Monday, October 5, 2009

Forming Views on Korea, Part V: My family during Japanese rule.

So, finally, I've finally been able to take a world history course (The World Economy in the Twentieth Century or UC Berkeley's Econ 115). And, I blame this on myself, of course. I highly recommend that when you consider a double major, especially as a transfer student, to really consider if it's what you want to do. I've been unable to take many of the courses I might want to take, such as a history course, because of the requirements to complete both majors.

Anyways, I had a really interesting assignment for this class recently, where I was asked to write a short essay about where my family was from 1914-1945. And, I discovered a few things that I'd like to share and fits in perfectly with the discussion on how Koreans fared during the Japanese period.

You see, it seems to be the case that since all we ever hear about the colonial period is of how the Japanese drafted comfort women, moved around Korean laborers, and the like that we don't hear some of the benefits that were given to Koreans during this period (yes, I risk being shot here with these statements) to not people that were actually Japanese collaborators, but more so people who loved Korea, but where they found themselves to be born into a society where if they wanted to live a normal life like raising a family and such that they had to actually speak Japanese and learn Japanese (I can recall a conversation my mom had with her friends, where one of her friends said, "you remember when we were all young and our parents would start speaking in Japanese, and we'd have no idea what they were talking about..." This was a conversation in Korea by the way a few years back).

My claim is that Koreans are still unable to acknowledge that it was natural for some people to have benefitted under Japanese rule and that these people still loved Korea and the like (I'm thinking more along the lines of a Park Chung Hee than the founders of either Dong-a-Ilbo or Samsung), but the opportunities they had in life only existed if they accepted that Korea was for the time being a Japanese colony and that they realistically couldn't do a single thing about it. And, more so, and this is a claim purely along the lines of the early revisionists, such as Bruce Cumings, but it's really a matter of fact that when Korea became a Japanese colony, it opened up opportunities for Koreans that never existed before. It's this fact that these opportunities existed amidst the reality of a Japan trying to destroy Korean identity and alongsidethe widespread suffering of Koreans that makes this so difficult for Koreans to acknowledge. But, you have to understand that many during that period in time, including Koreans, believed Koreans were just incapable of self-rule (just think of how the Sino-Japanese War came about).

Anyways, I just found out that my grandfather served as one of the first senators before the National Assembly was built in Yeoido (when it was at the Blue House) when Rhee Syng Man came to power. And, I think his story or part of my story (as being the first son on my father's side) highlights #1) not all Koreans were hurt during the colonial period... #2)how this is still unable to be fully debated when Korea has not yet been unified.

(And, there's actually a typo here... It should say that Rhee Syng Man's administration faced constant questions of legitmacy not opportunities).

(I'm trying this embedded pdf thing for the first time, so if it doesn't work):

Click here:

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