I went to Seodaemun prison yesterday, a museum converted from a prison used by the Japanese during the occupation. It is worth the trip. The wax evil Japanese torturing the wax patriotic Koreans was thought-provoking.
I’m tempted to say it is perfectly natural for a small country like Korea to be nationalistic, but nationalism doesn’t seem to be restricted by size (look at the US).
Virtually all countries have atrocities in their past (Korea seems to be an exception). Japan should apologize for the occupation and “comfort women”; the US should apologize for nuking Japanese civilians, and so on. At what point does it become ridiculous to insist that a nation apologize for past injustice? Should all European countries appologize to Native Americans? Should northern Germans and Danes apologize to the Celts?
In the museum, I kept thinking the Koreans really need to get over the whole Japanese thing. Then I kept thinking there are many living Koreans who lived these events, and want remembrance. I went with my co-teacher, Min-jung, who mentioned that her grandfather is missing part of a finger from the Japanese occupation.
Part of the reason the country seems so obsessive over its relations with Japan and China is that these two countries constitute 95% of Korea’s international history.
I do think it was absurd that so much hostility was directed at Preseident Roh for suggesting the East/Japan Sea be renamed the Sea of Friendship.