Daniel Barenblatt, who is the author of “A Plague Upon Humanity,” has recently made Korean news with his comments at a press conference held in the Boston suburbs by Yoko Kawashima Watkins. Ms. Watkins is the author of an autobiographical novel entitled, “So Far from the Bamboo Grove,” which is being called a “distortion of history” by many Koreans and Korean-Americans.
Mr. Barenblatt seems to have gotten the attention of the Korean media because of the comments he made against the book at the press conference. A Yonhap News article, which I translated here, has quoted him as saying, “The book is a lie from the cover and the first sentence.” He was also quoted as saying, “You can tell by just looking at Ms. Yoko’s face that she is lyiing.”
In the comments section of this blog, here, Mr. Barenblatt denies the above quotes with the following comment:
I do NOT think that Ms. Watkins’ book So Far from the Bamboo Grove is “a lie from the front cover to the last sentence.” What I believe, and what I told the reporter, was the same that I tell everyone else, that there are some serious factual errors in the book, in the book’s first sentence for example, and that the book’s narrative, overall, unfortunately reverses the roles of oppressed and oppressor in the Asian historical period of the time, giving the readers, who are children and teens, the false general impression that Japanese colonists were the persecuted victims of the colonized Koreans, rather than the reality of the historical situation from 1910 to August 1945. As such it should not be taught in the classroom, nor recommended for school libraries. Nor should it be presented as autobiographical historical fiction.
Here is the first sentence in Ms. Watkins book, which Mr. Barenblatt claims has one of the “serious factual errors”:
IT WAS ALMOST MIDNIGHT ON JULY 29, 1945, when my mother, my elder sister Ko, and I, carrying as many of our belongings as we could on our backs, fled our home in its bamboo grove, our friends, and our town, Nanam, in northern Korea, forever.
I am not sure what Mr. Barenblatt considers to be the “serious factual error” in that sentence, but if he is referring to the “bamboo grove,” which some Koreans have claimed did not exist in North Korea, then maybe he should also contact the maker of this chart and ask him to correct his “serious factual error.” Besides, even if there were no bamboo groves in North Korea, would that really be considered a “serious factual error”? Such a statement only reinforces my suspicion that Mr. Barenblatt is prone to exaggeration.
If you would like to know more about Mr. Barenblatt’s activities at the press conference and his reasons for being there, check out this JoongAng Ilbo article, which I have translated below:
“The Biggest Error in ‘So Far from the Bamboo Grove’ is that it switches the victim and the assailant”
Barenblatt, who has indicted Japan’s military Unit 731:
“What were the exact duties of your father when he worked at the Manchurian Railroad?”
On the 15th (local time), the author of “So Far from the Bamboo Grove” held a press conference in the Boston suburbs at the head office of “The Peace Abbey.”
An American wearing a black T-shirt with the name “Nanjing” (南京) written on it tenaciously bombarded 73-year-old Yoko Kawashima Watkins, the author of the book, with questions. Nanjing was the Chinese city where Imperial Japan brutally murdered 300,000 Chinese during the “Nanjing Massacre.” Wearing clothes referring to the Nanjing Massacre, a symbol of Imperial Japan’s brutality, the man flustered Yoko with a barrage of questions. The man was Daniel Barenblatt, one of the world’s leading researchers on Japan’s Military “Unit 731,” which was notorious for its human experiments.
In 2005, Barenblatt received international attention with the publication of “A Plague on Humanity” (see photo), an indictment of the atrocities of Unit 731. In the book, published by international publisher Harper Collins, he claims that the Japanese Empire performed gruesome human experiments in Manchuria on Chinese men, women, and children of all ages. He also presented concrete evidence that created a big sensation. This is the person who is delving into the suspicions surrounding “So Far from the Bamboo Grove.”
Barenblatt was completely different from the majority of Americans who attended the press conference to support Yoko because his was the only voice loudly proclaiming that Yoko’s novel ran counter to the facts.
He compared “So Far from the Bamboo Grove” to Christopher Columbus’ “So Far from Genoa” and pointed out the problems with the book, piece by piece.
He claimed, “‘So Far From Genoa’ is a historical novel based on the diary of Christopher Columbus, who was the first Westerner to step foot on America in 1492, but ‘So Far from the Bamboo Grover,’ is not based on fact, and is full of fabrication and misinterpreted history.”
Then he loudly proclaimed, “The biggest problem with the book is that it depicts the oppressed as the oppressor, the victim as the assailant.”
He said that he became involved in the “So Far from the Bamboo Grove” controversy because he was an expert on Unit 731. When suspicions surfaced that Yoko’s father may have been a high-ranking official of Unit 731, Korean parents sought him out to confirm if it were true or not.
He said, “At first I was impertinent, but I was impressed with the parents’ sincerity and their detailed explanation, so I stepped forward to examine their suspicions of the novel because their claims were true.”
Currently, Barenblatt is tenaciously trying to determine if Yoko’s father was a leading member of Unit 731. Barenblatt, who has studied at Harvard and UCLA, has untiringly written articles for major US newspapers, including the Washington Post, exposing Japan’s biological and chemical weapons development plans during World War II.
Boston – Special Correspondent Nam Jong-ho
It sounds like Mr. Barenblatt was a big part of the “angry audience.”
UPDATE: Again, Mr. Barenblatt claims he was misquoted, this time in the above Joongang Ilbo article. You can read his denial here. By the way, the Joongang Ilbo did not misspell “impertinent.” That was my “serious factual error,” which I have corrected in my translation.
The following is a link to a KBS News report of the press conference in the Boston area. You should give it a look because, as we all know, “history is sacred,” according to one of the grandstanders attending the press conference. Personally, I think this is a case of Koreans, Korean-Americans, and their lackeys trying to deny history.
And here is a link to a SBS video, where the same grandstanding woman in the KBS News video is talking about the Nanjing Massacre and Unit 731.
Finally, the following is a link to an MBC News video, in which Ms. Watkins seems to lose her temper a little bit, and in which a man who reminds me of Mr. Barenblatt makes a brief appearance.