IF there’s a heaven on earth for South Koreans, this has got to be close: The chance to slather their righteously bitter resentment on the Chinese and the Americans simultaneously over a millennia-old historical issue that most people don’t know exists. The Chosun Ilbo explains:
The U.S. Senate is to publish a report on the historical and geopolitical relationships of Northeast Asian nations which claims that Korea’s ancient Koguryo and Balhae kingdoms were provinces of China’s Tang Dynasty….The report details China’s views that the Koguryo and Balhae kingdoms were Tang provinces and explains that Korea’s Chosun Dynasty and China’s Qing Dynasty set their territorial boundaries along the Apnok (or Yalu) and Duman (or Tumen) rivers using a point on Mt. Baekdu as a reference.
All hands on deck! To battle stations!
The ministry has sent experts from the Northeast Asian History Foundation to the CRS to explain South Korea’s position, which is apparently also reflected in the report.
Not to worry. Truth, justice, and the Joseon Way will prevail:
“The report simply details Chinese claims and does not reflect the official stance of the U.S. Senate,” said the Foreign Ministry official.
The Chosun Ilbo doesn’t provide any details for how that situation in the last sentence came about. The Congressional Research Service prepared the report as background information in the event that unrest in North Korea causes the Chinese to intervene. The CRS explained that to the South Koreans, but people have a hard time hearing when they plug their ears. The Northeast Asian History Foundation of South Korea met with representatives of the CRS to “explain the South Korean government’s position” (which suggests that the foundation is a government-funded enterprise). The South Korean embassy also sent officials to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to get on their gripe. As one Korean academic put it in the Japanese reports:
China claims that Goguryeo and Balhae were theirs. There is the danger their claim would be recognized by the international community.
With such diplomatic firepower brought to bear over an issue so trivial, the CRS decided to save themselves the aggravation and insert a clause into the report saying it was only the Chinese position. That’s what the Korean foreign ministry official parroted for the Chosun Ilbo.
The Chinese had some trenchant observations about the tempest in the Korean teapot. Explained the normally over-the-top Global Times:
South Korea criticized the Americans for distorting history.
An expert on matters involving the Korean Peninsula at the Liaoning branch of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said:
History should be considered apart from contemporary politics, and it should be explained as history. The report from the American Senate that Goguryeo was subordinate to the Chinese central government is the mainstream view, and is not a pro-China bias at all. It’s just a South Korea exaggeration.
This is Northeast Asia. Everybody here knows the South Koreans exaggerate. Everybody.
The mass media in this part of the world considers it newsworthy to quote comments on websites and message boards. (No one in the Anglosphere would dare.) Perhaps they think it’s a reflection of public sentiment, or the voice of the Man In The Street. (Come to think of it, they might be right, but that prospect is too chilling to contemplate.)
Thus, Japanese reports included the following messages from the South Korean Internet:
* “Is the United States crazy?”
* “We can no longer say that the United States is a friendly country.”
Another commenter lamented that Goguryeo was stolen by China, and Google had deleted Dokdo, the Korean name for the Takeshima islets, from its maps. The latter case doubled the fun for South Koreans. It might also have added to the workload of the Ambassador for Geographic Naming, which is an official position at the Northeast Asian History Foundation.
Speaking of which, here’s more from the Chosun Ilbo:
The Korean name of the Dokdo islets has almost disappeared from major online maps, with Apple deciding to show both the Korean and Japanese names in its new English-language mapping service for the iPhone.
When it was unveiled last month, the iPhone mapping service showed only the Korean name, but protests from Japan, which maintains a flimsy colonial claim to the islets, persuaded Apple to change its mind.
No, that’s not an op-ed. That’s as straight as South Koreans are capable of making a news story.
Under similar pressure from Japan, Google recently deleted the Korean address of the islets on its map service entirely.
When someone can convince both Apple and Google to take a step they know will outrage a nation of drama queens whose favorite pastime is being outraged! outraged! over national honor, and they know it brings with it the potential for losing business, then perhaps it’s not a flimsy colonial claim after all. Maybe it’s the truth.
Or maybe after the Dokdo pitch trot at the London Olympics and the Korean effort to ban the Rising Sun flag internationally has started in motion the same eye-rolling that’s been going on in Japan for the past half-century.
Until July of this year, Apple also named the islets “Takeshima” and “Liancourt Rocks.” It only switched the name to Dokdo in September following protests from the Korean government but now changed its name again. “It seems Apple reflected Japan’s position because the market there is much bigger than Korea’s,” the official said.
Yes, the Little Man Complex is a geopolitical factor for one country in this part of the world. Why do you ask?
Tokyo is also aggressively lobbying against Seoul’s efforts to have the body of water separating them referred to as the “East Sea.” Hungary and Austria decided to show the body of water as both East Sea and Sea of Japan on their official maps just before the UN Conferences on the Standardization of Geographical Names in August this year. But they omitted the decision in country reports they submitted to the UN body after protests from Tokyo.
Tokyo is “aggressively lobbying” while Seoul is making “efforts”, eh? In addition to the Northeast Asian History Foundation, VANK — also partially funded by the South Korean government —- has been “making efforts” to support the various international agitations spawned on the Korean Peninsula.
The South Koreans have also been making “efforts” to get the name changed to whatever the Japanese don’t call it at the UN Conference since 1992. They’ve done the same at several sessions of the International Hydrographic Organization, which has jurisdiction in the matter. The IHO has repeatedly rejected the South Korean claims.
Could that be because they know the South Koreans among themselves call the Yellow Sea the West Sea, but don’t blow the bugle and call out the history foundation, VANK, or embassy apparatchiks to make an issue of that one.
But here’s another one they do make an issue of:
PALISADES PARK — A Korean civic group says a memorial dedicated to the memory of women forced into sexual slavery during World War II was defaced on Friday. The group, Korean American Civic Empowerment (KACE) said in a statement that the “comfort women” memorial was “defiled with a stake by an unidentified perpetrator.” Police were notified and are conducting an investigation, the statement said.
This is an American newspaper, so KACE knows they’d be laughed out of the newsroom if they tried to get away with the phrase they use in South Korean newspapers for similar incidents: Stake Terror!
By the way, the American reporter couldn’t be bothered to report that the stake said “Takeshima is our land”.
KACE noted in its statement that similar comfort women memorials have been defaced by vandals of Japanese descent, but a suspect in the Palisades Park case has not been identified.
Defaced? Nah. They’ve been victimized by “Stake Terror”!
Rather than the stake, it is this Korean monument based on a fabrication — note the Japanese soldier in the picture — that defaces American soil. None of this “aggressive lobbying” belongs on public property anywhere outside of the Korean Peninsula. Then again, the people in Bergen County seem to have a taste for this sort of thing:
The county announced recently that it is erecting its own comfort women memorial, alongside monuments dedicated to the Armenian Genocide, the Holocaust and the Irish Great Hunger, outside the Bergen County Courthouse.
The application of the American melting pot concept means that the Wailing Wall isn’t just for Jerusalem any more. Instead of “give us your tired, your hungry, your poor”, in Bergen County it’s “give us your grievance mongers, grudge nursers, and congenital malcontents”.
Meanwhile, some people in South Korea have put their cognitive abilities into a blind trust by attributing this incident to a “right-winger”. That misses the point, because it assumes everyone to the right of the Social Democrats, the Communists, and the left wing of the Democratic Party of Japan (and even some of them) have somehow become “right-wing”. It also contains the assumption that memorials to the domestically deified comfort women become The Holy Land wherever they’re transported.
There are two possible reasons for this. The first is that they’ve been duped by the decades of anti-Japanese (and anti-American) rhetoric of the South Korean left, which created the linguistic parameters as part of their agitation in the second half of the 20th century.
Indeed, that’s why the Lee Myung-bak statements about the Japanese Emperor and visit to Takeshima broke the thread for the Japanese. They knew the rhetoric was left-driven and discounted it (to an extent) for that reason. Mr. Lee, however, is not of the left. When he took office, he promised to behave differently, and the Japanese believed him. He kept his promise until the South Korean economy went south again, and the public prosecutors’ investigations of various financial scandals approached Mr. Lee himself.
Perhaps the Japanese were being naive. The long arm of the law catches up with all South Korean presidents (or their families and associates) eventually.
The second possibility is that they’ve abandoned the clear view and the cool head and decided to jump into the bottom of the well with the wall-seeing frog. Forgive them, for they know not what they croak.
One even called the Stake Terrorist an “asshat”, a popular term among some on the Internet these days. I prefer “Merry Prankster”. Who better to puncture the hot-air balloon of self-importance, fabricated outrage, and industrial strength whingeing?
The events of this August have started to rebound in ways that might not be to the Koreans’ linking, as they’re starting to find out. The Japanese have started to push back, and no one should be surprised if their push is more effective than the one from Seoul. It’s easy for most people to see the difference between the rational and the monomaniacal.
No sooner had I posted this than I saw a report stating that the aforementioned VANK conducted demonstrations in front of Google and Apple headquarters in California with about 10 people.
They carried signs that read, “No Takeshima, Yes Dokdo” and “No Sea of Japan, Yes East Sea”.
The leader of the pack told the media that “the Korean people were angry” over the Google and Apple maps, and considered them “infringements of South Korean territorial sovereignty”.
Yeah, that’s the way to get taken seriously.
Then again, not all South Koreans are angry at the Japanese. They’re still offering that good old-fashioned Korean hospitality. The outrage in this case is that of a Japanese parent. Here’s an English-language translation of a Korean article describing some hectic hey-hey for Japanese guests in Incheon:
The e-mail claims that two Fukuoka University professors who came to Incheon University from August 13th to 17th as part of an international Korean cultural exchange festival were treated to trips by the University. The festival was attended by the two Japanese professors and 20 students majoring in business. In the e-mail, the parent wrote that “these children participating in the festival said they had ‘realized their hopes for sex’ and said similar degrading things.”
Dang, I guess I missed the boat for that kind of international exchange.
Nathan Schwartzman closes the article by saying “Kisaeng diplomacy was originally deployed by the Park Chung-hee government.” He adds a Wikipedia link.
Kisaeng can also be written as gisaeng. Kim Hak-sum, the woman whose career brought the comfort woman issue to a boil in the early 1990s, was a gisaeng. She said her stepfather sold her to a Korean comfort woman broker. Kim came to Japan after the war to claim payment for her then worthless scrip that she was paid for her services during the war.
Eventually, however, she changed her story and claimed a Japanese soldier abducted her in China. The Vankers or somebody similar wrote that she was a “human rights activist” on her Wikipedia page.
*Japanese reports noted there was no mention of Jiandao (or Gando in Korean) in regard to the China/South Korea argument referenced in the first article above. That’s 42,000 square kilometers of swampland in the same area that is now part of China, with about 810,000 ethnic Koreans. Some Koreans think that’s another plot of land that rightfully belongs to The Korean Nation. The Japanese did too, in 1907-1909.
* The Northeast Asian History Foundation is sponsoring its 3rd International Dokdo Essay Contest:
The Korea Times and the Northeast Asian History Foundation invite foreigners as well as Koreans to participate in an English-language essay contest on the territorial sovereignty over the Dokdo islets.
The essay contest is aimed at exploring Korea’s and Japan’s claims, and the root cause of the territorial dispute over the rocky islets sitting halfway between the two neighboring countries.
Applicants are required to submit an essay of about 800 words on the theme “Why was Dokdo omitted in the final version of the San Francisco Peace Treaty?”
That theme doesn’t require 800 words. Eleven will do nicely: “It was omitted because the Americans realized it wasn’t Korean territory.”
Need some more? “The Americans also realized that when it came to matters Japanese, the Koreans were wack before the slang was coined.”
* Bad news for China, if true, from the Investing in Chinese Stocks website:
(T)he sources said that the Politburo Standing Committee’s likeliest line-up was now packed with conservatives including vice-premier and Chongqing party chief Zhang Dejiang, 65, propaganda chief Liu Yunshan, 65, Shanghai party boss Yu Zhengsheng, 67, and Tianjin party chief Zhang Gaoli, 65.
They said the biggest surprise was the omission of two reform-minded protégés of party general secretary Hu Jintao – party organisation department head Li Yuanchao, who turns 62 this month, and Guangdong party chief Wang Yang, 57 – mainly due to their relative youth and opposition from conservative party elders, including former premier Li Peng.
* Bad news for China (and the rest of us), part two, from the Epoch Times:
(T)he most recent method for gaining advantage employed by Zhou Yongkang was what the source termed the “suicidal attack” against Wen Jiabao. The article published in The New York Times is understood by Party insiders as serving the agenda of Zhou Yongkang, the insider said.
The attack on Wen Jiabao was preceded in June by a similar article in Bloomberg exposing the wealth of Xi Jinping’s family. According to the news website Boxun, the Bloomberg article was considered by a faction affiliated with Bo Xilai as practice for the article on Wen Jiabao.
Rumors are now circulating in Beijing that a similar article exposing the wealth of Hu Jintato’s family is in the works.
* Bad news for China (and the rest of us), part three, from Foreign Policy via the China Digital Times:
(T)he country’s gender imbalance —120 boys for every 100 girls—has put serious pressure on the nation’s bachelors. Those hunting for a bride have come to understand that they should come calling only when armed with an apartment. This, even though “the average property in a top-tier Chinese city now costs between 15 and 20 times the average annual salary.”
You know as well as I do that the Chinese oligarchy is thinking they might make excellent cannon fodder.
Speaking of people who have decided to jump into the bottom of the well with the wall-seeing frog:
One-party autocracy certainly has its drawbacks. But when it is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people, as China is today, it can also have great advantages. That one party can just impose the politically difficult but critically important policies needed to move a society forward in the 21st century. It is not an accident that China is committed to overtaking us in electric cars, solar power, energy efficiency, batteries, nuclear power and wind power. China’s leaders understand that in a world of exploding populations and rising emerging-market middle classes, demand for clean power and energy efficiency is going to soar. Beijing wants to make sure that it owns that industry and is ordering the policies to do that, including boosting gasoline prices, from the top down.
– Thomas Friedman, the New York Times, September 8th, 2009
Scratch that — not all of them jumped in. Some people were born there. It’s all they know.
Maybe it’s time the Koreans dropped the Gangnam Style and took up this instead: