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Wednesday, March 16, 2005

First we take Tokto, then we take Berlin

Everyone else seems to be talking about this so I suppose I’m going to have to, even if it is a bit tiresome. Since my last post on the Tokto islands dispute between Korea and Japan things seem to have developed a bit (ie people have started lopping off parts of their bodies in protest). The BBC has some good overviews including this and this. The latter article, concerning the passing of a bill today by the assembly of Shimane Prefecture which officially recognises Tokto (Takeshima) as part of its territory, has the following rather disturbing passage:

The Shimane assembly law's passing was applauded by right wing activists in paramilitary uniforms.

I didn’t realise that Japan had its own neo-Nazi nutters. No pictures unfortunately though…

Meanwhile, Dogstew has a round up of recent events and links to an article on another issue that has flared between the neighbouring countries for about the millionth time: history textbooks. The Marmot on the other hand draws our attention to the (slightly loopy) attempts by certain South Korean parliamentarians to get their own back on the pesky Japanese by claiming that Tsushima (Japanese island between Pusan and Fukuoka) is actually Korean.

Not wishing to remain left out of all this good fun, the North Koreans have also stuck their oar in. Unfortunately, as is often the case, their paranoid delusions get the better of them and their claims get a little bit wild:

The islet is situated in the waters of geopolitical importance for realizing Japan's ambition to invade Korea…It is the calculation of the Japanese reactionaries that their seizure of the islet would make it possible for Japan to reinvade Korea with ease and get great economic profits... The Japanese reactionaries would be well advised to behave with discretion and give up their ambition to seize the islet and stage comeback to Korea.

I like the idea that the Japanese want to ‘stage a comeback in Korea’, as though Japanese colonialism was actually carried out by a pop group. Having said this, judging by the nutters mentioned in the BBC article above, there clearly are some Japanese who would rather like to see a Japanese ‘comeback’ in Korea, and probably most of the rest of Asia for that matter.

If you’re in Seoul this weekend, here’s something much more worthwhile to protest about, although I still wouldn’t recommend chopping off any parts of your anatomy.

[Update: I should probably add to this post, for the sake of clarity that what the Shimane Prefecture assembly actually passed was not a bill asserting territorial rights over Tokto as such, but rather one establishing a 'Takeshima [Tokto] Day'. Which, I suppose amounts to roughly the same thing.]


At March 17, 2005 3:40 PM, Anonymous sy said...

Surely this will soon die down till the next time. It always has.

I hope the Marmot's observation that the reactionary nationalist protesters were mainly made up of various right wingers is correct. Not that Hankyoreh's coverage/editorials concerning the issue have been exactly what I had hoped for.

Oh and history text books, I suggest Korea and Japan write each other's textbooks.

At March 19, 2005 2:50 AM, Blogger kotaji said...

I hope it dies down too. But it's such a good distraction from the issues that really matter in Korea that I think the establishment will play it for all it's worth.

Personally I find the textbook thing more serious as a (wannabe) historian. But I do think this is quite a universal issue, not just one that Japan is guilty of (although it may be one of the worst offenders). Going to school in the UK we learnt a lot about the horrors of Nazi Germany (quite rightly) but I don't remember much about the crimes of British imperialism. I had to read Sven Lindqvist to learn a bit more about that.

At March 20, 2005 1:18 PM, Anonymous sy said...


The good news is a few Japanese/Korean teachers having gotten together publishing history textbooks supplements (Hankyoreh 20/03/2005)

Not to be too hopeful, the same paper reports on Korean equivalent of Loi Fabius-Gayssot to punish the "crime against humanity" apostasy.


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