Plunge Pontificates

A place for my thoughts.

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Monday, June 06, 2005

What's it all about?

I was asked what this blog is all about.

We'll, I'll try and respond. It is a place to put my thoughts on subjects, that is number one. In between that time, it is finding things that interest me.

I've long been interested in Asia, China, Japan and Korea to be specific. I did my undergrad studies in Asian history and Korean linguistics. My senior paper was on the second period of the Japanese occupation of Korea. For a time, I considered continuing to study Asian history and maybe even get a doctorate and teach Korean history.

The summer after finishing my undergrad studies, my wife and I spent many months in Korea. I spent a great deal of that time interviewing elderly Koreans about the time they spent under Japanese subjegation as well as the Korean war. I had thought this might be an interesting subject to study as I was still seriously considering continuing my Asia directed studies. I must have interviewed 80-100 Koreans, some individually, some in groups, all at least 70 years old. This was back in 93. It was fascinating to me and the stories I heard warmed my heart at times and turned it to ice at others. It was there that I learned what hell on earth truly was as I listened to stories of brutalities committed by Japanese, by sympathizers, by North Korea soldiers and by South Korean soldiers. By far, the greatest brutality can from the Japanese and the North Korean soldiers.

It was also at this time that I had the unfortunate experience of passing a kidney stone. During that time of morphine induced euphoria, my mother-in-law told me her story of life and especially the brutality of the Korean War. I was a captive audience and she spent hours telling me of hiding in the mountains, watching friends raped and tortured, seeing family members dismembered.

Alas, I didn't continue my studies of Asian history. So, these interviews went for naught. My tapes and notes were boxed away. Yet, my attitudes were in place and that has carried over to today.

I have a very strong vision of Asia, how I think it should be. Dammit though, people aren't doing things the way I want them to and that just pisses me off.

First off, I don't see reunification anytime soon, especially a peaceful reunification. South Korea just can't afford it, it is too expensive and they aren't willing to make the sacrifices necessary. Korea would have to swallow its pride and accept massive help from the rest of the world. Japan would have to be a huge part as well as the US.

Next, in my vision of 'How Asia Should Be', I see Japan as the leader of 'Free Asia' countering China. I see South Korea and Japan strongly allied together and with the US. I see people standing on principle, condemning China for its human rights abuses and supporting Taiwan in its bid for freedom. I see Japan and Korea openly, strongly, recognizing Taiwan as a free and independent nation, able to do so because of their combined economic and military might as a result of their cooperation with each other and the US. I see these two nations giving massive aid to other struggling, smaller Asian nations, thereby keeping them out of China's grasping maw. In the final scenes of this vision, I see the people of China rising up and overthrowing their dictatorial leaders and the combined might of a free China, South Korea and Japan forcing reforms in North Korea, bringing the long struggle to an end. Not bad eh?

Unfortunately, the first part of this vision isn't coming to pass. I can't see any of this happening without Japan coming to grips with its past. It is a theme I have harped on over and over. It is the reason I continue to point out the hypocrisy I see in Japan and those that 'defend' her. For my vision to happen, Japan is the keystone and my damn keystone is crumbling. Korea will never be able to trust Japan and work closely with her until her past is an open book. Japan has to stop making excuses. Japnophiles have to stop making excuses for her.

Let's look at some pretty irrefutable facts.

1. Japan annexed Korea for the purpose of strengthening Japan. It was not to help Korea, it was not a humanitarian mission. During this time, atrocities were committed on the people of Korea.

2. Japan began a war of aggression invading other Asian countries and commiting further atrocities on their indigenous peoples.

3. Japan attacked the US and began a massive conflaguration that cost the lives of many and ignored the rules of decency in its treatement of POWs.

4. Japan's adventures cost the lives of 10s of millions of people.

5. Japan forced hundreds of thousands if not millions into slave labor and forced girls as young as 12 to be the sexual slaves of its soldiers.

Can we agree on these basic facts?

Now comes the hard part, having had these things happen, what next? No rational person can expect people to just forgive and forget. One of the interesting things I have come to learn from studying this period of time is how easy the Japanese had it after WWII. Some might shake their heads and scream of the burned out cities and the atomic weapons, but for a defeated nation, Japan had it easy. I've read various news reports from the time at how reporters from the west visiting Japan did not see a defeated nation. Definitely not like what they witnessed in Germany. That is where I think the problem lies. Japan never felt like it lost and there really isn't anything you can do about that now.

For one, Japan kept its emperor. A huge mistake if you ask me. Yes, I understand the ramifications of not allowing Japan to keep its emperor, but a few more atomic weapons would have cured that surrender stickler. He should have hung and it should have been done publicly. He was the leader of the nation whether he controlled it or not. Anyway, that is neither here nor there.

The situation we have now is one where some of the most powerful nations in Asia don't see Japan as having done what was necessary to atone for its crimes. This has helped to push Korea into a closer relationship with China. Another blow to my vision of a 'proper' Asia.

The Japan apologists try and say Japan has apologized and that nothing they do now will be enough. They point to the 1965 agreement between Japan and Korea to show that no more monies need be paid. They cry and cry that they can do no more. 28 apologies, or some such number have been made, what more do they want? What more can they ask of us?!?

Now, put that in relation to the above facts. 10s of millions dead, countries and lives destroyed, slavery, both physical and sexual. Torture, rape, mutilation, biological experimentation, death and destruction. Billions of dollars worth of materials, art and labor stolen. Compared to a few hung, some money given and LOANED and 28 or so apologies. On top of this, lets not forget the vocal and accepted deniers of it all, whitewashed textbooks, books glorifying the military past and a shrine visited by government officials deifying war criminals. THIS IS TOTALLY SCREWED UP.

This is what upsets me! This is what angers me! Not only do those that deny and honor anger me, but bloggers and their commenters that want to accept this as not a problem annoy me to no end. This isn't ancient history. This is modern history. This affects EVERY DAY LIFE. This affects the relationship between Japan and Korea. Yet, we have bloggers and commenters saying Korea, the vicitim in this whole thing, should just get over it! They shouldn't just get over it, JAPAN SHOULD FIX THE DAMN PROBLEM.

For example, lets look at my post on the granddaughter of Tojo. She goes on a news program and, representing her family, says that her grandfather's name should never be removed from Yasukuni. Why? We'll that would be like admitting that Japan had done something wrong, evil, like starting a war! Ummm...yeah, that's just what they FREAKIN DID. Again, she isn't speaking for herself. She isn't some old, demented dingbat as Curzon might want us to think, she is there representing the entire family on a national news show. Where is the outrage?

Curzon then goes on to mention a poll, one which I already blogged about I might add, saying 55% of the people don't want Koizumi to visit Yasukuni and that this shows the people understand the past. I would agree, if there was some consistancy. THERE IS NOT. It seems that everytime something like this happens, a contridiction occurs. Not to mention that this is a first for a majority to want him to stay away from the shrine. Let's see what the poll numbers look like next time.

If there was true understanding of the past through out Japan, these types of things would not continue to happen. If there was a true understanding of the past in Japan, the Diet would have overwhelmingly passed a complete and meaningful apology and no leader, as well as no decent minded citizen, would consider visiting Yasukuni.

If there was true understanding of the past through out Japan, in 1995, 4.5 million Japanese would not have signed a petition against apologizing for the crimes committed.

If there was true understanding of the past through out, the comfort women's ordeal would be addressed head on and arrangement made to help them in the few years of life they have remaining. Instead, we get the obligatory, "This was covered in 1965."

If there was true understanding of the past through out Japan, we would not have best selling manja that glorified the military past and called the rape of Nanking a figment of Chinese imagination.

If there was true understanding of the past thorugh out Japan, Yasukuni would be a minor shrine where only the neo right wing fascist numnuts went to pay their respects to their honored war criminal dead. Another shrine would have already been erected for those who shunned the ignoble and it would be attended by the vast majority.

If there was true understanding of the past through out Japan, true history would be taught in the schools and crimes would not be white washed.

This whole situation could be fixed.

So, what is this blog about? It's about me and what I like and what annoys me. It lets me put up some long, drawn out thoughts as well as the daily annoyances, most of which come from Japan because these people won't do what I, the one who knows best, wants! I would probably blog about the things that annoy me in Korea but those blogging about Korea normally seem to find those way before I do.

That's it.