I had not intended to comment further on my being asked not to post about “Dokdo” on the Internet, but I think a few things need to be cleared up.
First, I want to thank all of you who have written posts of support even though nothing has really happened to me. I still have my job, and no one has threatened me nor been rude to me, though I do sense that people are avoiding me and that there are fewer smiles from fellow professors in the hallways and cafeteria. However, that may just be my imagination. I hope it is. Anyway, the president of the school is one of those who still smiles.
My contract comes up for renewal in the next few weeks, but that has nothing to do with my “Dokdo” postings. It is just an annual event that has happened each year for the past six years, and now is just that time of year. Though it is possible that my postings could influence a decision on my contract, I want to give my school, especially its president, more credit than that.
Second, I was surprised when I got the urgent request to come downstairs to meet with the president of my school, but when I got to his office and found out that he wanted to talk to me about my “Dokdo” postings on the Internet, I was even more surprised and somewhat embarrassed. I was surprised because I could not understand why he would concern himself with such matters, and I was embarrassed because my postings had caused that concern. Though his face was somewhat stern and the tone of his voice serious, the president was quite polite while explaining the situation to me.
The president said that he normally supported free speech, but that the sensitivity of the “Dokdo” issue in Korea and the medium through which I was expressing myself caused him concern, especially considering the Internet situation here in Korea. He said that he had already received complaints and was worried that it could lead to problems for the university. He did not consider the Internet a worthy medium for scholarly discourse and suggested that I publish in academic journals, instead. Personally, I did not understand that request since I am not a historian and do not consider myself qualified to publish in academic journals, but I did understood his concern in regard to the Internet here in Korea. I think many of us know how vicious and immature Korean “netizens” can be. That is why I agreed to stop my postings.
Third, I think it is extremely unfair to call “Occidentalism” a hate site just because it focuses on controversial issues between Korea and Japan, issues that are often ignored or distorted in traditional media and on other sites. For example, challenging Korea’s traditional anti-Japanese claims does not make Occidentalism a hate site; it makes it a debate site. If you want to look at pictures of autumn leaves or keep track of cultural activities in Korea, go somewhere else because that is not what this site is about. In my opinion, this site is about controversy and debate, especially debate on controversial issues related to Korea and Japan. Surely people can discuss such issues without being labeled hatemongers?
There are several things I disagree with Koreans on, but that does not mean I hate Koreans. If I hated Koreans, I would not have spent the better part of my life in Korea. I like Koreans, and I feel very comfortable here. I just think it is a shame that there is so much anti-Japanese and anti-American propaganda spread in Korea since we all have similar values and basically believe in the same things.
Fourth, I want to say that The Marmot’s Hole is a great blog and that Robert Koehler seems to be a very fair and intelligent person. I sometimes get frustrated and lose my temper with people just as most people do, and I have sometimes taken out my frustration on Robert, simply because I felt he was ignoring certain issues on his blog. However, it does not take me long to realize how unfair and silly such outbursts are. Afterall, it is ridiculous to expect someone always to agree with you or share your concerns. From what I have seen, Robert has always handled such childish outbursts from posters with fairness, dignity, and diplomacy.
Fifth, this incident has taught me something that I consider to be quite disturbing, which is that the anti-Japanese and anti-American emotions in Korea are deeper than I realized and outweigh even reason and “facts.” Since the knowledge of my postings on the Internet has spread around my school, a couple of Korean professors have engaged me in conversation, seemingly hoping to change my views on the subject. I have essentially listened passively because it soon became quite apparent that they knew very few of the facts concerning “Dokdo,” which means they quickly changed the subject from Dokdo to Korean colonialism and anti-Japanese rhetoric, explaining to me in vague terms all the sufferring that Koreans experienced during that time, including the supposed forced-name change. Then they drifted off into describing, again in vague terms, some of the evil things that the US has done in Korea. For example, I have been reminded that the United States did not save South Korea during the Korean War out of the goodness of her heart, but for her own selfish reasons. One female professor on Thursday even ended her lecture on Dokdo by talking about Iraq.
After listening passively to one particularly long lecture, I said, “Well, the historical facts surrounding Dokdo are not really related to the colonial period or to the US military presence in Korea.” The professor responded that I needed to look at Koreans’ emotions on Dokdo, not the facts, because “facts are too cold.” If even Korean professors put their emotions ahead of facts and reason, will any of the problems between Korea and Japan ever be solved?
Korea has great potential, but Korean nationalism is killing Korea and wasting valuable resources. Korea needs a Martin Luther King who is courageous enough to stand up to the nationalists, tell the dirty truth about Korea’s colonial and post-colonial history, and start Korea on the path to greatness. Where is Korea’s Martin Luther King?