Sunday, April 15, 2012

What do Japanese people think of Korea and China? And unlike Korean and Chinese people, Taiwanese people tend to be fond of Japan,Why?

What do Japanese people think of Korea and China? What do you think of these countries? It is FAQ for me. I want to make the answer delicately, so I write it down before I talk about it.

# This article was written before the Takeshima / Dokdo island and Senkaku / Diaoyu islands dispute which occurred in summer, 2012. After this incident, feelings among Japanese, Korean and Chinese people become worse again.

Japanese perspective of Korea

Japanese people who say or write negative comments about Korea and Korean people are easy to find. When I was a child, I heard some adults swear about Korean people. Nowadays, I see many negative words about Korea and China on many electronic bulletin boards (except the North Korean government – I have never seen positive words about the country. About Korea and China, I also see many neutral words.) However, the contents of these negative messages are different between those days and these days.

From the beginning of the Japanese modernization (circa 1870) to the 1980s, many Japanese people looked down on Korea as a country behind. Japan ruled Korea as a colony from 1910 to 1945. In order to justify the occupation, the Japanese government made propaganda that said "Korea is behind, so Japan has to control her." Actually, Korea was behind Japan in modernization, so many Japanese people recognized the propaganda as truth.

In addition, many Korean people who lived in Japan (not only coming to Japan voluntarily but also perhaps being brought forcibly for hard mining labor) lived in poverty under discriminations. After the end of the rule by Japan, some Koreans in Japan ran non-conventional business, for example gambling, so many Japanese people thought of Koreans as dirty people.

However, from the 1990s, the situation had changed. In 1987, the Korean government became democratic. The former government was a military administration which had been controlled by the US to guard and bring up Japan as an Asian base of anti-communism. So the Korean military government oppressed their citizens who spoke out against the Japanese occupation. Japan paid compensation to Korea but the Korean government used it for the social infrastructure, not citizens. After their democratization, Korean people began to publicly criticize Japan's ruling. They developed their economy.

Meanwhile, from the 1990s, Japan was and still stuck in a bad economic situation. Some Japanese patriots lost their pride for the nation which used to have a strong economy. The Korean economy was developing more, requested more compensation (informally), and set policemen on Takeshima / Dokdo, which is the territorial disputed island of Japan and Korea. Some of the Japanese people began to think that Koreans are greedy. Japanese nationalists began to recognize Korean people in Japan not as poor dirty people, but as people with special privileges (they began to think that Koreans in Japan have many more privileged rights than other foreigners in Japan) and started to criticize them. The name of their group is "Citizens against Special Privilege of Zainichi (Koreans in Japan)"

In 2004, other big change had occurred. A Korean TV drama suddenly became a big hit in Japan. Before that, Korean culture in Japan was only for a few admirers. After that, Korean drama and pop music became popular genres in Japan. This tide is not temporary. The number of Korean language learners and visitors to Korea is increasing. NHK (Japan's public broadcasting station) published Korean language class textbooks, the number in 2001 was 80,000, while in 2005 it was 320,000. I don't know the reason why, but some people said Korean drama lovers in Japan found a conservative and tidy atmosphere (rather than an extraordinary story and direction) in the dramas.

As above, now in Japan, there are both people who hate Korea (I think it is absurd notion) and people who love Korean culture.

# This article was written before the Takeshima / Dokdo island dispute which occurred in August, 2012. The president of Korea first visited Takeshima / Dokdo. In addition, he said, if the emperor of Japan would like to visit Korea, he has to apologize for the people who fought for the independence of Korea and were killed under Japanese oppression of Korea. After this incident, feelings between Japanese people and Korean people become worse again.

Takeshima / Dokdo from Wikipedia Commons (Rachouette, teacher in Seoul, SOUTH KOREA)

From the perspective of Korean people to Japan

Korean people seem to hold onto their anger against Japan. The reasons why are the oppression by the old Japanese government and no-reflection on Japan's past.

During the Japanese occupation era, the Japanese government forced the Korean people to admire the Emperor of Japan and to learn the Japanese language. The government also forced the people of Korea to change their names to Japanese. These things were a big humiliation for them because they had their own customs of worshipping their ancestors. Some or (many) Japanese people seemed to use violence against Korean people. This story of oppression was passed down from generation to generation of Koreans. (On the other hand, some Japanese people insist that the Japanese rule developed the Korean infrastructure and hygiene improved.).

*Why did the old Japanese government force the worship of the Emperor and the adoption of the Japanese language? One Japanese historian said that the reason why is that only those two things were originally from Japan and not from western society. The logic of the government to rule Korea was that Japan had developed more than Korea. However, this "development" also meant westernization. So if Japan didn't have its original power, it could not have ruled Korea reasonably. There was the contradiction of Japan potentially ruling Korea in a western style as opposed to a traditional Japanese style. These two things – the Emperor and the language were the key supporting reasons for Japan's rule. I agree with this explanation.

After WWII, an explaination of the Japanese occupation of Korea was written in Japanese government approved history textbooks, in a few lines. Koreans got angry about them, so the Independent Hall in South Korea in 1987 was established by Korean citizens' donations. It features Korean history, in particular, during the Japanese occupation. I visited it in 1994. The exhibition includes life-size mannequins depicting, for example the torture of a bloody half-naked Korean lady by Japanese policeman. An Jung-geun, who assassinated Hirofumi Ito, the first prime minister of Japan and the governor-general of Korea, was considered a citizen's hero. A picture book for kids admired An as a respected man. This hall is a popular place of Korean elementary school excursions.

Koreans' anger hasn't calmed down even now. In the past the Korean law prohibited the sale, performance, and broadcasting of Japanese pop culture (songs, movies, manga and so on) – while bootleg copies of these things seem popular in Korea. The law was abolished in 1998 in several stages, but Even in 2012 Japanese TV dramas are still banned on non-satellite Korean TV stations.

My opinion

I think of the country of Korea and the Korean people as follows:

Ancient Korea strongly influenced Japan. Many parts of Japanese culture, including script, religious beliefs and many traditional industrial techniques are based on Chinese ways via Korea. I think of many aspects of Korean culture, such as their writing system, Korean movies, and foods as great. In addition, Japanese politicians and business people can learn a lot from modern Korean politics to strategically prioritize policies regarding intellectual properties and internationalization of business. Therefore, there are some things I respect about Korea and the Korean people.

As for the way Japan ruled Korea, I think that most of it was not done in a proper way, because it lacked concern for the culture and people of Korea. On the other hand, I don't think that the Japanese occupation was completely a mistake. In those days, Japan expanded its own colonialism in order to survive among dominant western powers. I think that we cannot properly argue about the rights and wrongs of colonialism in the past from the perspective of today's values (but we can and have to learn a lot from it.)

I understand that Korean people feel angry about the Japanese occupation. However, perpetuating hate and anger at a neighboring country doesn't have any value. The era of development based on such policy has passed, and now co-operation is more important.

From the perspective of China people to Japan

The feeling between Japan and China has been changing. When I was a young teenager, in the 70s and the 80s, I heard several times, adults around me say "Korean people have severe feelings for us, but Chinese people do not. Even though both countries were under the control of Japan, Koreans are still in anger, Chinese are not. Chinese are more tolerant."

One of the reasons why they said so was "proper name problem" happened. The problem is: English speakers pronounce "paris" for the city Paris, even though French speakers pronounce it "Pari". English speakers pronounce "bock" for the German composer Bach, even though German speakers pronounce it "ba-h". In the same way, Japanese speakers pronounce foreign place names and person's names in Japanese pronunciation.

In the 80s, a Korean Japanese criticized it and requested Japanese mass-media to pronounce Korean place and person names in Korean way. He insisted that pronouncing Korean names in a Japanese way was against Korean human right, so NHK must provide monetary compensation. In 1988, the Japanese Supreme Court rejected his argument but admitted to abusing his human rights. After that, NHK and other mass-media changed to pronounce Korean names properly.

Meanwhile, Chinese Japanese didn't insist on such an issue. The Chinese government also didn't speak out about the Japanese occupation responsibility till the 80s. However, after the 90s, the condition changed. The Chinese leader, Jiang Zemin(1989-2002), established his policy to promote anti-Japan education and propaganda. It was one of the ways to strengthen the orthodoxy of their rule after the Tiananmen Square incident. In my opinion, nowadays the feeling between Japanese people and Chinese people is worse than the one between Japanese and Korean people. The relationship between Japan and China depends not only on the Chinese policies mentioned above but also on Chinese economic growth and Japanese economic decline.

# Again: This article was written before the Takeshima / Dokdo island dispute which occurred in August, 2012. After this incident, feelings between Japanese people and Korean people become worse again.

The strange tendency of Taiwan

All of my friends who have been to Taiwan have said, "Taiwanese people are kind to Japanese people." Their favor towards Japan is well known among Japanese people. As for objective data, here is the statistics of the amount of donations for given the east Japan big earthquake in 2011 from the Red Cross all over the world (the name of country, amount, and population)
Korea, $30m, 49m people
Taiwan, $25m, 23m people
FYI: China, $9m, 1.3b people (As you know, this country's economic base isn't suitable to compare with the other two countries)

#I don't like to compare the amount of donations because all the donations are symbols of people's kindness. The aim of the above list is to merely show you the reality of Taiwanese favor in comparison to Japan's objectivity.

Most Taiwanese are from the Chinese mainland. Both folks of majority are the same. As with Korea and China, Taiwan was under the control of the Japanese government and also experienced same oppression. For instance, at the beginning of the occupation, the Japanese Government executed 50,000 Taiwanese people after the occupation battles.

However, unlike Chinese and Koreans, the Taiwanese tend to be fond of Japan. Why?
I think that it in order to understand this strange tendency, it is important to know Okinawan history.

The history of Okinawa

The Okinawa islands weren't a part of Japan untill 1879. After that, some Okinawan people struggled to adapt to Japanese society and customs, other Okinawan people wanted to be independent from Japanese rule.

Since the end of the Pacific war, the US military began to control Okinawa. The government limited Okinawan people human rights. It was lower priority than the policy of the US military government. The government claimed a lot of land in Okinawa only providing small compensation.

Therefore, Okinawan people made a move to rejoin Japan even though they had a history of struggling under the rule of Japan. For example, in the 60s, Okinawan elementary school pupils to wave a Japanese flag in their schools. Finally, in 1972, the US gave away Okinawa to Japan.

After rejoining, the mind set of Okinawan people had changed. In my opinion, Okinawa is the most anti–central government area in Japan. They recall and experience the unfair treatment by the Japanese government. People don't change, but the situation have changed.

My opinion

We can learn from the history of Okinawa. People's feelings between countries depend not on their national character and their history but on the situation of their countries. Therefore, I think that it is nonsense to appreciate or deny a country depending on the countries citizens'feelings about my country.