Korea’s Meil Gyeongje newspaper reports that sales of the Korean version of Yoko Kawashima Watkins’ book, “So Far from the Bamboo Grove,” have been temporarily suspended because of suspicions that the writer’s father was a high-ranking member of Japan’s notorious “Unit 731,” which was a medical unit that conducted experiments on human subjects in China before and during World War II. The Korean title for Yoko Watkin’s book translates as “Yoko’s Story.”
Photo from Hangyeoreh Newspaper
Here is my translation of the Maeil Gyeongje article:
Sales of “Yoko’s Story” Temporarily Suspended
Sales of the Korean version of “So Far from the Bamboo Grove” have been temporarily suspended. The novel is currently being criticized for distorting history.
On the 24th, “Literature Neighborhood,” the publisher of the Korean version of the book, said, “Sales of Kawashima Watkins’ book will be suspended until suspicions that the author’s father was a high-ranking member of Unit 731 are resolved.”
The publisher added, “If the author’s father was a high-ranking member of Unit 731, then we have no choice but to see the silence or distortion about this as exceeding the limits permitted in an autobiographical novel.”
However, an associate of the “Literature Community” said, “By raising the question of violence against women during war, the book is a meaningful work.”
He said, “We plan to resume sales if suspicions are resolved.”
“So Far from the Bamboo Grove” is being used as a textbook in some middle schools in the United States. There is currently criticism that the book describes Koreans as abusing Japanese fleeing Korea back to Japan after Japan’s defeat.
“Literature Community” has been publishing the translated version of the book since April 2005.
The number of American schools refusing to use the novel as a text is increasing after Korean students and their parents have protested that there is strong evidence to suggest that the novel distorts history by portraying Koreans as assailants and Japanese as victims.
Heo Yeon, Reporter
First, I do not know if the author’s father was a member of Unit 731 or not, but I think the charges should first be proven before suspending sales of the novel since it is not uncommon for certain Koreans to make groundless charges against the Japanese.
Second, even if the author’s father were a member of Unit 731, is there proof that the author knew about it? And even if she knew about it, would that change the story in some way?
I wonder if VANK had anything to do with this?