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Kenkanryu in the New York Times

November 21st, 2005 . by Matt

All of a sudden Occidentalism has been hit with a whole lot of new, and angry, Korean commenters due to an article about Kenkanryu in the New York Times. The commenters turned up here because Occidentalism is the most highly ranked site for Kenkanryu on google after the publishing company itself.

The article criticises Kenkanryu by taking the text out of context and distorting the content.

A young Japanese woman in the comic book “Hating the Korean Wave” exclaims, “It’s not an exaggeration to say that Japan built the South Korea of today!” In another passage the book states that “there is nothing at all in Korean culture to be proud of.”

In fact, it is clear from reading the comic that the character means that Japan had laid the foundation of modern development in Korea, by bringing modernization, economic growth, and social reform. As for other comment, I dont remember reading that – probably because it is way out of its context. In any case, I have been looking for it, and cant find it.

But the comic book, perhaps inadvertently, also betrays Japan’s conflicted identity, its longstanding feelings of superiority toward Asia and of inferiority toward the West. The Japanese characters in the book are drawn with big eyes, blond hair and Caucasian features; the Koreans are drawn with black hair, narrow eyes and very Asian features.

Actually, not every character Japanese character is drawn with western features, so this is a huge exaggeration on the part of the author of the article. He can only get away with it because he knows that the majority will never actually see the comic. Here are four major Japanese characters from the comic in the picture below (It was as many of the major characters that I could find in a single page).


All the characters there are Japanese. Two of them could maybe be westerners, but the other two could be nothing if not oriental. Three out of four of them have black hair. I will leave final judgement on the matter to the reader.

The Korea book’s cartoonist, who is working on a sequel, has turned down interview requests. The book centers on a Japanese teenager, Kaname, who attains a “correct” understanding of Korea. It begins with a chapter on how South Korea’s soccer team supposedly cheated to advance in the 2002 Word Cup; later chapters show how Kaname realizes that South Korea owes its current success to Japanese colonialism.

kenkanryu soccer
The comic reproduces actual incidents from the 2002 World Cup. The author of the article distorts this presentation by simply saying the comic accuses the Korean team of cheating

The comic illustrates the violence of the Korean team; the booing of other teams by Korean fans (and use of offensive symbols, like the Nazi symbols against the Germans); and describes the movement for ‘fair judgement’ that arose from the poor refereeing. Here is a site describing the fair judgement movement. I am looking at the comic now, and I cant find anything about cheating. Plenty about bad decisions and bad sportsmanship though. Interestingly enough, in the comic the Korean character confronts a Japanese character for “bad-mouthing the Korean team”, and the Japanese character answered that he was just saying the facts. It seems like this author is taking the same tact as the Korean character.

So who is the writer of the article? Judging from his name, ‘Norimitsu Onishi’, it would seem that he is Japanese, but I have my doubts about that. I would be willing to bet that he is actually an ethnic Korean.

Norimitsu Onishi just doesnt hate Japan, he seems to hate the US too. In an article for the New York Times, he described terrorists killed by US soldiers as ‘victims‘, putting them in the same category as innocent restaurant workers killed by terrorists.

Most of the other articles he seems to write are about Korea, with a twist – when writing about Korea, he almost always brings up Japan unfavorably, like his article ‘Roll Over, Godzilla: Korea Rules‘.

In any event, it doesnt really matter if the writer of the article is anti Japanese, or a Korean, but the fact that he is quoting text out of context and misrepresenting content is unforgivable. Is this the best the New York Times has to offer its readers? A comic that is 270 pages long summed up in two out of context quotes, and one factual distortion? The New York Times motto is “All the News That’s Fit to Print”, and its readers deserve better than this.

131 Responses to “Kenkanryu in the New York Times”

  1. comment number 1 by: Marine1

    Marine1, I am not going to bother to argue and prove to you every little thing. People can make make up their own minds. You toss around lots of little childish insults and claims. But some of what you say is silly enought that I must comment on it.

    Pulling out the insulting, false accusing, defense mechanisms again, are we? Looks like you’ve proved that you are no different than the Korean trolls here. I made lots of childish insults, huh? Name one, and quote me why don’t you? Just one, as you don’t need to “prove every little thing.” Actually you haven’t proven ONE thing yet! Not one quote! as you said you didn’t Prove me wrong. Just on one thing!

    Or is it because you can’t. I’ve posted wihtout hostilty trying to debate issues. And if you don’t know the difference between debating and insulting, that’s your problem.

    Actually, who is chidish? One only needs to look at your past postings compared to mine. Who is hostile? You know what people say, those who get defensive and angry are usually those liable for the crime.

    Like for instance how many times you are AMERICAN!! then later you are KOREAN!!! Its just funny to me that your behavior is exactly like so many other kyopos. Do you expect me not to notice that. Asking if your wife makes appology cake for you and your kyopo pals seems like a reasonable question to me. Koreans are always demanding appology for one thing or another.

    Sigh, you’re really reaching now and making stuff up. When did I EVER claim I was Korean? My first post on this site stated I hated Korea and it’s policies. Secondly, I reiterated the fact that I NEVER considered myself Korean. Find me ONE post where I said this, flip-flopped on the issue, and quote me on it.

    Also, did I not just say that I don’t have many Korean background or native Korean friends. You know, you might want to TRY reading a post before posting your flaming messages.

    I dont see why your Corean pals wound not harass your wife and brainwash her too. Why not let her state her opinion instead of telling us what she thinks.

    Ok, do you even understand what you read or is English that difficult for you? I already stated most of my friends are of different ethnicities, not Korean. Is your level of comprehension that bad? Seriously, did I not just state that my wife is free to state her opinion and what she believes and nothing is barred? Or are you asking my wife to post here? She is free to do so and I’ll ask her if she’d like to. Of course, you would claim I said the opposite, without providing any quotes or evidence. Go ahead buddy, quote me on it.

    By the way, I wrote Corea with a K just for you. Now will you ask the Vicky to answer my questions.

    Why don’t you ask him yourself? I don’t know who he is at all. Also, don’t you find it rather hypocritical to demand someone to answer your questions when you would not answer anyone else’s? By the way, now I’m pretty convinced you aren’t Native Japanese or of Japanese background. You keep dodging the question. I don’t need to know your race/ethnicity, just wanted to know why you defend Japan so violently and never criticize ONE thing about it, say for example, women’s rights…which my wife complains about more than anything (I agree with her.) If you had said your were of Japanese blood, then there are no issues, but if not, it makes one wonder.

    And by becoming once again violent and hostile, it only proves you have something to deny. Could it be you are a fanboy otaku, Japanophile? And the only reason you would consider this to be an insult to you is if it were true; I phrased it in a form of a question. アニメとかまんがとかゲームとか本当に大好きだよね。それはタケシマの大事なことだよね。。。人間の建設的関係よりもね。。。タケシマと合理的な討論できないみたい。

  2. comment number 2 by: takeshima

    Marine1, yet more insuts and anger. You have learned one thing about corea, if you repete somthing over and over you believe its true. Now you are accusing me of defeinding japan violently???? and not saying one bad thing about japan? Well, I dont see any reason to bad mouth a place just because you hate it. I dont get your obsesson with me, but it seems that you are going hwabyung, or a childish rage because I am not doing as you say.
    You dont like the way japan treats women, that is too bad. I dont care. What is your point?

  3. comment number 3 by: Marine1

    Matt, Ponta, and to all who want to have real discussions on issues:

    Thanks for welcoming me and to having a discussion about situations. Although I would like to continue, these flamers from Korea and elsewhere on the oppostie side ruin the experience.

    Ok, forget it, Take:

    More insults and anger, Hmmm? Which ones? Where? Please point them out to me if you would be so kind.

    I’m not going to bother arguing with you anymore, because you just don’t get it. You provide no evidence and speew things out without reading. No matter how many times, I say it, you can’t understand it. Where did I ever say I hate Japan? Hmm? Want to point that out for me? Have I stated I hate Korea…many times I did. I love Japan, it’s culture and it’s people, and found them to be more rational than Koreans. Ponta and I had great discussions, and sadly, I can’t say the same for you. But since you aren’t Japanese it doesn’t matter.

    Oh, and if you are talking obsession, I’m not following you around, but responding to your posts. That’s how you communicate on a forum. Don’t expect to say something and not get a response back.

    If you are talking obessions, how many times have you mentioned Vic in your posts? He hasn’t even been here in days, and you brought him up in every one of your responses to me. Also, how often do you come to this site compared with me? I actually have a life and a family to get back to, so I’m not going to waste anymore time with you. But at the same time, I won’t stoop to your level and be a classless troll.

    Best wishes for you, and I really do mean that. I hope you find something else in life more fulfilling than trashing people on the internet. When you actually go into combat and see the amount of hatred, killing, and violence people have towards one another, and when you realize that your life was on the line and how short life can be, (I was in Iraq) you’ll see it in a whole new perspective. Hopefully next time we can actually have a civil discussion about such matters.

  4. comment number 4 by: Marine1

    Hi Matt,

    I noticed that you frown upon people mentioning family, wives, etc. Would you mind reviewing Takeshima’s posts? He’s made some rude comments about my wife, “making an apology cake” and such, which was uncalled for. I called him out on it, tried to reason with him and have a discussion on issues, but he evades questions, makes personals attacks like that mentioned, and seems to troll. Thanks.

  5. comment number 5 by: Matt

    Marine 1,

    I will get rid of that stuff.

  6. comment number 6 by: Matt

    Takeshima, be nice.

  7. comment number 7 by: Katz

    Thanks for welcoming me and to having a discussion about situations. Although I would like to continue, these flamers from Korea and elsewhere on the oppostie side ruin the experience.

    It seems you were influenced by these japanese. There is no such thing called “Korean troll”. This was invented by Japanese. Are you saying that I flamed someone by saying “He is not Korean. We don’t flame people like they do.”? I was just saying the truth.

  8. comment number 8 by: Marine1


    Thanks for removing those obsene references, and for keeping Take in check.


    Sorry if you took the message the wrong way. What I meant to say was trolls from both sides of the issue, and trolling is unexceptable. It has nothing to do with race as there are trolls from every race here on both sides. Hope that clears things up, and I apologize this offended you. I meant no harm.

  9. comment number 9 by: takeshima

    Marine1, you brought up your wife. If you dont want to talk about your wife dont bring her up. but dont blame me when you bring her up and I talk about her too. I mearly asked if she made you appology cake, as she was japanese.
    I dont see how that is derogitory. However I respect that this is Matts blog and he can do what he chooses to the posts.
    How do you call my comments obsene?

  10. comment number 10 by: Marine1

    I brought up my wife, yes, because she is my wife, my family, and I can talk about our views and life together. I would never say anything derogatory about her nor of anyone in my family. But you have no right, as she is not your family, nor do you know her. This is what Matt has a problem with. If you think that’s unfair, then go talk about it with Matt. Proper edicate is not to talk about someone else’s family. What I found obsene was the fact that you assumed a lot of things about her and me, when you don’t even know us.

  11. comment number 11 by: takeshima

    Marine1, i already told you i didnt have a problem with matt did with his blog. I didnt say anything derogitory and quit claiming i did. Quit bringing her up if you dont want people talking about her. The difference between you and Beavers is Beavers never brought up his wife. You have done so. And now you want to claim her off limits. Auit briinger her up and talking about her if you dont want others to talk about her. And qut making up things like I made derogitroy comments about your wife.

  12. comment number 12 by: Matt

    OK. Here is where I stand. Marine 1 did indeed bring up his wife, and her opinions. When Takeshima wondered if her opinions were her own, or whether she might be holding back because her husband is an ethnic Korean, I thought that was legitimate. I think its safe to say that any woman with a husband that has strong opinions on certain matters might not be giving a totallly honest opinion to her husband, and therefore is fair game if someone is using the opinions of their wives in an argument. However, asking if she had made apology cakes was just hyperbole in my opinion, and detracted from your argument.

    So yes, there is a difference between Gerry’s case and this one, but there is no need to ask if she made apology cakes when you can easily guess that she didnt make any. Pointing out that another Japanese woman with a Korean husband in Korea made apology cakes after what was probably a nervous breakdown from the pressure might have been more appropriate.

    In any event, the Takeshima-Marine 1 discussion is over.

  13. comment number 13 by: Marine1

    Thanks Matt for posting your stance on the issue. I made it clear that my wife never holds back nor do I force her to. And I’ve stated this many times in my posts.

    To assume again, and the unecessary “apology cake”, as you stated was Take’s mistake. But now that this is over, we can move on. Thanks again, Matt.

  14. comment number 14 by: takeshima

    Thank you Matt for your “refereeing” of Marine1 comments. It was clear that there was a difference between Beavers, and there was not derogitory comments made by me as Marine1 lied about. I personally dont believe what Marine is saying about his wife, it seems to me that he brings her up to bolster his pointless arguements, but who konws what she really thinks. But like I said to Marine, quit bringing her up if you dont want to talk about her, or allow her to speak for herself.

  15. comment number 15 by: AH2

    Although I don’t particularly agree with the tone of your article, I’d like to thank you for clarifying this topic.

    But as a side note, the author of the NYT article seems to have misquoted, misrepresented, and mistranslated the Kenkanryu book. Shouldn’t someone write a letter of complaint to the NYT editorial board?

  16. comment number 16 by: larken

    Hey guys, what do you think of this article?
    “Hate Korea”? lol.

  17. comment number 17 by: Matt

    Hey guys, what do you think of this article?

    I would say that writer pretty much ripped off Onishi’s NYT article.

  18. comment number 18 by: nulji

    ‘they ripped off onishi.’

    really? how? by reporting the same thing? perhaps they’re reporting the same thing because they see the same thing because the same thing is the thing that is happening in japan. what will a korea basher like you do when japan’s xenophobia and racism are exposed to the world and laid bare for all to see?

    you’re too easy.

  19. comment number 19 by: Matt

    what will a korea basher like you do when japan’s xenophobia and racism are exposed to the world and laid bare for all to see?

    Nulji, you are funny. Japan wont get recognition for xenophobia and racism when a certain neighbouring country does it much, much better.

  20. comment number 20 by: Occidentalism » Real race hate

    […] Forget about TV and newspaper beat ups of comic books, this is the real deal. DJ doc’s FUCK ZAPAN! […]

  21. comment number 21 by: enson inoue

    Japan has committed some of the world’s worst atrocities in history (nanking massacre, unit 731, batton death march, comfort women, pearl harbor, ect..) and they still refuse to apologize, compensate, or make an accurate history in there textbooks. Why is Japan so cowardly and instead try to make their amends to their victims of the horrible crimes against humanity. No wonder people call Japan a “devil” race.

  22. comment number 22 by: Matt

    Enson, no double posting. Double posting the same thing in different threads = spam, and will be deleted.

  23. comment number 23 by: wiesunja

    Matt, you should do well to ban enson. Enson Inoue is a Korean troll who poses as a Japanese-American posting offensive and rude comments about Japan all over the internet. He was especially famous over at http://www.japantoday.com until he was banned. You should do an IP check on him and see which school in Korea he is logging on from and inform the authorities. Koreans like him love to engage in masturbatory fantasies on the internet where Korea is something like a world superpower, then the moment they step into their piece of crap lemon car and go back to their plastic surgery altered ugly chimp of a girlfriend, their dreams are shattered.

  24. comment number 24 by: takeshima

    Nobody but coreans call japan a ‘devil’ race. And that sounds like silly conglish ensongyopo.

  25. comment number 25 by: Matt

    Wiesunja, I occasionally allow stuff like that to remain. Sorry to any Japanese that feel offended by it, but having Koreans say it in their own words is a much more effective demostration than anything that I could write.

  26. […] After the New York Times published their drive-by-shooting style story about Kenkanryu (and the NYT article has been ripped off by another writer with a Japanese name as well), it has become apparent to me that none of these people criticising and pontificating on the content of Kenkanryu have actually read the comic, including the author of the NYT article, hack writer Norimitsu Onishi. I have been saying for a while now that the title of the book in English is ‘the hate Korea wave‘, not ‘hating the Korean wave’. If you had just looked at the cover without reading the comic, you might think that it actually meant ‘hate the Korean wave’ (I did too, before I read it), but once you have read it, you understand the real meaning of the title. […]

  27. comment number 27 by: ponta

    Wiesunja, I occasionally allow stuff like that to remain. Sorry to any Japanese that feel offended by it, but having Koreans say it in their own words is a much more effective demostration than anything that I could write.

    Yes, I agree. I for one am not offended at all. It’s kinda fun.

  28. comment number 28 by: Brett

    there are no blond-haired Japanese

    Really? You should meet me sometime in Tokyo and I’ll show you hundreds of blond-haired Japanese.

  29. […] Normitsu Onishi’s articles about Japan are disturbing and misleading. My first run in with Onishi’s articles were with his misleading review of Kenkanryu, comic that he had obviously never read. Now Onishi tries to paint concern about people that were kidnapped on from Japan, and taken to North Korea as a “right wing” issue, as if people would not be concerned about the safety of their countrymen, or indeed their own safety. […]

  30. […] Initial review of Kenkanryu Kenkanryu in the New York Times A ‘final’ word on Kenkanryu A full copy of Kenkanryu, translated into Korean […]

  31. […] The talk flowed freely between the manga itself and the dialogue on the internet. Thus the Matt over at Occidentalism.org featured prominently as the premier English language kenkanryu site. Depending on your point of view, Occidentalism.org represents a healthy scepticism about some of Korea’s historical claims, or represents the unacceptable face of the Japanese neo-nationalist right. Whatever your point of view, the comment threads are always lively. An example was quoted in the talk: attacking the credibility of the New York Times article on the basis of the background of its author2, one commenter noted: It is well documented that Norimitsu Onishi is in fact a 2nd generation Korean-Japanese who is a writer for the NY Times and has a penchant for praising all things Korean and speaking ill of all things Japanese. He was famous in Japan for his outward support of the Communist party as well as his time spent in school in Korea. His father was a pachinko parlor owner in Kyushu. His works have been published in Japan as well too catering all to Koreans. […]