general consensus of opinion in Korea in 1922 was that Governor-General Saito had been animated by a sincere desire to rule Korea through a just and tolerant administration, that he had accomplished notable reforms, that in the matter of education he had ministered very generously to the cultural ambitions of the people, and that in regard to their political ambitions he had shown himself eager to foster local self-government and to infuse a spirit of friendliness and cooperation into the personal relations of the Japanese and Koreans.

    Discussing Korean affairs with a good many people (Korean, Japanese and foreign) I found almost unanimous agreement on two points: one, that native sentiment had shown a continuing tendency to become less anti-Japanese in recent years; the other, that the remarkable increase in the country’s prosperity had been accompanied by a striking improvement in the living conditions of the Korean people at large.

    Writing now, four years after the date of my visit, and having in mind the most recent accounts of the state of Korea, I can express my conviction that there has occurred a steady and accelerating improvement in the general conditions of the country, in the administrative organization and personnel, and in the temper of the intercourse between the Koreans and the Japanese.”


  7. After reading the comment above, I’m concerned that the topic addressed in this blog article can be misused to retrospectively justify Japan’s colonialization of Korea. Korean nationalism(s) today does not justify Japan’s historical actions; rather it is the latter which are in largest part responsible.

    Regardless of what civilizing influences they may claim to bring: modern colonialism is never benign and is only ever pursued with the aim of exploitation of another people, purely for profit. Whilst we can recognize historical realities – including the positive aspects – once it has happened; this doesn’t change the fact that colonialism is fundamentally immoral and ideally should never occur. Colonial administrations are – by definition – illegitimate and when they collapse they leave behind states bereft of indigenous institutions and populations corrupted by decades of ‘divide-and-rule’ tactics, with entire classes of technocrats and intellectuals doomed to be labelled as former ‘collaborators’. (Sound familiar?)

    I think it’s not much of an exaggeration to say that the historical source of the great majority of current day conflicts and ethnic tensions throughout the globe trace back to the legacies of colonial projects. Korea is no exception.

    Some aspects of life improved for some Koreans during the colonial period because this is when the country underwent accelerated modernization with new technologies, improved agriculture etc being introduced. Although it is a counterfactual, by the time of the annexation Korea was already well on the way to ‘modernizing’ and it is almost certain that it would have continued to follow this path even without being annexed by Japan. E.g. many ‘modern’ schools were being established by Christian missionaries, providing Western style education to both men and women independent of the Japanese; it’s impossible that changes would not have occurred, and Japan could even have been taken as a model, without the need to be annexed by it.

    Alleyne’s “The New Korea” is propaganda. No doubt he was well treated by the Japanese, introduced to some appropriate Koreans and provided with official statistics. It’s no secret that Western colonial powers thought positively of Japan at this time and were happy to let it “have” Korea in return for protecting their own colonial interests. (Alongside their main purpose, colonial empires have always created many interesting career paths and positive opportunities for scholars from ‘the metropole,’ including those who have genuine interest and sympathy for the local colonized culture). In any event, the book could be contrasted with F.A. McKenzie “Korea’s Fight for Freedom” (1920). I put some relevant quotes from it in a blog post a while ago (see under the subheading “Presentation of the Japanese colonial era” {and apologies for spamming the comments section here})

    The point I try to make in the section of that link is, if everything was hunky-dory under the Japanese: why did the March 1st Movement occur; why was there a provisional government in exile, and why did many flee to Manchuria to participate in armed resistance?


    • Andrew Logie,

      You apparently didn’t grasp what Professor Alleyne Ireland said. He said, “From 1910 to 1919 Japanese rule in Korea, though it accomplished much good for the people, bore the stamp of a military stiffness which aroused a great deal of resentment. The New Korea of which I write is the Korea which has developed under the wise and sympathetic guidance of Governor-General Saito. At the time of my own visit to Korea in 1922, the Governor-General had nearly completed three years of his tenure in the office.”

      So obviously the annexation should be looked at as two periods with entirely different characteristics. The first ten years (1910 – 1919) was rather militaristic although the economic development was dramatic. Then March 1st Movement (1919) occurred, Japan learned from it and administered benignly from 1919 on.

      My grandparents were born in 1920’s, so they caught the best part. They used to tell me how nice their Japanese teachers and classmates were to them at schools. Even 50 years after the end of the war, they only sang Japanese songs at Karaoke because they reminisced those days so much.

      As a history student, I also interviewed over one hundred Koreans who were born and raised in the Korean Peninsula in 1920’s and 1930’s, and the overwhelming majority of them shared the same views with my grandparents.

      I also asked them about comfort women, and what they witnessed was Korean fathers and brothers selling their daughters and sisters, Korean brokers deceiving Korean women. They never witnessed Japanese military coercing any Korean women. They did witness Japanese police arresting Korean brokers who were engaging in illegal recruiting.

      This fact is well documented in San Francisco State University Professor Chunghee Sarah Soh’s book “The Comfort Women.”


      The following is an excellent review of that book.


      The following articles were published in Korean newspapers reporting the arrests of Korean traffickers who were engaging in illegal recruiting.


      Yes, I did read Professor Alleyne Ireland’s book, and the blog you labelled as “an anti-comfort women blog” has a post that summarizes Professor Ireland’s book very well, so I borrowed from it.

      The following is that blog. I will leave it to the readers to decide whether it is an anti-comfort women blog or a blog that reveals the truth about comfort women.


      For Korean readers, the following is a great article on comfort women. It harshly criticizes Chong Dae Hyup’s (정대협) propaganda campaign.


      And if you really want to get to the bottom of the comfort women issue, a diary written by a Korean comfort station worker which was discovered in 2013 by Professor Ahn Byong Jik of Seoul National University tells you everything. It details how Korean brokers recruited Korean women in the Peninsula (sometimes on false pretenses) and how they owned & operated comfort stations employing those women. Korean owners beat and sometimes raped Korean women when they didn’t obey orders.


      By the way, I don’t exonerate the Japanese military because it did commission Korean brokers to recruit women and operate comfort stations. All I am saying is that the truth about comfort women is nothing like the narrative spread worldwide by Chong Dae Hyup and its U.S. affiliate KACE. I also don’t exonerate the Japanese military for invading China and Southeast Asia.

      Now back to Japan’s annexation of Korea.

      The statistics of “The average life span of the Koreans doubled from 23 years in 1910 to 45 years in 1945, and the population doubled from just over 12 million in 1910 to over 25 million in 1945 due to the institution of modern healthcare under the Japanese” are not from Professor Alleyne Ireland’s book. They are from South Korea’s Bureau of Statistics. So even if you claim that Professor Alleyne Ireland was biased (he wasn’t if you read the whole book), those numbers don’t lie. It’s safe to say Koreans were doing much better in 1930’s than in 1900’s.

      For Korean readers, the following web-site by Professor Choi Ki-ho of Kaya University contains dozens of datas and stories from the annexation period. For those who want to find out what really happened during that time, it is a must read.


      Professor Choi was born in 1923 and is a living witness of what really happened. I wish more Koreans who were born in 1920’s & 1930’s would come forward and tell their stories publicly like Professor Choi does, but they really can’t because if they do, they are likely to get beaten to death like the following man. A 95 year-old Mr. Park was beaten to death by a 38 year-old Mr. Hwang for merely saying, “I fondly recall the period of Japan’s rule. It was fortunate for Korea to have been ruled by Japan.”



      • My grandfather could say the same thing about the Japanese period being more peaceful before the division and war that followed, but when you have a country that has a long history of self rule and traditions, it is particularly traumatic. Another thing you don’t see Europeans say how much”better” Africa was under them. This does not change the fact that Japan was the beneficiary at the expense of Korea.


      • Bio Yook,

        I agree with you. I certainly don’t encourage the Japanese to brag what a wonderful job they did in Korea. In my assessment Korea would have been taken over by the Russians if the Japanese didn’t, and we would have been much worse off judging from what has happened in North Korea. Still it was not Japan’s business. The Japanese should have left us alone and let us suffer under the Russians. Had that occurred, I don’t think we would be tangled up in anti- Russianism right now like we are in anti-Japanism. Our 사대주의 wouldn’t let us stand up against the Russians. We are picking on the Japanese because they don’t hit back so hard.

        I really didn’t want to get into the history issues because I knew my fellow Koreans would go crazy if I spoke the truth. And Professor Kelly is smart to leave it as “Are Korea’s historical grievances with Japan legitimate? Yes, they are” because he is getting enough hate mail for his “minjok contest” theory alone.


      • I would not call what the Japanese did as wonderful. The fact is that Koreans were discriminated. Korean businesses were at a disadvantage. They were charged higher interest rates, the big businesses were all Japanese. Factories, dams and railroads were laid and built by Japanese. Korean businesses stayed small during the period. It seems Koreans were kept from skilled positions such as engineers with which factories could not be run. In fact when the USSR took over the north they had to bring their own engineers since the Japanese who exclusively filled those positions had left. In government and police you see Koreans kept out of higher tank positions, Japanese monopolized those positions and were already overrepresented by the midranking positions. Keijo Imperial University was exclusively Japanese in staffing and student enrollment. Schools for Koreans tended to have less resources than those for Japanese.


  8. And I see now the Alleyne quote cited above is just cut-and-paste from one of the first links – an anti-comfort women blog! – that comes up if you google ‘Alleyne’. Unless that’s your own blog, you didn’t even both to type it; have you even read the book? (Not that it seems very recommendable).


  9. Bio Yook,

    First of all, it is not true that Keijo Imperial University was exclusively Japanese in student enrollment. In 1937 the ratio of Japanese students to Korean students was approximately 70% to 30% and in 1942 it was 60% to 40%.

    So you feel that the Japanese should have given skilled positions & higher ranked positions to us? Colonial administration was not a charity, you know.

    You have to think relatively. Did the Dutch in Indonesia or the British in India build hospitals for the locals? Did they build dams? The Japanese invested hundreds of billions of dollars in today’s money and got nothing in return in the end. It was by far the worst investment in colonial history.

    Were we treated as equals? Not really. But was the Japanese administration in 1920’s & 1930’s so unfair that we should be continuing our anti-Japanism after 70 years? I really think the anti-Japanese brainwashing that started after the war has screwed our minds. Rhee Syngman started it. And every successive president after him had to outdo his predecessor on anti-Japanism in order to be considered as a successful president. And now it is out of control.

    For people like Andrew Logie to actually believe the first sentence of our constitution “a provisional government in exile was established after March 1st Movement” tells me how delusional our education has been. Anyone could get together and form a provisional government. The only problem is nobody would take it seriously. And that’s what our so-called provisional governmet in Shanghai was. No nation took it seriously.

    Many fled to Manchuria to participate in armed resistance? Must be kidding. Manchukuo Imperial Army where Park Chung-hee (or Takagi Masao) worked as an officer was in charge of Manchuria, and there was no armed resistance there. The myth was created in order to legitimize our claim that our provisional government somehow defeated the Japanese to win our independence.

    144,743 Koreans volunteered for Imperial Japanese Army, and 3,208 were accepted in 1941.

    254,273 Koreans volunteered for Imperial Japanese Army, and 4,077 were accepted in 1942.

    303,394 Koreans volunteered for Imperial Japanese Army, and 6,000 were accepted in 1943.

    A position in Imperial Japanese Army was the most coveted job among Korean men. They were not interested in armed resistance against the Japanese. Maybe a few dozen lunatics at most. Yet our schools keep teaching our kids that many of us fled to participate in armed resistance against the Japanese. Give me a break.


    • When citing the enrollment please keep in mind the context. There were about 25 million Koreans versus about 700-800K Japanese by 1945. Colonial administration was not charity but when you have such numbers of Korean versus Japanese it would be hard to justify the number of Koreans in government and Japanese in the positions that were held especially in higher position unless things like discrimination were suspected. Also keep in mind that the point that Koreans and japanese were kept in separate schools and japanese went to better schools.

      Also the infrastructure built by the Japanese was built primarily for the benefit of Japan not for the local population. The same could be said about Europeans putting money into their colonies to build infrastructure to extract what they wanted from their colonies and losing those investments when they got independent. You make it sound like Korea should be thankful because Korea didn’t really benefit from them since the Korean War destroyed a lot of it and as I mentioned if it were to benefit for Koreans why weren’t there Korean engineers trained? Does this mean that there were no people qualified to be engineers among Koreans?

      I do agree that the propaganda propagated post 1945 tends to cheapen the period since it is twisted to boost legitimacy of the dictatorial regimes that followed when in fact a lot of the people collaborated.

      As to the figures cited about recruitment of the military a fair comparison would be to compare them to the acceptance rate of the Japanese to the military compared to the Koreans because it seems for Koreans those rates are very low. Perhaps Japanese did not trust Koreans.

      Going back to the original post you mentioned 90% slave the population. That is incorrect. The institution of slavery in Joseon period was declining by the 19th century. The government did away with its slaves early in the 19th century and by the late 19th century it pretty much outlawed it by 1894. It is generally estimated that about 1/3 of the population were slaves during the Joseon period.


      • >unless things like discrimination were suspected
        >perhaps Japanese did not trust Koreans

        Your double standard of being so harsh on the Japanese yet being so forgiving on ourselves is rather pathetic. Vietnamese, Filipinos & 조선족 are terribly discriminated in South Korea as we speak. Discrimination has existed everywhere and will continue to exist. Although I don’t condone discrimination, there isn’t much we can do about it. My point is although we may not have been treated as equals, that is not enough reason to continue our anti-Japanism after 70 years.

        >about 1/3 of the population were slaves

        By the narrow definition of slaves (노비,백정,기생, etc.), you are right that about 1/3 were slaves. But I am also including farmers and others who were terribly deprived by the yangban. Park Chung-hee was born a poor farmer, and he was quoted as saying “If not for the Japanese, I would have never been able to attend schools and move up in society.”

        >Korea shouldn’t be thankful because Korea didn’t really benefit from Japanese investment since the Korean War destroyed a lot of it

        That is not their problem.

        Anyway I really don’t enjoy continuing a conversation with a whiner like you. Nice talking to you and have a nice day!


      • There are double standard everywhere, Korea is not unique. What is bothersome is that this discrimination was happening within their own homeland. The French would have been crying foul if the Germans had done the same when France was occupied. Now look at how the French treat immigrants from Africa, far from perfect. Some of the most dangerous neighborhoods in France are immigrant neighborhoods which does not help the immigrant cause in the eye of the French. However the French do not engage in German bashing despite having their country and whole generation of men trashed in WWI and occupied in WWII. Actually they did learn something after WWII not to be vengeful and humiliate Germany as Clemenceau did in Versailles. Perhaps Korea should learn from that. The excessive antijapanenism is a loss for Korea since it is giving them tunnel vision and ignoring what is going on in such issues such as South China Sea and its impact on Korea. I find the tunnel vision part to be extremely detrimental because if US and Japan can’t work with Korea they’ll simply bypass Korea.

        As to things like Korean War that was more geared towards people who say that Japan’s contribution. To Korean success was more direct.


  10. Hyung-Sung Kim

    Thanks for the good reply and information.

    As long as you’re not exonerating Japan for the original crime of annexation, I can agree more generally with your important point that for many Koreans the experience under Japanese colonialism wasn’t necessarily worse than before, and in some aspects was even positive. The actual colonial period was not black and white, but involves all the shades in between. However, that still has to be qualified with my point that many of the positive aspects could have been autonomously developed without the loss of sovereignty.

    The Ireland passage you positively cite is describing circumstances post 1919 under the so-called “Cultural Policy” period of rule (introduced by Saito) which was ‘benign’ only as long as one didn’t actively oppose Japanese rule. This offered Korean intellectuals an outlet by allowing them to pursue ‘cultural enlightenment’ type activities which conveniently distracted them from challenging their immediate political oppression. After a decade of oppression and the violent suppression of the 1919 March 1st Movement, those intellectuals and independence activists remaining in the country had, in any event, been sufficiently intimidated not to risk further challenging the Japanese rule, especially when it appeared futile and more interesting opportunities were being offered by the Japanese. Those who wished to continue active resistance fled into exile and/or joined the guerrilla movement based in Manchuria and it was during this period of ‘benign’ rule that military campaigns were carried out against the partisan fighters in southern Manchuria.

    Anyway, I think Ireland’s “military stiffness” is a gross understatement unless pertaining to his own c.1922 arousal towards the Japanese.

    Nor did the Cultural Policy continue all the way to 1945, but was reversed from the early 1930s, culminating in the 1938 introduction of the Naisen Ittai policy and accelerated assimilation policies during the war (“Congratulations, you’re Japanese, now go and die for the kokutai!”)

    Concerning personal histories and the varied realities that no doubt existed during the colonial era, again I agree with the points you’re making and think the work you have done interviewing people is extremely important; you should publish it under a pseudonym or posthumously.


  11. Dear Robert,

    I am a big fan of your blog and really enjoy reading your articles.

    I understand the fact that your article is written from an US point-of-view whose main interest is to preserve and extend US global hegemony and therefore has to prevent Chinese not-so “peaceful rise” (Does the US rise peacefully?). But as a Korean born in Germany it’s almost impossible to accept your argumentation.

    After WWII “Entnazifizierung” was imposed on Germany by the US and its allies. Same was supposed to happen in Japan but did not mainly because of the Korean War for which the US needed Japan’s logistic support.

    “Entnazifizierung” does not necessarily include – as you call it – a “Willy Brandt-style down-on-your-knees apology”. It’s more about how to teach history to your folks. In German history classes we learn that Germany was the agressor, started the war in order to establish the Third Reich; killed so and so many Jews, gypsies, disabled. We almost get brainwashed by learning that nationalism, facism, racism are bad, and you always should care about minorities. However, Japanese students I meet still think that Japan went out to free Asia from white supremacy, don’t know shit about all those mass murdering, mass violation of women, etc. Is that what you call a “liberal democracy with a 70-year history of good global citizenship”? Even Merkel has recently doubted it.

    “South Korea’s corrupted, elitist, chaebol-dominated democracy” as you call it does not “generate enough internal legitimacy to counter Northern minjok fetishism”. Why is that? You should ask the USAMGIK who by all means wanted to prevent any left-wing movements in Korea even by killing legitimate political leaders. The US Boys of course did not do the killing, beating, torturing, etc., themselves but had Mr. Rhee, his Han’guk Minjudang, and the KNP do the dirt work. Due to concerns that communists could control post-war Korea the USAMGIK kept the Japanese administration in place against the will of the Korean people. At that time pro-American meant pro-Jap (history seems to repeat itself). So keeping former japanese collaborators in administration is not the best way to boost “internal legitimacy” I would say. Its only purpose: to serve US, hegemonial, cold-war interest.

    Your article demands that Korea should stop nagging about past war-time issues and build a “South Korea-Japan future-oriented cooperation” so that the US can face and withstand “the real issue for the US in Asia [which] is, of course, China. While the US is not openly balancing China, the days of US belief in China’s ‘peaceful rise’ seem to be fading. Increasingly, the relationship is becoming competitive, …” Competitive to the US, huh,huh…

    Summing up, your message to Korea is: Do as we (the US) say or go fuck yourself because if not “the US, Japan, and China engage one another over Korea’s head”. That is so much the American Way my stomach hurts from laughing.

    Greets from Germany



    • Seriously, Robert E. Kelly doesn’t realize that the reason why he doesn’t get called into conferences anymore is because they already know what “perspective” this predictable scholar has: typical american help. The guy will do well to spare the obvious embarrassment of his conflict of staying in korea or settling down to be an adjunct to a random stranger who posts in agreement with him. If he’s bitching and compmlaining about korea bitching and complaining, he should do well to follow his own opinions about health and move on by leaving since he doesn’t care anymore.


  12. Pingback: It’s the 50th Anniversary of Japan-Korea Normalization, and Abe Conceded…Nothing | Robert Kelly — Asian Security Blog

  13. Pingback: More on South Korean ‘Anti-Japanism’ and the Intra-Korean Legitimacy Contest | Robert Kelly — Asian Security Blog

  14. Pingback: How Japan Manages to Hang Tough in History Debates with Korea & China | Robert Kelly — Asian Security Blog

  15. The present Japan-South Korea relationship reminds me of the Indo-Pakistan ethnic border war back in 1971. Peoples of Japan and S. Korea are hostile against each other as if they are arc-enemy unable to share the same sky. Its your fault, Americans.

    The US Rep. Resolution 121 in 2007, which was so arrogant, self-righteous, biased with one-sided views, infuriated most of the Japanese. Comfort Women memorials built in various places in the U.S. also infuriated many Japanese. McGraw Hill textbooks keep spreading lies to the American youth despite protests of many Japanese scholars.

    Koreans tried to block PM Abe’s address to the US Congress in April. Koreans tried to block Japan’s bid to acquire the UNESCO World Heritage recognition on Meiji Industrial Revolution facilities in July.

    Koreans spread lies all over the world at every chance they have in order to tarnish the reputation of Japan and the US and Euro fools joined their anti-Japan propaganda chorus with blind eyes to the historic facts calling us revisionists or right-wingers.

    I’m pretty sure that all (I repeat, all) S. Koreans are suffering from psychotic disorders or a sort of mental illness, or the entire S. Korea is an anti-Japan religious cult rather than a modern nation.

    Do not include a psychotic crazy nation in our allies.

    Korean Attempts to Thwart Japan’s Bid to Win World Heritage Status

    False Accusations of Comfort Women


  16. There’s something called “Japan Fatigue”…Japan inconsistent with their apologies and having ‘anti-Korean” books on Japanese bookstores in Japan; incorrect information on history textbooks in schools;….True and sincere apology encompasses in consistency of making appropriate corrections to textbooks; Apologies for its wartime artrocities should be sincerely expressed at annual wartime independence events..”until this issue won’t be an issue anymore”…this is the quote from one of American historian and educator. I totally understand this psychological perspectives; As Japanese Ambassador to Korea had stated in the discussion between Korea and Japan relationship —on “Korea Fatigue”….he said that ” Japan should not be fatigued with Korean sentiments…but rather try to see itself being in Korean shoe”…that’s a powerful statement….Unless you’re a Korean especially older generations who went lived through the Japanese occupation, etc..and the pain and sentiments handed down to generations,..(to experience the cruelty, pain, killings, slavery, oppression,etc)….it is so easy to say “forget the past and move forward”….This is not business….we’re talking about the “life experiences as human” being treated and underwent leaving pyschological and emotional scars…even after decades 70years later….the sentiments are there as Korea has NOT felt sincere apologies from Japan…and want Japan to know that such things SHOULD NEVER EVER BE REPEATED again to any HUMAN being on earth. IF Korea allows this issue to be folded as “past bygones be bygones’ so easily as Japan desires, it won’t show enough IMPACT to JAPAN that such things are NOT tolerable to Koreans….In history, Koreans were taken advantage….but today, Korea is a MUCH stronger nation with its “Individuality”…which was almost lost to Japan….and thus, it will NOT take this issue of past casually unless it is being seriously taken into matter of genuine “apology”. This was a point made by Korean professor . I do see this point and agree.

    Germany expressed sincere apology about the Nazi’s and holocaust….IT doesn’t make incorrect textbooks deflating Hitler’s and German’s anit-Jewish atrocities…Germany doesn’t hide or play it down of its wartime crimes and anti-semitism; Children should be educated with CORRECT information and true facts of history…that’s what history means…not changing its course….This is what Korean Government have been asking Japanese government for decades;
    Korea’s anger with Japan is NOT only of past atrocities, but the ongoing Japanese actions today such as history textbooks in schools; Anti-Korean books in bookstores in Japan; The true colors of Japanese racism is slowly showing(it has been in hibernation for decades after it lost to world war II); Japan turned to “Passive and Peace” policy after world war II; Today, the Anti-Korea protest, hate speech in streets in Japan…brings Korea to relive its sentiments which are healing still…and the wound is opened again.
    do believe that there are many Japanese and Koreans who are in good relations; Many are NOT even feeling such sentiments; However, the leaders of the nations and the older Japanese Right wing party plays a big role in influencing the Japanese Youth…paying young students to protest in the streets to participate in “hate speech against Koreans”….
    Its is so unreal to see Japanese people behaving this way with hate speech calling names, like “Koreans are cocroaches”…it is so childish and so “UNJapanly ” behavior in which Japan has worked so hard for decades to portray as being “proper”.
    I think Japan should have a bit more of “psychological” understanding of the korean issue…that it’s a humanitarian issue that the sentiments are about….and it takes time, patience and understanding more from Japan….after all it’s Japanese who did the harm doings to Koreans during its occupation in the first place….the wrongdoers should do more to gain acceptance of the apology….not just “we regret what happened, BUT…” there’s always a “BUT” after the weak apologetic phrase….When Japan apologizes, Korea wants a straight upfront apoloy and PERIOD…no BUTs….
    The sentiments will only grow if Japan continue its inconsistent actions..and continues to allow publishers to have anti-Korean books on shelves and Japanese shout hate speech in streets, threatening Korean people,etc…
    Yes, Korea WAS POOR in the past….and due to poverty post war, many koreans did not have “finesse” in many areas….but that should be NO reasons for Japanese to call Korea with hateful speech and ugly names….
    You will NEVER find anti-Japan book in korean bookstores; Korean protestors against Japan come from their reactions with its counterparts who STARTED the anti-korean hate speech…
    Even if Japan has Freedom of Speech…hey, wake up, don’t play games with words….Freedom of speech —-but freedom of speech should NEVER be ABUSIVE or harmful….it’s like, Freedom is good but not to the extent where one start to kill or harm someone….that’s why there are laws…
    “Bullying” is conducted with threats, hateful speech, remarks…that’s what Japan;s behaviour is in public…
    So tallking about Korea Fatigue? Japan Fatigue is felt as well…..
    Japan has to stop it’s too nationalistic behaviours and tone down its “superiority” view of themselves over others…it’s a turn off…..
    No race is more superior than others…everyone has eyes, nose, mouth, brain, legs, hands…all the same in God’s creation…
    Koreans being cocroach…that’s an insult against the creator….


    • Agreed. Why do humans even apologize? It’s simple. To reconcile, find solution, make peace with the victims, and advance into an improved relationship. Unfortunately Japan has never made true peace with its neighbors it has oppressed in the past – at least not genuinely. Superficially it pretends to come to some sort of agreement with this issue, but does another behind others’ back, not recognizing its war crimes, such as the comfort women issue, fabricating and hiding history from textbooks that are to educate its future generations, the disagreement with Dokdo, and the list goes on. It’s not about countries such as Korea, China, or other Asian countries being stuck in the past and whining incessantly. There are good reasons why some of these colonized nations are still upset with Japan’s attitude. If Japan wants to advance like the way Germany did with its neighbors, it needs to show it genuinely.


  17. Stupid average Americans love to buy Japnese car while Japanese makers are hardly in the top 5 list in other countries. They are the only people who believe in “ninja,” which was “invented” only several decades ago.

    Visitors to this site are just watching how stupid average American think. It’s like watching 16-bit computer working on AI subjects. It’s fun, though.


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