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Japanese Embarrassed by China and Korea in 1885

May 15th, 2007 . by Gerry-Bevers

Sparkling Korea has posted a translation of an 1885 Japanese editorial entitled, “Datsu-A Ron” (Argument for Leaving Asia), which was printed in the Japanese newspaper 時事新報. Here is an interesting excerpt:

『春秋左氏伝』の「輔車唇歯」とは隣国同志が助け合うことを言うが、現在のシナ・朝鮮は日本にとって何の助けにもならないばかりか、この三国が地理的に近 い故に欧米人から同一視されかねない危険性をも持っている。すなわちシナ・朝鮮が独裁体制であれば日本もそうかと疑われ、向こうが儒教の国であればこちら も陰陽五行の国かと疑われ、国際法や国際的マナーなど踏みにじって恥じぬ国であればそれを咎める日本も同じ穴の狢かと邪推され、朝鮮で政治犯への弾圧が行 われていれば日本もまたそのような国かと疑われ、等々、例を挙げていけばきりがない。これを例えれば、一つの村の村人全員が無法で残忍でトチ狂っておれ ば、たとえ一人がまともでそれを咎めていたとしても、村の外からはどっちもどっちに見えると言うことだ。実際、アジア外交を評する場面ではこのような見方 も散見され、日本にとって一大不幸だと言わざるを得ない。

Although 輔車唇歯 in Zuo Zhuan stands for reciprocity of neighboring countries, Sino and Chosun today have nothing helpful for Japan while Japan might be mistakingly confused with these two countries by the westerners because the three countries are geographically close. For instance, if Sino and Chosun are under dictatorship or if they are country of Confucianism, the western scholars might misunderstand that Japan might as well be so. Or if Sino ignore the international law or manners without hesitation/shame, some might think Japan may do the same. If Chosun brutally executes people, some might doubt Japan do the same. And there are countless examples like this. This is as if an outsiders looking at a village full of cruel and crazy people. Even if one person in the village is criticizing other members of the village, it does not make much difference to outsiders. Outsiders would consider every one in the village are pretty much the same. In fact, this kind of view in Asian diplomacy can be seen here and there. That is one big unfortunate matter to Japan.

Links to the rest of the article: Part One & Part Two

It appears the writer did not have a very high opinion of China and Korea in 1885 since he wanted Japan to distance itself from the two countries. I wonder how many other Japanese felt the same way at the time? By the way, even in Korea in 1885, there were people who wanted change.

UPDATE: The writer of the “Datsu-A Ron” was Fukuzawa Yukichi, who supposedly wrote the essay in “response to a failed attempt by Koreans to organize an effective reform faction,” which would be referring to the attempted coup in 1884 by Kim Ok-gyun, Bak Yeong-hyo, and others. By the way, in the Fukuzawa Yukichi article, I found the following passage interesting:

Fukuzawa was later criticized as a supporter of Japanese imperialism because of his essay “Datsu-A Ron” (“Leaving Asia”) published in 1885, as well as for his support of the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895). Yet, “Datsu-A Ron” was actually a response to a failed attempt by Koreans to organize an effective reform faction, an attempt he had supported. He had invited young Korean aristocrats to his school. Yet, they squandered their time and money on getting drunk and buying prostitutes[citation needed] and after Fukuzawa tightened their allowance, they attempted a failed robbery of a school safe.[citation needed] The essay was published as a withdrawal of his support. Nevertheless the assistance provided to radical Koreans during this era was never intended to lead to complete independence for the peninsula, but on the contrary sought to bring Korea under ever greater Japanese influence. This was amply demonstrated by the power-plays undertaken in Korea by both Koreans supported by Fukuzawa and the Imperial Japanese Army during the First Sino-Japanese War.

Notice that the passage says that the Korean aristocrates who were invited to study at Fukuzawa’s school “squandered their time and money on getting drunk and buying prostitutes.” I do not know if that is true, but in his book, “Korea’s Place in the Sun,” Bruce Cumings did not seem to be very impressed with Fukuzawa’s Korean students, either. Here is some of what Bruce Cumings wrote about Korea’s reformers in the 1880s.

What is unlikely, however, is that they constituted an “enlightenment party,” as some scholars have called them, or an “independence party,” as others say, or that the 1880s marked a historical period of Korean enlightenment. One or two Western historians have praised “the vitality of Korea’s modernization efforts,” but this phase of fitful Westernization cannot remotely be compared to the Meiji Restoration (let alone the Enlightenment in Europe) and was constantly thwarted by reactionary scholars and officials. At best it was a pale reflection of China’s “self-strengthening movement,” both being premised on the idea that Eastern learning would still constitute the philosophical and political “base” (t’i in Chinese, ch’e in Korean), with Western science and technology for “use” (yong).

The new leaders were young and ambitious, but also were “neither profound philosophers nor great theoreticians; rather, they were idealistic, reform-minded, pro-Japanese and pro-Western, and yet strongly nationalistic politicians. The main source of their inspiration was Japanese liberalism….” Fukuzawa Yukichi, the Japanese reformer most impressed with American modernity, was mentor to several young Koreans who were deeply impressed by Japan’s new strides since 1868. Their enthusiasm knew no bounds, but it often ran ahead of thoughtfulness. Hardly French philosophers, they left little writing for posterity, and what there is usually follows in the wake of Japanese popularizers of Western thought, like Fukuzawa, or works by Western progressives of the time. Anyway, there weren’t many of them–often no more than a handful….


62 Responses to “Japanese Embarrassed by China and Korea in 1885”

  1. comment number 1 by: General Tiger

    pacifist:

    Nope, I don’t hate all people who learned in Japan. 金玉均 is an example of a respectable Korean who believed that Japan had the answers to solving the weakness of Joseon. His major fault was that he trusted his Japanese financers too much, not setting up back up plans so that when he was overrun by the Qing military, all he could do was escape to Japan
    李容九 is another matter, however. Although at first he was a person similar to 金玉均, he became, as one can say, a Japanese collaberator (in a bad sense) from 1904, starting with the establishment of 一進會
    And a thing about me: I’m not an anti-Japanese. Rather, I’m one of the few Koreans who advocates an alliance between Japan, Korea, and Mongolia.

  2. comment number 2 by: Gerry-Bevers

    General Tiger wrote:

    And a thing about me: I’m not an anti-Japanese. Rather, I’m one of the few Koreans who advocates an alliance between Japan, Korea, and Mongolia.

    Yes, it is so obvious that Japan and Korea need to form a stronger alliance to help offset the growing threat from China, so why are Koreans trying so hard to alienate Japan? Here’s my theory:

    Korea is trying to play the same kiss-ass game that got her in trouble over 100 years ago. In other words, she is trying to play all sides against each other. For example, she is trying to distance herself from the US and Japan in an attempt to appease China. With the US, she is trying to appease China by doing things to weaken the US-Korea alliance, and with Japan, she is trying to appease China by trying to make China believe Japan is a common enemy. Such a strategy is flawed and childish.

    Korea needs to determine her core values, clearly state those values, make policy based on them, and then live by that policy, instead of using the zig-zag strategy that she has been using over the past few years. Korea’s foreign policy planners seem to be big fans of the TV reality show, “Survivor.” In other words, Korea seems to be using backstabbing tactics and insincere promises in dealing with Japan and the United States.

    So, General Tiger, why are you only one of a few Koreans who advocates a Korean alliance with Japan and Mongolia?

  3. comment number 3 by: General Tiger

    Gerry-Bevers:
    Yes, I agree with your statement there.

    So, General Tiger, why are you only one of a few Koreans who advocates a Korean alliance with Japan and Mongolia?

    Are you asking about me, or asking about the anti-Japanese?

  4. comment number 4 by: hls

    pacifist,

    hls, kjeff, general Tiger,

    Please do not put me in the same league as kjeff and General Tiger; if you read my old posts you will undersatnd. And also please read my posts in the current thread carefully again.

  5. comment number 5 by: General Tiger

    And don’t put me in the same league as kjeff.

  6. comment number 6 by: kjeff

    LOL…and don’t put me in the same league as General Tiger…LOL…

  7. comment number 7 by: General Tiger

    kjeff:
    LOL
    We’re all so different! *Rolls around*


  8. […] Japanese Embarrassed by China & Korea in 1885 » Occidentalism Sparkling Korea has posted a translation of an 1885 Japanese editorial entitled, “Datsu-A Ron” (Argument for Leaving Asia), which was printed in the Japanese newspaper 時事新報. Here is an interesting excerpt: […]

  9. comment number 9 by: pacifist

    hls, kjeff, and general Tiger,
    .
    Sorry for treating all of you as a league.
    🙁
    ….
    I didi it again! 🙂

  10. comment number 10 by: GarlicBreath

    all at once…

    We’re all so different

  11. comment number 11 by: JonJon

    General Tiger wrote:

    And a thing about me: I’m not an anti-Japanese. Rather, I’m one of the few Koreans who advocates an alliance between Japan, Korea, and Mongolia.

    No, you are just an anti-Chinese “Greater Altaic” racist.

  12. comment number 12 by: General Tiger

    JonJon:

    No, you are just an anti-Chinese “Greater Altaic” racist.

    Thank you for calling me a Greater Altaic.