Reading “In Korea with Marquis Ito (1907)”

In Korea with Marquis Ito (Hirobumi)” by George Trumbull Ladd seems very interesting. You can get it from Amazon as well. (I haven’t read it yet though)

What’s interesting is that I found a fantastic comment at Amazon review.

Hyung-Sung Kim says:

After the end of WWII, the anti-Japanese brainwashing began in South Korea. Our first president (the military dictator) Syngman Rhee massacred hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of us.

In order to cover up his atrocities and maintain legitimacy, he needed a common enemy, and Japan was an easy target. So he started the anti-Japanese brainwashing in schools and in the media. And every successive president after him had to outdo his predecessor on anti-Japanism in order to maintain legitimacy.

The following book illustrates very well how our first president, Syngman Rhee, used the anti-Japanese brainwashing to cover up his massacres.

The Politics of Anti-Japanese Sentiment in Korea: Japanese-South Korean Relations Under American Occupation, 1945-1952 (Contributions to the Study of World History)

In this book the author, Sung-Hwa Cheong, concludes that Syngman Rhee deliberately stimulated anti-Japanese sentiment as part of a calculated policy that originated in his own political insecurity.

The South Koreans who were born in the 1980’s & 1990’s grew up with Japanese anime & Japanese literature (Haruki Murakami & so on) because in the late 1990’s South Korea started allowing Japanese culture to come in. (Japanese culture was banned in South Korea until then, believe it or not)

These generations typically say, “We like Japanese culture & people. If the Japanese accept our history as the right history, we can get along with them.” This means that when these generations realize that their history is not the right history but the brainwashed history, they will get along with the Japanese unconditionally.

Will they realize that their history is not the right history? I believe they will thanks to the internet & social media.

For example on internet, the South Koreans now have access to the history textbook comparison study done by Stanford University.

This study found that the Japanese history textbooks to be based on facts, the Korean history textbooks to be heavy on nationalism.

So when the generations who were born in the 1980’s & 1990’s become the movers and shakers of South Korea, (i.e. key politicians, newspaper editors, etc.) the relationship between South Korea and Japan will improve dramatically.

Right now, the South Korean society is dominated by the generations who were born in the 1950’s, 1960’s & 1970’s. These generations were raised with anti-Japanese brainwashing at schools, and they had no exposure to Japanese culture growing up. So they are hardcore anti-Japanese.

The generations who were born before 1945 (like my grandparents) are generally very sympathetic to the Japanese because they experienced the annexation period. The reason why the Korea-Japan relation has deteriorated so badly in the last 20 years is because most of them have died, and the generations born after the war came into power.

Our presidents up to Kim Dae-jung all spoke Japanese fluently because they experienced the annexation. Park Chung-hee was anti-Japanese publicly, but in private he shared drinks with Japanese politicians speaking in Japanese. When the Japanese emperor Hirohito died in 1989, Kim Dae-jung went to the funeral and took a deep bow toward Hirohito’s coffin. This would be unthinkable with our last three presidents.

Professor Choi Ki-ho of Kaya University was born in 1923 an experienced the annexation firsthand.

The scholars like Professor Ireland and Professor Choi who were in the Korean Peninsula during the annexation are far more credible to me than a brainwashed Korean naionalist like Tae-sik Yang.

Well explained.

See more pictures.

The state of 19th century Korea (Joseon Dynasty 조선왕조) was very similar to that of present day North Korea. The majority of the population were starving and were enslaved by a small number of corrupt bureaucrats called Yangban (양반) who were supported by Qing Dynasty China. (Just like Kim Jong-un and his henchmen rule North Korea with aid from China today) When Japan defeated China in Sino-Japanese war (1894-95), Yangban lost their backing and Korea fell into total chaos. To avoid being invaded by Russia militarily, Korea chose to be annexed by Japan in 1910. This move was welcomed by the majority of Koreans (former slaves who enjoyed freedom and better lives under Japanese administration) but was resented by Yangban who lost their privilege to enslave people. (Yangban would soon launch independence movement) My great-grandfather was a slave and was delighted that Japan annexed Korea because he was liberated and was able to attend schools. 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. Income of Korean people increased by tenfold from 1910 to 1945. The common perception in the West — Japanese invaded Korea, exploited Korean people and committed atrocities — is just a myth. If Japan is to annex North Korea right now, kick out Kim Jong-un and liberate majority of North Koreans, wouldn’t they welcome Japan’s annexation with open arms? That was exactly what happened in 1910.

Another great book on Japan’s annexation of Korea is “The New Korea” by Professor Alleyne Ireland of University of Chicago. He gained deep knowledge of Japan’s annexation of Korea from his visit there in 1922. The following is an excerpt from that book.

“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.”

[Related article]

Korean narrative of history

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