Saturday, January 2, 2010

And a Happy New Year


I started off Saturday by going to a protest. While I'm not a real big fan of marches, I've read about this particular protest for a while now. During World War 2, the Japanese drafted Korean women to become sex slaves for the soldiers. And for well over 800 straight weeks these living human tear drops have come in front of the Japanese in Seoul to ask for an apology.

While Japan hasn't quite offered one yet, the Japanese prime minister (aka their president) in 2007 went as far to say that "They probably enjoyed it." But he didn't quite go far enough to say I'm sorry...

And the embassy it's in Seoul? Well there were riot police to fend off 3 old Korean in wheel chairs and half a dozen nuns.

After watching that for half an hour, I headed for the bus station and caught the express bus to Busan for New Years.

Busan is Korea's 2nd city and is know for its port and beautiful beaches. Well an industrial port isn't exactly a tourist destination and the beach isn't my my idea of spending a freezing December afternoon.

I did swing by the world's largest shopping mall, but by for some reason it was closed on New Year's Day. So Korea finally has a holiday that fall on a weekend and the mall celebrates it by closing its doors? What happened to the entrepreneurial, sell you anything anywhere, spirit that predominates Seoul? It must have moved underground. At least the underground mall was bustling with amorous Korean couples buying matching underwear. (and no Toto, this definitely isn't Kansas...)

The most memorial event of my vacation took place at a coffee shop by the hands of Doctor Fish. I drank some tea and stuck my feet in bathtub filled with hundreds of Turkish guppies that wanted to eat me alive. My friend claimed they only ate dead skin, but I can't say I left my feet in the tub long enough to find out (imagine a hundred little fingers rubbing the bottom of your feet and imagine how you'd react)

I can't say I've come up with a resolution yet, but I have a feeling I'll be changing a lot in the next year...hopefully most of it for the good.

10 comments:

  1. Oh, you did the Doctor Fish thing!! We've been meaning to do that here. This should be interesting...

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  2. I think that the issue of protesting against Japanese people because of this is a waste of time and a meaningless gesture.

    How many Japanese people alive today were a party to those horrible acts? Should we make people who didn't do it apologize?

    And as far as having security present at the embassy, I think you'd be hard pressed to find a foreign establishment that didn't have something like that. It doesn't matter who shows up, security does their job. Look at Iraq - terrorists sometimes got children and women to wear explosives because soldiers are less likely to shoot them. ANYONE can be a threat. I admit I didn't see the footage you are referring to, but unless they were beating those people with batons because they were chanting and holding signs I don't think an outrage is in order.

    Furthermore, where do Americans get off thinking they have anything to protest? What about the horrible things we did in Vietnam? To the American Indians? The slaves from Africa? The racial and homophobic crimes that still happen to this day? Should we have an official that sits there all day every day and apologizes for every crime that happens?

    Crimes of any nature are bad, but asking for an apology 65 years later after most of those people are dead and gone is utterly ridiculous. What do you hope to accomplish?

    And do you know how much money Japan has given Korea? A freaking lot. And much like what happens in a lot of countries, culturally Koreans are indoctrinated to hate Japanese. It isn't unique to Korean people; Americans culturally dislike muslim countries, Chinese hate Japanese (for the same reason as Koreans) and muslim countries dislike America and any country that isn't muslim. So there are certain subjects that you CAN'T trust to objectivity - it's just not practical.

    Additionally, by keeping the trail of hatred alive 65 years later, you're just stoking meaningless fires of anger, revenge, and bigotry.

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  3. I'm not asking that an individual apologize for their individual acts, I'm asking for the Japanese government apologize for the systematic rape of a generation of women. Since when is the drafting of a 11 year old girl into a army of sex slaves ever justifiable? Or an venereal disease examination that includes getting raped by the physician?

    This wasn't a single act of horror, but an organized effort by the Imperial Japanese Army. Germany also committed mass atrocities during WW2, but they manned up and no one can accuse the current German government of (who are FAR from Nazis) of somehow not being sorry, or somehow in denial.

    Can you say the same about any Japanese government since the war was over? Having visited Japan, I've seen first hand the rewriting of history. The Japanese government doesn't attempt to gloss over the facts, they just deny it happened. Don't believe me? Go the yasukuni-jinja in Tokyo and read the historical excrement written on the walls.

    And as far as footage of the event, I'll you what happened. There 20-30 people circled around a van. In the middle of the circle, people there were a few signs, half a dozen catholic nuns, 3 of the former comfort women, and a microphone that various people made impassioned pleas for something (what, I don't know as I don't speak Korean)

    As for the Japanese embassy itself...there were buses lining the exterior wall, creating a larger, more intimidating barrier. There were 15-20 Korean riot police visible from where I was. Six lined the entrance and the remainder kept past the exterior of the crowd.

    There was one old Korean man that started yelling in true protest style, but the Korean riot police promptly surrounded and escorted him away from the premises. (I was amazed, because this is the first time I've seen the Korean police lift so much as a finger and do something...but the lethargy of the Korea's finest is a discussion for another time and place...)

    That was the protest in a nutshell. They really didn't need to fear suicide bombers as, that's more of an Islamic-extremist invention...and as the Halmoni (Korean for "grandmother") have been doing it for nearly 2 decades, I highly doubt it was going to turn into a WTO riot...but I will concede erroring on the side of security...but 20 riot police against a few nuns and some wheelchair bound women...seems a bit much.

    As for America asking for an apology...we should apologize to the Native Americans for the mass cultural destruction and use of biological warfare. We have apologized for slavery. The racial/homophobic crimes committed in the US are not perpetrated by the government, but are acts by individuals...and it remains for those individuals to apoligize. If the US army went from "Don't Ask Don't Tell...to "let's rape all the gays"...I would like my government to apoligize.

    Which brings to one of the main points. Speaking with my Korean friends, they overwhelmingly love Japan. They love the people, the culture, the products, the video games, the anime/manga, and the food. What they don't like is the way the government fails to take responsibility for what happened.

    I'm the same way. I love Japanese movies, culture, heck...my entire family drives Japanese cars. But that doesn't override the need to suck it up and take responsibility for your actions. (and that extends to my government as well)

    I have witnessed the indoctrination of the Korean children. The prison museum and the audio tour of the imperial palace in Seoul are littered with anti-Japanese-occupation propaganda. But while they are tragic...the serve as valid counterweight to a government that denies that the Rape of Nanking even happened.

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  4. ***I'm not asking that an individual apologize for their individual acts, I'm asking for the Japanese government apologize for the systematic rape of a generation of women.***

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_war_apology_statements_issued_by_Japan

    You may want to look this sort of stuff up first. Apologies have been made numerous times to numerous parties for numerous things.

    ***Since when is the drafting of a 11 year old girl into a army of sex slaves ever justifiable? Or an venereal disease examination that includes getting raped by the physician?***

    It's never OK. Hence the apologies as listed above. And the Asian Women's Fund, which paid money to the “Comfort Women.” What more do you want? You can't change history.

    ***This wasn't a single act of horror, but an organized effort by the Imperial Japanese Army.***

    An entity that no longer exists. And those acts were apologized and paid for. Furthermore, Japan resolved to never again have a military. Can any other country make such a claim? Can Korea? No – they CHOSE to maintain a military. They have a draft, even.

    ***Germany also committed mass atrocities during WW2, but they manned up and no one can accuse the current German government of (who are FAR from Nazis) of somehow not being sorry, or somehow in denial.***

    Just because no one hates Germany doesn't mean anything. The people directly involved with Germany forgave them. The countries involved with Japan CHOSE never to forgive them.

    ***Can you say the same about any Japanese government since the war was over?***

    View the wikipedia link.

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  5. ***Having visited Japan, I've seen first hand the rewriting of history. The Japanese government doesn't attempt to gloss over the facts, they just deny it happened. Don't believe me? Go the yasukuni-jinja in Tokyo and read the historical excrement written on the walls.***

    Amongst the only shrines that does so in Japan. It's famous for it. Extremely right wing. But historical – founded in 1869. Remembering “the excrement” of the past lets us learn. And I can tell you, since I'm sure I know more Japanese people than you do that most all Japanese people realize they were wrong in WWII. Hence why they're OK with not having a military. And on the subject of Japan paying for their war crimes, you should also visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki – a hell of a lot of civilians were roasted to a crisp to pay for their country's crimes. That was pretty horrible, too. And don't say they deserved it. Those women and children didn't do anything.

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  6. ***And as far as footage of the event, I'll you what happened. There 20-30 people circled around a van. In the middle of the circle, people there were a few signs, half a dozen catholic nuns, 3 of the former comfort women, and a microphone that various people made impassioned pleas for something (what, I don't know as I don't speak Korean)

    As for the Japanese embassy itself...there were buses lining the exterior wall, creating a larger, more intimidating barrier. There were 15-20 Korean riot police visible from where I was. Six lined the entrance and the remainder kept past the exterior of the crowd.

    There was one old Korean man that started yelling in true protest style, but the Korean riot police promptly surrounded and escorted him away from the premises. (I was amazed, because this is the first time I've seen the Korean police lift so much as a finger and do something...but the lethargy of the Korea's finest is a discussion for another time and place...)

    That was the protest in a nutshell. They really didn't need to fear suicide bombers as, that's more of an Islamic-extremist invention...and as the Halmoni (Korean for "grandmother") have been doing it for nearly 2 decades, I highly doubt it was going to turn into a WTO riot...but I will concede erroring on the side of security...but 20 riot police against a few nuns and some wheelchair bound women...seems a bit much.***

    1.) I don't see anything there mentioning what the JAPANESE people did.
    2.) I don't read anything about horrid beatings there. Escorting people isn't exactly breaking bones.

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  7. ***As for America asking for an apology...we should apologize to the Native Americans for the mass cultural destruction and use of biological warfare.***

    But you didn't attend or organize any protests there.

    ***We have apologized for slavery.***

    And Japan apologized for WW II.

    ***The racial/homophobic crimes committed in the US are not perpetrated by the government, but are acts by individuals...and it remains for those individuals to apoligize. If the US army went from "Don't Ask Don't Tell...to "let's rape all the gays"...I would like my government to apoligize.***

    On a governmental level we take the discrimanatory step of banning gay marriage and open involvement in the military. Not horrible, TRUE, but still pretty bad.

    ***Which brings to one of the main points. Speaking with my Korean friends, they overwhelmingly love Japan. They love the people, the culture, the products, the video games, the anime/manga, and the food. What they don't like is the way the government fails to take responsibility for what happened.***

    Which is where I should take my own rhetoric down a notch. I don't blame Korea for anything or even for feeling understandably angry about the crimes committed during WW II. I think there are tons of great Korean people. It's probably just the mass media/academia/government, not your average person, as you pointed out. I apologize if I made it seem otherwise – absolutely no slight against their culture or people.

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  8. ***I'm the same way. I love Japanese movies, culture, heck...my entire family drives Japanese cars. But that doesn't override the need to suck it up and take responsibility for your actions. (and that extends to my government as well)***

    Agreed

    ***I have witnessed the indoctrination of the Korean children. The prison museum and the audio tour of the imperial palace in Seoul are littered with anti-Japanese-occupation propaganda. But while they are tragic...the serve as valid counterweight to a government that denies that the Rape of Nanking even happened. ***

    Which kind of sounds like “it's OK if someone else is doing it.” I think that everyone should “man up” as you put it and do the right thing – starting with what you can control; your own propaganda. I'm glad you see the indoctrination, and of course certain WW II subjects are discussed only briefly in Japan. It's unfortunate, but Japanese people DO know what happened in WW II. And I think there is also a difference between glossing over the bad things of the past and GOING FORWARD saying “hate this group” or “hate that group.” One suppresses the bad stuff, and the other perpetuates it. No one is happy that their country did it, either, but they're doing their best to move forward and face the future.

    I just want both countries (well, all countries, since Korea and Japan weren't the only countries involved) to move towards a less bellicose and hate-filled future. Humans are humans, no matter what country. There are good ones and bad ones. I just eschew protests because it extends feelings beyond a target group in my opinion. But maybe I'm just being defensive.

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  9. I guess I have trouble reconciling these 2 statements by different Prime Ministers:
    “I believe that our country, painfully aware of its moral responsibilities, with feelings of apology and remorse, should face up squarely to its past history and accurately convey it to future generations”
    and
    “there was no abduction of sex slaves and they were prostitutes”
    That second statement, coupled with the garbage I saw enshrined in the museum where there war dead are enshrined…make me feel that the Japanese haven’t quite put their heart into it. If they had, why would 90 year old women brave the weather after the the worst downpours of snow in 70 years?
    Or put another way, the last time it snowed like this in Korea, they were getting gang raped.
    As for the Asian Women's Fund, I had no idea that it existed. As they took the money from Japan, they should really stop talking asking for reparations.
    While Japan has not maintained a military for the past 60 some odd years, I have a feeling that might change as North Korea engages in more brinkmanship and China continues to build up its Navy. Case in point, this decade has seen Japan sending its military personal to foreign soil since the empire fell.
    While I don’t doubt the current commitment as a “Peace Nation” I fear we will witness the slide away from that in our lifetimes in the name of self defense. (And the sadly says more about the world, than it does about Japan.)
    As for forgiving Japan vs Germany…google “German prime minister kneeling at Auschwitz” If you can find a similar image for Japan, then I’ll eat my words.
    The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a horrific act of total war. But then again, so were all the bombing raids that were conducted. Those bombs killed military and civilians alike. The fire bombing of Tokyo on March 9th killed 80,000-200,000 people on a single day. I don’t believe that governments should apologize for things that can be easily categorized as an act of war. Period. An act of cultural rape…yes…war…no. AKA You can kill someone, just don’t turn around and use their corpse for bayonet practice.
    I’m even going to take it a step further…I’m glad those bombs were dropped and dropped on civilians for 2 reasons. First, we saw how horrific that action was. If it hadn’t been done then, on innocent people, it would have happened on a MUCH larger scale during the cold war at some point. MacArthur was fired for advocating their use (and taking a dive off the deep end in general …sorry about the pun, couldn’t help it…) President Eisenhower threatened to turn the current DMZ into a nuclear wasteland and moved the bombs and bombers over here to do just that when the armistice was declare.

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  10. Second, nuking 2 cities broke the Japanese who, up to that point, hadn’t surrendered. Their surrender saved millions of lives on both sides. Whether or not they would have surrendered without those bombs is a matter of speculation. The nukes made it a reality.
    And let me be even more frank, just to show you that I'm not a hard-hearted man, I deeply regret the suffering the nukes themselves caused. Tens of millions more civilians died in WW2 than the soldiers that took up arms for their counties. The nukes even cause harm on the grandchildren of the survivors of the blast. You say you know more Japanese than I do and I don’t doubt it. But that isn’t to say I don’t know any Japanese. Do any of your friends have ancestors that survived the blast? If they do, then they will have cancer caused by the screwed up genes per the radiation. So will their children and it sucks. I hate the idea of my friends and their children who had NOTHING to do with the war getting cancer.
    As for your comments regarding the protests…I don’t believe I’ve ever said anything negative about the Japanese…just their government’s inability to put their words into an action viewed as sincere by the victims.
    I didn’t say the protest got out of hand. One belligerent old man was escorted away. For the record, I’m pretty sure the riot police were Korean, not Japanese. I was just making on observation regarding the imbalance of potential preventative force…but kudos to all for too much safety rather than too little. As a Seattleite (dude, Seattleite is in spell check dictionary! Sorry, got distracted) , I’ve seen what too little can get you (aka WTO)
    As for apologizing to the Native Americans (why can’t we just call them aboriginals like the rest of the world?) I would say no to the warfare and yes to the cultural destruction. We wanted their land and we took it, by force. I regret that about as much as the Mexican-American War. But after they were on the reservation, sending all their kids to boarding schools and westernizing them was uncalled for. I am a direct beneficiary of that land seizure, as it allowed my ancestors to homestead and create a new, better life for themselves and their decedents. Would you prefer the Midwest as the Bread Basket to the world? Or as the place where a bunch of buffalo run around in circles?
    The military’s ban on gays is costing it soldiers and lives. I’ve read a few articles that indicate that hard to fill Arabic translation spots were vacated as it turns out more than a few of the linguists were gay. Guess what, if you can’t read that email that points out a terrorist plot…people die. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. (for the record, so is letting a shoe bomber and a underwear bomber fail at the same plot despite 8 years of time to turn yourself around. Maybe when we have a government that is competent enough to fix one problem, they’ll be competent enough to fix the other )

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