Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Schizophrenic Han - Part II (Revised & Amended)

There is something seriously wrong with the psyche of Korean people.
I wrote Part I, some time ago, here: "A Schizophrenic Han". But, a couple articles caught my eye and, so, here I am writing Part II.

"Next year will be the year when we will put in order what had happened in the past 100 years. We need to work on building a new 100 years of Japan-South Korea relations," Okada said.

The Japanese government has yet to respond to South Korean President Lee Myung-bak's invitation to Japanese Emperor Akihito, the foreign minister said.

"We have not any decision as of yet," he said. "It should be carefully considered, as the emperor's visit to South Korea should be politically neutral"("No bilateral talks with N. Korea without nuclear solution: Japanese FM" : Yonhap News).
I think it's far too early to have the Japanese Emperor visit Korea. Yes, next year will mark a century since the date when Korea became a Japanese colony, but it will also mark a century since Korea had been last  unified. Anyways, the real problem is this. South Korea really wants to believe everything is okay and that there is nothing wrong with the way things currently are. For example, South Korean teams in international sporting now compete as part of the Korea, Republic (or Korea, Rep. of)rather than Republic of Korea or South Korea to the image (to both herself and the rest of the world in my opinon) that the team really does represent all of Korea.

It's not hard to sense the irony in this statement then:
"The new Japanese government has the courage to face up to history.'' These words ― uttered by Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama during a summit with President Lee Myung-bak Wednesday ― were what all Asian neighbors have long wanted to hear from Japan (New Dawn in Asia : Korea Times).
(Japan recently witnessed a new government and saw a new political party sweep into power not unlike what happened in Mexico in 2000). And, the writer of that editorial in the Korea Times thinks it's very important that Japan, apologize, for crimes committed in her history, a tired theme that just won't go away in relations between South Korea and Japan. I think it's about time that the Korean government finds the courage to face up to history. I think it's also about time that people in South Korea (the South Korean people as a word just doesn't seem like the right word here) accept the perverse reality that is North Korea today and to accept that the ultimate responsibility of unifying Korea lies in the hands of not Americans or Japanese or other foreign powers, but with Koreans.

And, most importantly, and not just with respect to unification, but I strongly feel that it is about time that Koreans should have the confidence to accept that it is ultimately the responsibility of Koreans to see what is happening to other Koreans in North Korea and to do something about it(rather than debating what the definition of Koreans means today or depending largely on Japanese media for news on North Korea).

While the words of Korean President Lee Myung Bak have taken a rather bellicose theme lately, don't let those words fool you. The administration's policy still reflects a country in denial still operating under the banner of a Don't Let North Korea Fail At All Costs Policy. The Yonhap article writes
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak earlier this week proposed a package deal in which the five other parties would provide the North with security guarantees, massive economic aid and other incentives in return for complete denuclearization, necessitating no further negotiations.
Nothing really has changed and nothing really will change unless all of South Korea actually comes to accept that the country is first and foremost still divided and that rather than expending resources on such trivial things as the hosting of the G-20 summit, realize that South Korea definitely has the ability and means to unify the country if she wants to. For example, how old does the cold war seem today when you actually sit down and consider that a South Korean national serves as the current Secretary-General of the United Nations.

You could also look at what South Korean historians are doing. Historians in South Korea put weight, as I've pointed out earlier (in Part I), on theories now that would otherwise be of little relevance were it to not the case that Korea still remains divided today. Specifically, the North-South States Period (남북국시대) serves mainly to justify the division of the peninsula in the mind of Koreans and to make it seem as if the division is entirely natural (since it happened before and the country eventually unified) and that it's perfectly alright to think of other things for the moment (such as leading your life and forgetting that your second cousin or a cousin twice removed is doing time as a slave laborer).

I wonder if the Japanese public ever thinks, "you know what, I bet you anything that life was better for most Koreans in North Korea when they were ruled by us." This was, of course, one of the justifications by the Japanese for colonizing Korea a century ago. Past and present South Korean governments with an apathetic South Korean constituency and along with all the other apathetic Koreans of other flavors, such as Korean-Chinese, Korean-Americans, and the like, are just as much accomplices by choosing ignorance in this debate(tragedy). Choosing ignorance like that which is forced upon North Koreans, who are also citizens of the Republic of Korea or, who are, also, by definition and Constitution, part of the Nation of the Great Han People (literal translation of the official name of South Korea, 한민국, 韓民國) does not seem Great at all.

I fail to see how a Great People can let half her People live under constant torture and come up with all sorts of excuses and, yet, still claim to be Great. And, no, I don't believe I know what the South Korean government should do (nor do I believe that there is an easy way towards Unification), but what I do believe would be a tangible, first step is to accept that what is currently the state of things in Korea is unnatural, not normal, and that pleading either ignorance or apathy is immoral. Accepting that Koreans are ultimately responsible for themselves should be a given for a Great People.

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