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Category: Korean History (page 2 of 49)

Is the pen mightier than the nationalism?

As many of you already know, a couple of weeks ago, President Park Geun-hye suggested that Korea, China and Japan collaborate on writing the history of the region as a “way of alleviating tension and promoting peace in Northeast Asia.”  Does anyone think this has a snowball’s chance in hell?

In her article (“Three-nation joint history book to bring peace,Korea Times, Nov. 26, 2013), Kim Jeong-hyun declared that

Korea, as a leader of the relative studies, should work to strike a balance between Sino-centrism and Japan’s imperialism in writing the joint history textbook.

She also eagerly points out:

From the stance of Korea, what worries us the most is that China and Japan both maintain their superior position in describing historical events involving Korea.

In addition to Japan, China also exaggerated Japan’s influence over ancient Korea. However, it is not a correct interpretation, since the installation was not the sign of subjugation, but “diplomatic prowess” that stayed within the boundary that didn’t imperil Silla’s

The points of disputes, raised by the report of China-Japan Joint History Committee, as well as erroneous description of Korean history, are the issues that we should spare no time to resolve.

I am sure that China and Japan have more than a few issues they would like to correct (from their perspective) that Korea might not be so willing to acknowledge – including historical claims to islands and islets.  The word Dokdo alone could throw this project into a free-for-all.  The present looming confrontation between Japan and China over some disputed islands will clearly cause some agitation to the committee.  Even a submerged rock has the potential to rock the boat (KT front page entitled “Nothing Can be spared for Ieodo).

Prof. Kim sums up her article with:

Publishing a joint history textbook is an important task that has great implications beyond the three nations to Taiwan, North Korea, Mongolia, Russia and others.

What lies on our shoulders is not just a task to unravel the current issues and bring regional cooperation, but a task to ensure peace in the future.

I wonder what Prof. Lew Yong-ik has to say about all this.

The plight of Korean leprosy patients and the superstitions surrounding them

A recent article (newscom.Au November 24, 2013) once again sheds light on a sad chapter of Korean medical history and society – the plight of leprosy victims – particularly those on Sorok Island.  It appears that some of the former inmates – inhabitants does not seem fitting – have returned to the island that was once described as “hell on earth”.

Yu Myung-sun, 61, who lived on Sorok for six years until 1974, returned in 2008 after living with other former leprosy sufferers in a village near Seoul. People outside the village “wouldn’t even look at me … restaurants wouldn’t sell meals to us,” Yu said.

“People on Sorok Island make me feel at ease,” she said, wearing a pair of big sunglasses, her face dotted with black spots from anti-leprosy medication. “I feel comfortable here and this is where I’ll die.”

Starting about a decade ago, the number of returning former patients began gradually increasing. Over the past few years, about 70 people, mostly former residents, have resettled here each year.


It is a sad article but what I found touching was this:

Oh Dong-Chan, a dental surgeon and the longest-serving physician on the island at 18 years, said many former patients have come back as word has spread that conditions on the island have improved. He said he often treats his patients, who are used to be shunned, with his bare hands because he knows they like the feel of bare skin.

It reminded me very much of how the first hospital was set up in Gwangju for these poor sufferers.  It was established about 1909 through the efforts of Dr. Wiley Forsythe after he encountered a woman on the road nearly dead from the disease.  He bundled her up and took her back to the mission hospital but, because the other patients were so afraid of catching the disease, was forced to house her out in a brick kiln.  In her book, Martha Huntley described the incident:

A group gathered at the brick kiln saw her coming down the road, assisted over the difficult places by the loving and unshrinking hands of Dr. Forsythe.  The thought in the mind of each of us, ‘How like his Master’…Dr. Forsythe, every inch a gentleman and dressed as such, every now and then grasping the arm of this woman, loathsome from disease, filth, and long neglect…Her hair had been uncombed perhaps for months, or even years, her clothes were ragged and filthy, her feet and hands swollen and covered with sores…on one foot was a straw shoe, on the other a thick piece of paper had been tied.

The woman died two weeks later but money was raised to build shelter for a handful of patients.  The blog Ethnoscopes has an excellent write up of Joji Wilson Kohjima, the great grandson of Robert Manton Wilson, an American doctor who worked in Kroea from 1907-1941 treating the victims of this disease. Notice in this account the poor woman was being stoned by the Korean villagers.

It is also interesting to note that sufferers of the disease were mainly found in the southern part of the country.  I wonder if there were more victims originally in the south or perhaps those in the north traveled south for the milder climate.  There were some victims in the Wonju area in the 1920s who begged for food and aid as well as in Seoul in the 1890s, but the vast majority appear to have been in the southern part of the peninsula.  They were reduced to beggars as described by this Korean describing a neighbor in Pohang with the disease:

It was a death sentence for him and a catastrophe for his family.  Leprosy in Korea was shrouded in older superstition and medical ignorance.  Lepers were abandoned by their own families and eventually became roving beggars with no eyebrows, lopped-off noses, and no fingers or toes, all eaten away by the disease.

These beggars were not only shunned for their disease but also because of the desperation they might exhibit in their attempts to cure themselves of their affliction.  Up until the 1960s, mothers often frightened their children by telling them that unless they stopped crying, a leper would come and steal them and eat them.  When I lived in Gangwon Province, a friend’s grandmother told me that as a child she used to carry red pepper powder as a form of mace to protect herself from lepers.  It was said that lepers would haunt the cornfields and pounce upon children to eat their livers in the belief that this would cure them.  How true was this?

In January 1917, the St. Petersburg Times reported:

Seoul, Korea.  Justifying his act by the Korean superstition that the eating of human flesh is a cure for leporosy, a Korean leper named Sin Yungsyun has confessed to the murder of a five-year-old-boy, whose mutilated body was discovered in a field in South Cholla province.  According to the police, the accused also admitted that with another leper he killed a girl in the mountains on September 15, and that both had eaten of her flesh.

Lepers in Korea hitherto led a miserable life.  With the exception of those cared for by missionaries in a small hospital near Fusan, they have been left to roam at will and eke out their own living.  The superstition as to cannibal cure is very general.

There were others as demonstrated by this article from the Seoul Press (April 18, 1928 – sorry no link, hard-copy transcription):

A wave of superstition seems to be still running high among Korean lepers.  It is understood from Taikyu that a leper named Cho Yoh Soon aged 28 of Kingokudo, Keishu, North Keisho  Province was recently arrested on the charge of exhuming the remains of a baby from the public  cemetery under the impression the ‘Human Flesh Liquor’ is very efficacious for the cure of leprosy.

Apparently these were not isolated incidents.  The Korean poet Seo Jung-ju wrote this poem about the belief.  Maybe they should have used Korean Ginseng – said to cure everything.

But where did these superstitions come from?  One scholar claims that there was no social stigma associated with lepers in Korea until the missionaries arrived and claimed it was ‘divine punishment’ but this doesn’t seem likely as Eunjung Kim notes in his excellent paper “Cultural Rehabilitation: Hansen’s Disease, Gender and Disability in Korea”.  According to him, there were not only accounts of cannabalism but also body snatchers who sold organs to the afflicted:

“However, the image of the flesh eater and its association with leprosy were not invented in the beginning of the modern era. In The Annals of the Chosŏn Dynasty (Chosŏn Wangjo Silok), there are several entries regarding the use of human flesh to cure diseases such as epilepsy and leprosy. For instance, the chronicle of the King So˘ngjong, “So˘ngjong Silok,” records that there was a woman, Tu˘lbi, who cut off her finger, dried, powdered, and fed it to her husband upon hearing that flesh was good for curing sickness. As a result of her actions, her husband’s leprosy was cured (“So˘ngjong Sillok” 29 February 1472).

In the King Sŏnjo period, the chronicle records that there were vagabonds who stole gallbladders by kidnapping and attacking people in order to sell the organs to lepers seeking cures. Sŏnjo ordered the arrest of these organ snatchers (“Sŏnjo Sillok” 26 June 1576). Although these anecdotal reports tie lepers to cannibalism, they hardly represent lepers as a group of anti-social attackers. Instead, human organs were sold by nonlepers as a source of medicine to the lepers who were seeking cures. The wife’s sacrifice of her finger for curing the husband was recorded as an exemplar of her loyalty to her husband. The association between leprosy and the use of human body as medicine was somehow twisted into the image of lepers who sacrifice the lives of other people for cures.

While this image of lepers as child-eating vagabonds was dispersed through the newly available printed public media, the discourse of infection and the hereditary nature of the disease started to emerge in the propaganda supporting the sterilization and institutionalization of lepers after the 1930s. This fear seems to have advanced and later coexisted with the fear of leprosy infection, but it has not been replaced. Between 1920 and 1931, there were 21 articles in Tonga Ilbo (East Asia Daily), one of the popular Korean newspapers after 1920, about lepers allegedly attacking, kidnapping, and killing women and children, and eating the organs of the dead bodies. By contrast, there are only four entries about seeing a leper’s presence in restaurants or public baths as a threat to public health. There is no mention of infection and only one entry mentioning male sterilization as a way of stopping the genetic transference and eradicating leprosy.

These boogyman stories and accounts seem to have been as Mr. Kim notes, propaganda to isolate the victims of the disease from the rest of the public.  Thus began the Japanese-controlled leper colonies. Continue reading

Practical Gifts in Joseon Korea

A little early for Christmas but….

It wasn’t that long ago when calendars were a popular gift in Korea.  It was not uncommon to visit a Korean friend’s house and see calendars gracing the walls throughout the house.  Those days are gone now – just another trend of the past.  But did you know during the late Joseon era – one of the most popular gifts was a fan?  And it wasn’t just the common people giving fans to one another – King Gojong’s favored foreign representatives and guests with fans:

Members of the diplomatic community frequently received large numbers of fans from the palace. The royal family probably believed the diplomats would distribute these fans to their staffs but many of them merely boxed up the items and sent them home as unique gifts.

One such individual was Sallie Sill, the wife of the American minister to Korea, who wrote to her daughter and proudly proclaimed: “You will never suffer for the want of fans if we get them all safely home.”

Fans were not only gifts – they were also an expected benefit.

Fans were such an integral part of daily life that employers were expected to provide their employees “with these indispensable articles” — even Korean soldiers were equipped with them.

They were also a tool for avoiding people on the street:

They were “an instrument of etiquette.” According to one writer, in Korea, “to hide the face with one is an act of politeness.”

But Westerners did not always seem to grasp Korean etiquette. Gilmore wrote, “Many a time have we passed Koreans on horseback and been amused to see the riders hold their fans before their faces so as not to be seen.”

You can read the rest of the article here – Korea Times, November 25, 2013.

Seeing and being seen in Joseon Korea

001 Korean exhibit at Hanoi Exhibition in 1902
Glasses were introduced into Korea sometime in the 16th century, probably through China but Korea also made a type of glasses that may have been better than some of the Western glasses.  These glasses were made from polished crystals.  Horace Allen praised them in 1886:

“The Coreans really excel in the manufacture of eye-glasses.  I have been ashamed when trying to fit a superior lens, from a good trial case of glasses, in place of a stone lens already worn.  I could not do it; the Corean lens was the better.  They are made of transparent stone, finely ground, and are expensive, costing in the neighborhood of $100.”

A huge amount of money considering the average laborer only made 10-15 cents a day.  But not everyone wearing glasses had bad vision:

“In immaculate white he emerges from the holes and corners of every mud village.  If he is an official of importance, he does not walk alone, but is assisted by the arms on each side.  If he ventures by himself, it is with a magnificent stride that clears the street of indifferent stride that clears the street of indifferent passers, and commands only on-lookers.  In one hand is a pipe three feet long, in the other a fan; over his eyes two immense discs of dark crystal, not to assist him in seeing, but to insure his being seen.  How precious these are!  Many a man will forego the necessaries of life if only he can gain a pair of Kyung-ju (spectacles), and so cover himself with glory before an on-looking assemblage.”

You can read the rest of the article here – Korea Times November 15, 2013.

Speaking of things to see.  Many of you are aware that Korea took part in the Chicago Expo in 1893 (you can read Dan Kane’s excellent article here – including some of the controversy of the mission) and the Paris Expo in 1900 (picture and article, Korea Times May 10, 2010), but did you also know it took part in the Hanoi Expo of 1902?

We don’t know much about Korea’s participation in the Hanoi Expo save a brief note in the Korea Review:

“Korea is sending a considerable exhibit to the Hanoi Exhibition.  A French man-of-war transported the exhibit from Chemulpo.”

Fortunately I was able to find and purchase a postcard of the Korean exhibit.

But why did Joseon Korea participate in these expositions.  According to Mr. Kane,   Joseon’s participation was “an overt display of independence at a time of mounting foreign encroachment” and Chinese hegemony. It “went to Chicago as Korea, not as China’s younger brother.”  That was not the case in regards to the Paris Expo as China had been soundly defeated by the Japanese in the Sino-Japanese War (1894-95) so perhaps this was an effort to show the world that it was equally free of the Japanese.  But what did Joseon gain from partaking in a colonial exposition?  Obviously not much recognition but it is interesting to note that during the Korean rice famine that a large amount of rice was imported from Vietnam.

You can read the rest of my article (Korea Times, November 8, 2013) and my take of Joseon Korea’s first Hallyu boy.


And finally, a place that none of us wants to be in – the Korean prisons….but what were they like during the Joseon era?

These facilities were mainly made out of logs and planks with large gaps between them that served their purpose in preventing the inhabitants from escaping but did little to protect the prisoners from the elements. The prisoners were often tortured:

Sometimes, starvation was used as an implement of torture or execution. One official was declared knowing “no more of humanitarianism than to kill thieves by slow starvation.”

So severe were his tactics that some of the inmates gnawed on anything they could ― “the straw on the floor, their clothes, and even the skin and bones of their own arms ― to satisfy their awful hunger.” Their hardened jailors, “touched with pity,” used their own money to buy refuse from taverns to secretly feed their wards.

An editorial in The Independent declared that it was a “mark of civilization that a Government should show no small personal resentment against a criminal.  He should be punished according to the enormity of his offense, even to death if need be, but the penalty to be bestowed should not be accompanied by additional penalties of a lesser nature like beating, starving or freezing….To allow prisoners to lie with fractured limbs until they putrefy can be denominated as nothing less than barbarous.  Disease is not among the list of punishment in any civilized country nor should it be here.”

Sometimes sick prisoners were passed off to the Western hospitals for treatment:

“Occasionally one sees a man with body bloated as with dropsy and rotting as with gangrene, carried though the streets of Seoul on a jiki.  He is being carried from one of the city or national jails to be thrown, perhaps, at the gate of a foreign hospital to be fed and treated by a foreigner at foreign expense, till he recovers [or] till king death releases him from pain.’’

By the late 1890s, torture, per se, and cruel punishments were abolished.  No longer were prisoners decapitated with blunt swords but were executed in a more civil manner – by hanging.

You can read the rest of the article here – Korea Times, November 1, 2013.

Picture credits – The Hanoi Exhibit (my collection), the Korean prison (wikipedia – but I disagree that it is a public domain pic).

Japan annoyed by plan to build statue of “criminal”; Korea, China tell Tokyo to screw off

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga—who, as we’ve seen before, is a bit of a sensitive sort—is upset that Korea wants to build a monument to Ahn Jung-geun in China:

“This is not good for Japan-South Korea relations,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said of the proposed monument to Ahn Jung-geun, a Korean independence activist who shot Hirobumi Ito, the first Japanese governor general of Korea, in 1909 in Harbin, northeastern China.

He said Ahn, regarded as a hero in South Korea and China, “is a criminal.”

The plan was revealed when South Korean President Park Geun-hye met Monday with Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi in Seoul. Park expressed appreciation for China’s cooperation with the plan, according to the South Korean presidential office. Details of the plan are not yet known.

Considering that Japan considered pretty much everyone who engaged in the Korean independence movement criminals, this would seem to suggest he believes establishing monuments to any Korean nationalist leaders would be bad for Korea—Japan relations.

Well, anyway, Korea and China have told Japan to sod off:

Both Beijing and Seoul fired back almost immediately.

“Ahn Jung-geun is a very famous anti-Japanese fighter in history,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a regular briefing. “He is respected by the Chinese people as well. China will, in accordance with relevant regulations on memorial facilities involving foreigners, make a study to push forward relevant work.”

South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Tae-young said Japan should “reflect on what kind of figure Hirobumi Ito was during Japan’s era of imperialism and militarism and what Japan did to neighbouring nations at the time”.

Expect more of this cooperation between Korea and China in the future. I’m not especially comfortable with it, and ideally, I’d like to see greater cooperation between Korea and Japan. That said, Japan doesn’t make it easy sometimes. I’m not sure what Suga hoped to gain for Japan with his statement—scoring points with some domestic lobbies, perhaps?—but as an act of diplomacy, all it does is give propaganda material to Korea and China and drive Seoul closer to Beijing at a time when Tokyo really should be working to gain an ally.

For what it’s worth, Ahn Jung-geun was a really intriguing character. And probably a more complex dude than most folk realize.

MUST READ: JoongAng Ilbo on Korea’s victims of torture

The JoongAng Ilbo ran a very, very good story on a support group for victims of torture during Korea’s military dictatorships of the 1960s, 70s and 80s.

As if the physical scars weren’t bad enough, the long-lasting emotional scars have been horrorfying, too:

Ryu was released in January 1982. Then, the aftershock of his torture hit him.

“I developed claustrophobia and social phobia,” he said.

He became so paranoid, afraid that security agents were coming to arrest him, that he couldn’t sleep in his own home.

In 1990, Ryu fell from his third-floor apartment while trying to escape down an impromptu rope made of clothes tied together, breaking his toes. He had panicked because a visitor rang his doorbell.

He couldn’t hold down a job because of emotional problems, and his wife had to provide for the family. Ryu, who has one daughter, divorced his wife 10 years ago.

Read the rest on your own.

If you read Korean, it might be worth your time to read novelist Cheon Woon-young’s book “Saengang,” which is about this gentleman. You can also watch “Namyeong-dong 1985,” a film based on memoirs of late activist and politician Kim Geun-tae, who was tortured by said gentleman in 1985.

Who said Japanese right-wing bigots can’t be cute, too?

(HT to Hamel)

“Now, they are blaming us, for what?” Ironically, I think she sort of answers her own question.

“We built schools, stations, bridges, malls, city halls, libraries, factories including nitrogen fertilizer factories…” Indeed. we should never forget the nitrogen fertilizer factories. Never.

Tears For Fears: South Korean Tear Gas in Bahrain?

teargas_BahrainAs of this year, Bahrain interior ministry personnel have ordered 1.6 million teargas canisters to use against protesting Baharainians, who have been in the middle of an extended protest, if not revolution (see Bahraini uprising).  Oddly enough, Baharin turned to South Africa and South Korea for their supply of tear gas, which has been used not just to stop protesters but to cause harm as well.  So far 39 people have died due to misuse of teargas in the protests:

. . . Based on field evidence the organisation collected between 2011 and 2013, the top teargas exporters to Bahrain are DaeKwang Chemical Corporation and CNO Tech. Both companies have shipped “over 1.5 million pieces of tear gas to Bahrain between 2011 and 2012,” which exceeds “the entire population of Bahrain, which is 1.2 million, of which 600,000 are citizens,” according to the group’s website. Financial Times cited a senior executive at DaeKwang as acknowledging the export of around one million units of tear gas to Bahrain between 2011 and 2012. (cite)

6.10__002This is odd considering the history of tear gas to suppress popular dissent in South Korea throughout the latter part of the Twentieth Century in South Korea (at right, Yonsei U., 1986, 6.10 민주항쟁), however, the money side of this situation is not bad for South Korea since “the monetary value of the planned shipment is unclear, however based on an estimate of $10 to $20 per canister, the total price could be between $16 and $32 million.”

Though the KFTU (Korean Federation of Trade Unions) does not enjoy my sympathy or respect, they seem to be enjoying a case of ethics regarding this issue:

. . .The Korean Federation of Trade Unions threw its support behind the Stop the Shipment campaign, sending a letter to the Korean Government asking them to halt all tear gas exports to Bahrain, meanwhile, in London, the UK-based NGO Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) has called for a protest outside the Korean Embassy on Friday. (cite)

Glendale mayor regrets comfort women statue

Glendale mayor Dave Weaver apparently regrets the decision to put a memorial to the Comfort Women in his town:

Glendale was wrong to install a controversial monument honoring Korean sex slaves taken by the Japanese Army during World War II, Mayor Dave Weaver said during an interview published Monday on a Japanese television station’s YouTube channel.

“We opened a beehive, a hornet’s nest,” he told Channel Sakura. “We just shouldn’t have done it.”

As an added bonus, he said this in an interview with a right-wing Japanese TV station.

Anyway, it seems the Japanese trolls have been getting to him:

He told Japanese reporters from the far-right-wing channel, though, that in addition to opposing the statue because he believed the park where it’s located needs a master plan, he disliked the statue because he didn’t want Glendale involved in an international fight.

“I understand we’re the most hated city in Japan now, which I deeply regret,” Weaver said, adding that he’s received more than 1,000 emails about the memorial, the most correspondence he’s gotten on an issue in the 17 years he’s been on City Council.

Turkish readers, take note—send Mayor Weaver some angry emails, and maybe you can get him to express regret about Glendale’s Armenian Holocaust remembrances.

To make matters worse for Glendale, the mayor of Higashiōsaka sent Weaver a very angry letter, and Higashiōsaka officials are threatening to end its cultural and exchange relationship with Glendale. Oh, how will Glendale ever recover…

Anyway, if you wanted to counterbalance the 2ch trolls, feel free to send an email to Mayor Weaver at

Textbook disputes: not just for left-wingers

So, Ye Olde Chosun—and a lot of other folk on the right side of the political ledger—are unhappy with some of the left-learning Korean history textbooks that schools may use from next year.

In particular, the Chosun cites who two textbooks who make the Soviet occupation army in the north look like liberators and the US occupation army in the south look like, well, occupiers by comparing side-by-side the degrees of their respective commands (Dr. Andrei Lankov looks at this thorny issue) and another textbook for emphasizing the oppressiveness of South Korea’s post-war dictators while refusing to even use the word “dictatorship” to describe North Korea’s ruling regime.

The Chosun notes this as left-wing scholars, media and, of course, the KTU clamor for the government to rescind official sanction for a textbook by the “new right”-leaning Kyohak Publishing Company, which has been accused of a) beautifying the Japanese colonial era and b) playing down abuses by Korea’s post-war dictators, including the Gwangju Massacre. In fact, the Chosun accuses the campaign of being an leftist attempt to keep rightist views of history out of the classroom.

Personally, I think everyone’s full of shit here, but without having actually seen the textbooks in question, that’s more of a gut feeling rather than an informed opinion.

There’s more history fun on the way with the Park administration set to name a man accused by some of being a Syngman Rhee fan boy as the new chairman of the National Institute of Korean History. But that will have to wait for a bit later.

When the Japanese right get an idea in their heads…

I’m not really sure what the Comfort Women have to do with Osaka city affairs, but mayor Toru Hashimoto really likes to talk about them. Or Tweet about them, as it were:

“Japan was bad,” he told a party meeting on Monday, the Asahi Shimbun reported. “It is true that we used women to solve the problem of sex on the battlefield.

“Having said that, America, Britain, Germany and France, and even the South Korean military in Vietnam after WWII, they all used women to address the issue.

“Japan was bad, but you all should face up to history. This is what Japanese politicians must say,” the Asahi quoted him as saying.

Hashimoto’s use of Twitter has even got The Ish—who recently blasted Hashimoto for calling Japan’s surprise visits to its Asian neighbors in the 1930s and 1940s “aggression”—advising caution—really difficult to express right-wing historical revisionism in 140 characters or less.

To be fair to Hashimoto, at least he’s saying rude things politely. The same could not be said about his until-recently party colleague Shingo Nishimura, who made quite possibly the most disgusting statement about the Comfort Women I’ve ever read coming from the mouth of a public official:

During his speech, Nishimura also defended compatriot Hashimoto’s statement, saying that ‘comfort women’ had been incorrectly translated to ‘sex slaves,’ according to USA Today.

“‘Comfort women’ is erroneously translated as ‘sex slaves,’ which might encourage anti-Japanese riots and conspiracies,” he said. “We better fight back by telling them that the words ‘comfort women’ and ‘sex slaves’ are completely different and that there are numerous South Korean prostitutes roaming around Japan.”

He then put the final nail in the controversial commentary coffin, joking that he might visit his hometown of Osaka, venture into red-light districts and yell, “Hey, you South Korean comfort women!”

I believe the actual comment was something more along the lines of “Japan is swarming with Korean prostitutes.” He did get expelled from his party for that statement, and even Hashimoto was apparently appalled by it. Still, I suppose we should be thankful in a way—the feeling I’ve gotten is that these guys really believe that not only was Japan blameless for the Comfort Women, but also that the Comfort Women were essentially a Korean problem, that Korea is a nation of whores. At least Nishimura was being honest.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is now comparing the Yasukuni Shrine to Arlington National Cemetery:

Abe cited a Japanese history professor, Kevin Doak of Georgetown University, who said that visiting the Arlington National Cemetery, where Confederate soldiers are buried “does not mean endorsing slavery.”

Fair dinkum, but then again, I’m unaware of anything like the Yūshūkan on the grounds of Arlington. Excuse me if I’m mistaken.

The UN’s Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights is reportedly calling on Japan to take measures to prevent hate speech directed at the Comfort Women. I like the altered Korean flag in the protest photo—who said the Japanese right doesn’t do irony?

Flavour of the Month – History Is For Winners

A people must know its past to ensure its future . . .

This quote was made in reference to country where there have different cultures in the same region over a period of centuries but this leader believes that the current occupiers have written the correct version of history.
Which country’s leader made this this observation:

  1. China
  2. America
  3. India
  4. Israel
  5. Japan

If you are clever, you can find the answer close at hand.

The answer is Israel

Open Thread #289 – Can’t we all love each other?

Threats from the North, threats or promises from Kerry in the South – can’t we all just love one another?

Hope everyone has a safe weekend.

A look back in time – photographs of Joseon’s past

Enough with all the North Korean hype – it is time to take a step back in time and look at this collection of photographs and postcards highlighted in Mail Online (March 25, 2013).

Fortresses, sunglasses, straw shoes and the pounding of rice cakes are all here for your viewing pleasure.

(Hat tip to reader)

MUST READ: Lankov on souring of Soviet-DPRK ties through 1960s

If you’re interested in Korean history, Andrei Lankov has a piece up at Sino-NK on ties between North Korea and the Soviet Union during North Korea’s early years.

Christ, and you thought relations between South Korea and the United States could be difficult. Eesh.

I especially appreciated Kim Il-sung’s attempts to kidnap dissenting North Korean students from Moscow. Of course, North Korea wasn’t the only Korea fond of this tactic.

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