Occidentalism
Duc, sequere, aut de via decede!

Muninn on Korean Children’s Drawings

June 26th, 2005 . by Matt

Muninn’s blog pays special attention to the nationalist historical narritive in East Asian countries. Munin has posted his opinion on the Korean childrens drawings, and we are discussing his post on his comments section, which I will reproduce here. Muninn’s writings are in the boxed text, and my replies follow in the regular text.
——————

I am almost inclined to believe this is some kind of prank, especially since the poster, someone named “Gord” appears to have completely bought the Japanese right-wing nationalist narrative of the colonial period in Korea.

Its no prank. Gord is a real guy and maybe you should examine his claims rather than dismissing him outright.

I find it so hard to imagine organizing an entire group of children/teenagers to produce such a huge collection of artwork showing such amazing hatred for Japan.

If you think that, then you need to go out and meet some Koreans! Seriously, there is nothing unusual about this, except that it has come at a time of heavy propaganda from the Korean government and media.

These pictures are absolutely amazing, and will regrettably feed the arguments of right-wing Japanese who wish to portray, wrongly, Koreans and Chinese as all rabidly irrational nationalists who spew nothing but violent threats and lies about the past.

Japanese people that expose Korean and Chinese lies about the past are always labeled ‘right wing’ whatever their actual political orientation. Being of the scholarly persuasion, I would have thought you to be beyond labels that serve obscure the truth. I dont have to remind you that the quality of an argument has nothing to do with the political orientation of the person making it.

To which Munin replied

Dear Shakuhachi, I find your response to be a bit dissapointing. If you read the paragraph after “I am almost inclined to believe” you will find that I admit the legitimacy of the pictures and even link to the school which put together the exhibition.

Also, if you were a regular reader of my weblog you would hopefully find that I am the first person to point out the problematic aspects of national historical narratives, especially in China, Japan, and Korea. That you label this as “Korean and Chinese lies” is tragic, since first of all your refusal to include “Japanese” in this statement implies that you somehow believe that Japan alone has been telling the truth of the past. Equally problematic is the idea that there is only one single narrative of the past in each of these countries. As my past postings show, I focus on the problems of the nationalist narrative, both on the factual level, and its implications for subsuming all aspects of the historical social experience.

The quality of an argument should indeed always be considered, but political orientations are not like the color of ones clothes distinct and separate from one’s view of the world. They go hand in hand with the kinds of arguments, and thus the quality of those arguments, that one makes. A marxist determinist is unlikely to be found making anti-marxist arguments about history, and similarly nationalists are not likely to be found making arguments which deny the centrality of the nation as the subject which moves through history.

For simplicity, I answered point by point.

Also, if you were a regular reader of my weblog you would hopefully find that I am the first person to point out the problematic aspects of national historical narratives, especially in China, Japan, and Korea.

I am a regular reader, and I enjoy reading your blog immensely. I am eagerly looking forward to hearing your findings about colonial collaboration. I have my own theory based on observation, but I would like to see yours.

That you label this as “Korean and Chinese lies” is tragic, since first of all your refusal to include “Japanese” in this statement implies that you somehow believe that Japan alone has been telling the truth of the past.

I dont exclude the Japanese from anything. Japan unleashed the madness of war in China and is therefore responsible for whatever happened there, whether the intentions of the Japanese were good or bad. While China and Japan were having a military conflict that was bound to cause atrocities (I consider war itself an atrocity in itself, and Japan and most of the other powerful nations of the day seemed determined to use war to fulfill their objectives), much of the criticism from China, and particularly Korea, is based on outrageous propaganda.

The quality of an argument should indeed always be considered, but political orientations are not like the color of ones clothes distinct and separate from one’s view of the world.

I agree with you that labels can be convenient in getting to the meat of the matter, and that self proclaimed marxists are likely to advocate marxism. I am saying that Japanese people who are not right wingers are described as such if they debunk Chinese or Korean propaganda. For example, people that have debunked the numerous composite photos of ‘atrocities’ supposedly commited by the Japanese army. While a label can be valuable, labels in this case are used to silence inquiry, and to stifle debate.

A good example would be the Korean understanding of the way ‘comfort women’ were recruited. In the Korean way of thinking (I have met hundreds of Koreans and ALL of them think this), the Japanese army would raid a Korean village and drag off girls, forcing them to become prostitutes. Obviously this is not true, and there is not even one verifiable case of this happening to Korean women. The truth is that most of the women were already prostitutes (Koreans also claim that Japanese were the ones that brought prostitution to Korean, which stands at odds with Korean paintings hundreds of years old that show Korean nobility cavorting with Korean prostitutes), and the minority that werent were sold to Korean pimps by their parents. Most likely the parents didnt tell their daughters that they were being sold to be prostitutes, and once they were in the pimps clutches, they couldnt get out without paying back the pimp with interest. The Japanese army is responsible for setting up a system that is inherently open to abuse, and thats it. The same abuse continues in modern day South Korea.

It is also noteworthy that the comfort women were paid for their services, so calling comfort women ’sex slaves’ doesnt fit.

All the evidence points to the ‘comfort women’ system being voluntary, but any attempted to explain it rationally based on actual facts simply means being shouted down as a right winger. Koreans profited from prostitution before, during, and after the Japanese administration, but instead of facing their role in it, they simply seek to blame the Japanese.

My problem with the Korean interpretation of history is not that the Japanese interpretation is more convincing, just that the Korean one is self contradictory and flies in the face of common sense.
——————

I am sure this kind of dialectic will lead to mutual edification.


3 Responses to “Muninn on Korean Children’s Drawings”

  1. comment number 1 by: RGM-79

    For people who know about Koreans’ mentality, the pictures are nothing to be surprised.
    Remember these popular Korean songs “Fuck USA”, “Fuck Japan”?
    They yelled at Germans “Sons of Nazi” when the FIFA WC 2002.


    Prostitution have been a major industry in Korea.
    In 2001, prostitution made 5% of GDP according to Joongang Ilbo 2003.02.06.
    No wonder why so many Korean massage parlors everywhere in the world.

  2. comment number 2 by: imhockey

    i really like what you have to say, but sadly, it will fall on mostly deaf ears. i tried to to rational thought into conversations for almost 10 years in that country…hopeless…fighting tidal movements with sand-pails.

    i do not mean any disrespect at all but i think it is -your-anyone-s- folly to even try to discuss korea/japan/history/politics with either koreans or most of the foreigners that live there. they have been indoctrinated long ago and are so short sighted..well..anyway…

    it is fun for academic/time consumption, but if you are trying to make a difference…good luck! lol

    regards,

    love yours stuff regardless

  3. comment number 3 by: Matt

    Hi imhockey

    You are right. I know Koreans well enough that I know I cant change any minds (rational discussion about Japan or the USFK causes a electrical short circuit in the Korean brain). However, I can sow the seeds of doubt in foreigners. I know quite a few foreigners that havent bought the Korean line, but can speak Korean fluently (on the other hand, yes, there are a lot of eccentric foreigners out there trying to out hysteric the Koreans). I think its safe to say that not every foreigner in Korea wears a Hanbok.

    I am happy you enjoy reading the site. I think my latest post might be right down your alley.