South Korea

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See also: Racism in South Korea, North Korea, and Korea under Japanese rule.
Koreans are immersed in their culture and are thus blind to its characteristics and quirks. Examples of group think are everywhere. Because Koreans share values and views, they support decisions even when they are obviously bad. ~ Peter Underwood
South Korea has a weak sense of 'state patriotism'. Koreans are indeed ethnic nationalists, but to their blood and cultural community, including Koreans in the north. They are one people. ~ Robert E. Kelly
South Korea, as seen from the outside, is indeed that rare country that transitioned from poverty and dictatorship to affluence and democracy in a miraculously short time. Yet it is viewed by many people here as a crony capitalist state run by corrupt elites who have monopolized power and the national economy, fostering government incompetence and popular distrust of the state. ~ Se-woong Koo
South Koreans, who have a long history of political and social turbulence, including previous spates of political scandals and man-made disasters as well as an endless state of war against North Korea, know how to handle calamity with a certain aplomb. ~ Se-woong Koo
There seems something endemic in Korean neo-Confucianism that seeks to control knowledge from subordinates. I have never been in a culture where workplaces strive so hard to prevent employees from knowing what is going on, in order to maintain power. ~ Ken Eckert
South Korean nationalism is something quite different from the patriotism toward the state that Americans feel. Identification with the Korean race is strong, while that with the Republic of Korea is weak. ~ Brian Reynolds Myers
South Koreans do ascribe a relatively higher value to race than do other nations. ~ Steven Denney
The tragedy of Korea is further heightened by the fact that its military action is confined to its territorial limits. It condemns that nation, which it is our purpose to save, to suffer the devastating impact of full naval and air bombardment while the enemy's sanctuaries are fully protected from such attack and devastation. ~ Douglas MacArthur
Of the nations of the world, Korea alone, up to now, is the sole one which has risked its all against communism. ~ Douglas MacArthur
The magnificence of the courage and fortitude of the Korean people defies description. They have chosen to risk death rather than slavery. ~ Douglas MacArthur
South Korea is an extremely wired country, so has a lot to attack. Unfortunately for the South Koreans, North Korea has extremely limited internet connectivity and hence is a target-poor country. ~ Caroline Baylon
'Japanophobia' stems from Korea's national division. The Republic of Korea should be the anti-DPRK; it should be the successful capitalist twin competing North Korea into illegitimacy. But it cannot be, because North Korea manipulates the language of Korean nationalism to de-legitimize the south. ~ Robert E. Kelly
South Korea has one of the highest suicide rates in the world, more than double that of the United States. ~ Adam Taylor
Unlike most other countries, South Koreans actually become more likely to commit suicide as they age. ~ Adam Taylor
Although South Korea has the 14th largest economy in the world with a total GDP of $971,100,000,000 and with a per capita GDP of $24,800, having received a Global Competitiveness Index ranking of 11th place for the years 2007-2008, and a literacy rate of 97.9% for 15 year olds with the country being ranked first in reading, fourth in mathematics and sixth in science proficiency, for the same age group, by The Programme for International Student Assessment, the country can by no means boast about the international rankings of its universities. For instance, the best South Korean university places 21st in Asia and 164th in the world. ~ Paul Jambor
The war is a huge embarrassment. While the Chinese, Americans, and even the Filipinos got to fight, we were torn between ineffectual partisans and collaborators. So many collaborators in fact, that our country is still turned upside down by this issue a hundred years later. ~ Robert E. Kelly
The dictator-president who put us on the map was a collaborator too, and we even ripped off our economic model from the Japanese. All this is pretty hard to stomach, so we've therapeutically fashioned our political identity in part as the anti-Japan. ~ Robert E. Kelly
To live outside the realm of Chinese culture was, for the Korean elite, to live as a barbarian. ~ Carter J. Eckert
South Korea has built its national identity so much around Japan as a competitor, if not enemy, that it is difficult to move on. ~ Robert E. Kelly
The actual Republic of Korea, the state itself, in the south, has weak legitimacy and roots in Korean civil society. It is a half-country politically dominated by the Americans for decades, with institutions frequently copied wholesale from the U.S., with no obvious lineage to the beloved Chosun dynasty. ~ Robert E. Kelly

South Korea, officially the Republic of Korea (ROK; Korean: 대한민국; Hanja: 大韓民國; Daehan Minguk, literally "Great Korean Republic") is a sovereign state in East Asia, constituting the southern part of the Korean Peninsula. The name Korea is derived from the Kingdom of Goryeo, also spelled as Koryŏ. It shares land borders with North Korea to the north, and oversea borders with Japan to the east and China to the west. Roughly half of the country's 50 million people reside in the metropolitan area surrounding its capital, the Seoul Capital Area, which is the second largest in the world with over 25 million residents.

Quotes[edit]

1950s[edit]

  • The tragedy of Korea is further heightened by the fact that its military action is confined to its territorial limits. It condemns that nation, which it is our purpose to save, to suffer the devastating impact of full naval and air bombardment while the enemy's sanctuaries are fully protected from such attack and devastation. Of the nations of the world, Korea alone, up to now, is the sole one which has risked its all against communism. The magnificence of the courage and fortitude of the Korean people defies description. They have chosen to risk death rather than slavery. Their last words to me were: 'Don't scuttle the Pacific!'

1970s[edit]

  • In May 1961 when I took over power as the leader of the revolutionary group, I honestly felt as if I had been given a pilfered household or bankrupt firm to manage. Around me I could find little hope of encouragement. The outlook was bleak. But I had to rise above this pessimism to rehabilitate the household. I had to destroy, once and for all, the vicious circle of poverty and economic stagnation. Only by reforming the economic structure would we lay a foundation for decent living standards.

1980s[edit]

  • We went over there and fought the war and eventually burned down every town in North Korea anyway, someway or another, and some in South Korea too.
    • Curtis LeMay in Strategic Air Warfare: An Interview with Generals (1988).
  • Unification, as I have mentioned, can be a euphemism for conquest, a gloss for winning the war. The south's disagreement is in part due to the fact that they believe that the nation and state must be one, that a confederation is not unification, and that North Korea must be totally absorbed into the south, its state destroyed, and its people assimilated.
    • Roy Richard Grinker, as quoted in Korea and Its Futures: Unification and the Unfinished War (1988), St. Martin's Press.
  • They're hardheaded, hard-drinking, tough little bastards, 'the Irish of Asia'.

1990s[edit]

  • There was little, if any, feeling of loyalty toward the abstract concept of Korea as a nation-state, or toward fellow inhabitants of the peninsula as 'Koreans'. Far more meaningful at the time, in addition to a sense of loyalty to the king, were the attachments of Koreans to their village of region, and above all to their clan, lineage, and immediate and extended family. The Korean elite in particular would have found the idea of nationalism not only strange but also uncivilized. Since at least the seventh century the ruling classes in Korea had thought of themselves in cultural terms less as Koreans than as members of a larger cosmopolitan civilization centered on China.
  • To live outside the realm of Chinese culture was, for the Korean elite, to live as a barbarian.
  • As to the origin of those comfort women who were transferred to the war areas, excluding those from Japan, those from the Korean Peninsula accounted for a large part. The Korean Peninsula was under Japanese rule in those days, and their recruitment, transfer, control, et cetera, were conducted generally against their will, through coaxing, coercion, et cetera. Undeniably, this was an act, with the involvement of the military authorities of the day, that severely injured the honor and dignity of many women. The Government of Japan would like to take this opportunity once again to extend its sincere apologies and remorse to all those, irrespective of place of origin, who suffered immeasurable pain and incurable physical and psychological wounds as comfort women.
  • It was a grand success and a declaration of Korean independence. Ever since, Koreans have straightened their backs and walked with confidence.

2000s[edit]

  • What is the local name for Korea? South Koreans will answer, Hanguk. It is partially true. The official local name for South Korea is Daehan Minguk and it is shortly called Hanguk. But North Korea's name is 'Chosun Minjujuui Inmin Konghwaguk' and North Koreans call Korea 'Chosun'. North Koreans never use 'Han' and South Koreans do not use 'Chosun' with few exceptions such as 'Chosun Ilbo'. The local name for the Korean Peninsula is 'Han Bando' in the South and 'Choson Bando' in the North. Hangugeo and Hangungmal refer to the Korean language in the South. Chosuno and Chosunmal in the north. Hangul is called Chosongul in the North. Only 'urimal' is used in both countries.
    • "Chosun vs. Han" (24 August 2003), Korea, the Preposterous World: Developing Myths for their Identity (2003).
  • Historically speaking, Chosun was an old kingdom in the northwestern part of the peninsula, which was destroyed by the Chinese Han Empire in 108 B.C. It was the name called by the Chinese and they probably called themselves differently. In contrast, Han was a region in the southern part of the peninsula, which was also called by the Chinese. The Chosun Dynasty, also called the Yi Dynasty, was the kingdom which ruled the whole peninsula. The founder Yi Seonggye adopt the name Chosun after the old kingdom. After independence from the Manchu Empire, the kingdom was renamed to the Han Empire in 1894. When Korea was annexed to Japan in 1910, Han was renamed to Chosen again. In 1948 when the Korean Peninsula was divided and South Korea and North Korea were established, the south adopted Han and the north adopted Chosun.
    • "Chosun vs. Han" (24 August 2003), Korea, the Preposterous World: Developing Myths for their Identity (2003).
  • Both countries consistently use the different names, but a problem was occurred in Japan. In Japan, South Korea is called Kankoku and North Korea Kita Chosen. Then North Koreans in Japan said in remonstrance that it was the discrimination against North Korea not to use what North Koreans call themselves, and they tried to force Japanese media to call it 'Kyowakoku'. They made a compromise and Japanese media call it 'Kita-Chosen, Chosen Minshushugi Jinmin Kyowakoku', when it is appeared at the first time. Of course, most Japanese are dissatisfied with the long-winded name.
    • "Chosun vs. Han" (24 August 2003), Korea, the Preposterous World: Developing Myths for their Identity (2003).
  • If we consider Korean Russians, things are more complicated. Korean Russians call themselves 'Koryo people', not Chosun or Han. Koryo was a kingdom followed by Chosun Dynasty and became the etymology of the English name 'Korea'. They adopted the name to avoid the north-south conflict.
    • "Chosun vs. Han" (24 August 2003), Korea, the Preposterous World: Developing Myths for their Identity (2003).
  • The official local name for South Korea is Dae Han Min Guk and its abbreviated form is Hanguk. Han refers to Korea in South Korea, but there is another Han. Han also means China's dynasty and Han Chinese. In short, both Korea and China are called Han in South Korea. Two Hans are denoted as different characters in Chinese characters but cannot be distinguished in Hangul.
    • "Two Hans" (24 August 2003), Korea, the Preposterous World: Developing Myths for their Identity (2003).
  • This homonym makes many Koreans falsely recognize that Chinese culture or words have Korean origins. For example, Traditional Chinese Medicine is called Hanbang in Korean. Hanbang is a Sino-Korean word, originated in a Sino-Japanese word Kanpo, which means Chinese method and was made to distinguish the tranditional medicine from Western medicine, newly imported from Dutch in the Edo period (1603-1868). Han4bang has changed into Han2bang in South Korea, with seldom Koreans noticing, and then Han2bang become Korea's own original method. A increasing number of Koreans ignorant about Chinese characters accelerate this tendency.
    • "Two Hans" (24 August 2003), Korea, the Preposterous World: Developing Myths for their Identity (2003).
  • Korea was a vassal state of China for much of the previous 400 years. This client-patron relationship that endured for centuries, coupled with the deep cultural, ideological ties, has left an enduring legacy of respect for China within Korean culture and has strongly affected the Korean psyche. Korea has been criticized for being quick to react to even the slightest transgression by either the United States or Japan, while China often gets a pass, even when the transgressions are great.
  • American society, composed of diverse races and ethnicities, has a lot of tolerance of different kinds of people and can embrace them all as Americans. Korean society, however, is composed of a single ethnicity. It is more intolerant to people of different ethnicity and skin colors. Koreans have a strong bond to people of Korean ethnic origin even when, as in the case of the gunman, a large proportion of their upbringing took place in a different culture. That's why there is widespread mourning and collective guilt over the gunman's behavior and its consequences. It's doubtful whether the South Korean reaction will really help anyone.
  • Discussion of unification is premature and can even be considered dangerous if unification occurs without such change. As the German unification experience shows, a shared ethnic identity alone will not be able to prevent North Koreans from becoming "second-class citizens" in a unified Korea. Even worse, because of higher expectations resulting from a shared sense of ethnic unity, a gap between identity, ethnic homogeneity, and practice, second-class citizens, will add more confusion and tension to the unification process. Thus, it will be a major challenge for Koreans to develop democratic institutions that can treat people living in Korea as equal citizens of a democratic polity. This task will be all the more important and urgent as Korea becomes more democratic, globalizes, and also prepares for national unification.
  • As South Korea grew into one of the economic 'Four Tigers' of East Asia and left behind decades of dictatorship for democracy, North Korea developed into one of the nastiest and most psychotic tyrannies in history.
  • Korea goes too far the other way with an I.D. card. When you buy stuff on the internet from Korean analogues to Amazon, you need to punch in your national I.D. So if you order a book or movie from the internet, it is tagged to your national I.D. number with an e-vendor. Kinda creepy.
  • Although South Korea has the 14th largest economy in the world with a total GDP of $971,100,000,000 and with a per capita GDP of $24,800, having received a Global Competitiveness Index ranking of 11th place for the years 2007-2008, and a literacy rate of 97.9% for 15 year olds with the country being ranked first in reading, fourth in mathematics and sixth in science proficiency, for the same age group, by The Programme for International Student Assessment, the country can by no means boast about the international rankings of its universities. For instance, the best South Korean university places 21st in Asia and 164th in the world according to the Shanghai Jiao Tong Ranking system, while receiving a ranking of 51st in the world according to the Times Higher Education.

2010s[edit]

  • I went through the legal immigration process; let them do it too. Yes, it is a pain. Yes, I pay the Korean government a lot of money for some silly stamps, and I wait forever in some stuffy room for a bored bureaucrat to glare at me. But it's not 'orwellian racial profiling'. Come on already. You're a guest in someone else's house. You know the rules are going to be a little tougher, and you should accept that, because you choose to go there. That is their system. You must respect it; you can always leave.
  • If you think the U.S. rules are burdensome or racist, try living in Asia or Europe! Dual citizenship is nearly impossible. The Korean government makes me renew my visa every year, even though I am long-term employed resident foreigner with property, education, and all that. They make money off the foreigner population by requiring annual visa renewals, but it is also a way to check up on us that we aren't screwing around too much.
  • South Korean nationalism is something quite different from the patriotism toward the state that Americans feel. Identification with the Korean race is strong, while that with the Republic of Korea is weak.
  • Koreans in both the north and the south tend to cherish the myth that of all peoples in the world, they are the least inclined to premeditated evil.
  • Sixty years ago, at dawn on June 25, the Korean War broke out when communist North Korea invaded the Republic of Korea. In response, 16 member countries of the United Nations, including the United States, joined with the Republic of Korea to defend freedom. Over the next three years of fighting, about 37,000 Americans lost their lives. They fought for the freedom of Koreans they did not even know, and thanks to their sacrifices, the peace and democracy of the republic were protected.
  • The Republic of Korea has emerged as an important partner of the United States in many parts of the world. Also, in the course of investigating and responding to the North's March sinking of our naval vessel the Cheonan, Seoul and Washington have closely coordinated efforts and expertise. In all these endeavors, we are not losing sight of the necessity of eventually turning the Korean Peninsula into a cradle of regional and world peace.
  • On this significant occasion, all Koreans pay tribute to the heroes fallen in defense of freedom and democracy. I firmly believe that future generations in both countries will further advance the strong Republic of Korea-U.S. alliance into one befitting the spirit of the new age.
  • On the sixtieth anniversary of the Korean War, I remain grateful to America for having participated in the war. At that time, the Republic of Korea was one of the most impoverished countries, with an annual per capita income of less than $40. In 2009, my country became a member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's Development Assistance Committee, the first aid recipient to become a donor and in only one generation. The Republic of Korea is engaged in peacekeeping missions in 14 countries to promote global peace. It will host the G-20 summit in November, and in 2012 the second nuclear security summit.
  • Foreigners often point out that there are many awkward English expressions on Korean street signs, temple guideposts and restaurant menus. Surprised by the numerous mistakes, foreign residents and tourists may wonder if Koreans have invented their own version of English. The truth is that when composing something in English, Koreans tend to rely extensively on the Korean-English dictionary, which can be unreliable at times. Or oftentimes, Korean is translated directly into English, without consideration for cultural differences, nuances or colloquial expressions. Even worse, Koreans seldom ask native speakers to proofread or edit their English.
  • Pan-Korean nationalism undermines state patriotism in South Korea. Successive Seoul administrations have neglected to inculcate pride in the republic as a state entity.
  • Usually the South Korean left is blamed for the public's lack of patriotism, but it is the right who made blood nationalism a state religion.
  • Although North Korea's northern border remains easy to cross, and North Koreans are now well aware of the prosperity enjoyed south of the demilitarized zone, Kim Jong-il continues to rule over a stable and supportive population. Kim enjoys mass support due to his perceived success in strengthening the race and humiliating its enemies. Thanks in part to decades of skillful propaganda, North Koreans generally equate the race with their state, so that ethno-nationalism and state-loyalty are mutually enforcing. In this respect North Korea enjoys an important advantage over its rival, for in the Republic of Korea ethno-nationalism militates against support for a state that is perceived as having betrayed the race. South Koreans' 'good race, bad state' attitude is reflected in widespread sympathy for the people of the north and in ambivalent feelings toward the United States and Japan, which are regarded as friends of the republic but enemies of the race. But North Korea cannot survive forever on the public perception of state legitimacy alone. The more it loses its economic distinctiveness vis-à-vis the rival state, the more the Kim regime must compensate with triumphs on the military and nuclear fronts. Another act of aggression against the Republic of Korea may well take place in the months ahead, not only to divert North Korean public attention from the failures of the consumer-oriented 'Strong and Prosperous Country' campaign, but also to strengthen the appeasement-minded South Korean opposition in the run-up to the presidential election in 2012.
  • I keep asking, how long will we go on defending South Korea from North Korea without payment? South Korea is a very very rich country. They're rich because of us. They sell us televisions, they sell us cars. They sell us everything. They are making a fortune. We have a huge deficit with South Korea. They're friends of mine. I do deals with them. I've been partners with them, no problem. But they think we're stupid. They can't believe it. We are defending them against North Korea, we're doing it for nothing. We're not in that position. When will they start to pay us for this defense? Isn't it really ridiculous when you think of it? They make a fortune on the United States and then they got some problems, and what happens? They call the United States to defend them, and we get nothing?
  • Mercifully, Korea entirely lacks the endless budget shenanigans that have crippled American politics for thirty years, with its regular threats to basic safety-net programs like Social Security.
  • If Korea begins to be seen as unreasonable and unwilling to work with Japan, at a time when Japan has made it clear it is willing to work with Korea, it will create more distance in Korea’s relationship with the U.S.
  • While the Korean public is deeply suspicious of Japanese motives, most Americans are not. The notion, widespread in Asia, that Japan is frequently on the cusp of re-militarization and renewed aggression in Asia, is not shared in the U.S. Indeed, American officials and commentators tend to find such suggestions fantastical. Similarly, the Japanese-Korean maritime disputes are simply not seen as the existential crises the Korean public and media insist they are. That Korea would use force against Japan over Dokdo, for example, which President Roh is now known to have endorsed if necessary, would strike most Americans as exceptionally myopic. That is, most Americans would be shocked to know U.S. allies right next to China and N.K. were fighting among themselves.
  • To demand that the world use that term insists that the rest of the planet view bodies of water from a Korean perspective, which is a preposterous request. The name itself implies absolutely nothing.
  • South Korea's animosity toward Japan, although rooted in history, is also an outgrowth of nationalist confusion caused by the division of the Korean Peninsula.
  • Unlike many western countries, in South Korea the left is nationalist, dovish on North Korea, while the right is 'internationalist', or pro-American. All of this sows confusion in the mind of South Koreans about the direction of nationalist feeling, which makes Japan an easy, clarifying symbol, a lightening rod of sorts. Here, Japan, because of its colonial record, becomes an easy outlet for Koreans of all stripes to unite and prove their nationalist credentials.
  • Nowhere in the world does the past bear as much relevance to the present as in northeast Asia, where archaeology is employed for nationalistic and political purposes, to construct national identities, build state legitimacy, and even press territorial claims. Korea presents a unique case study in understanding the intersection of nationalism, politics, and archaeology in a world of nation-states, not only for the high level of historical consciousness that permeates Korean society, but also the division of the nation into two states. Each state, north and south, has used the past to serve the present in different ways, despite having fundamentally similar aims: to assert the cultural individuality and historical independence of Korea from ideological and often military aggression from its larger neighbors, China and Japan.
  • South Korea has a weak sense of 'state patriotism'. Koreans are indeed ethnic nationalists, but to their blood and cultural community, including Koreans in the north. They are one people. But the actual Republic of Korea, the state itself, in the south, has weak legitimacy and roots in Korean civil society. It is a half-country politically dominated by the Americans for decades, with institutions frequently copied wholesale from the U.S., with no obvious lineage to the beloved Chosun dynasty, and a closed political-economic Seoul-based elite, 'Gangnam Style', that alienates much of the country. The result is a poor sense of a distinct South Korean identity and weak commitment to corrupted, distant southern institutions. In this context, Japan is a useful other against which a southern state identity can be constructed. Hence the exaggeration of Korea's otherwise defendable claims against Japan.
  • Korean security is still highly dependent on the U.S., so an open split with Japan is perilous, because Japan is still the anchor state of the American alliance architecture in Asia.
  • China may focus on regional supremacy, as it did in the past, and Japan may, in turn, focus on preventing Chinese hegemony. But Korea's strategic focus is much more immediate and narrow; preventing domination by its much larger neighbors. For a millennium Korea bounced back and forth between China, Japan, and Russia in northeast Asia. A wealthier, more confident Korea is now struggling against that continuing geographic constraint, unhappy that yet another outsider, the Americans, seem to be manipulating it.
  • Korea doesn't want to be pushed around by powerful outsiders. But I am doubtful this can change; unless Korea were willing to openly break with the U.S. and unilaterally nuclearization to go it alone. Geography, demography, and Cold War division badly cripple Korean power. Korea feels that it is strong enough for the moment to resist an easy slide into the U.S.-Japanese 'pivot' tacitly aimed at China. But so long as it is a U.S. ally, the pressure will continue, and there is no obvious way out.
  • In most developed countries, the state and nation are understood as one, ergo the nation-state. That the nation, a group of like-minded individuals, puts its faith in the state as the institution charged with its protection and continuation ensures this link. In 'full faith and trust', as some would put it. However, due to Korea's peculiar, though certainly not unique, situation of having one nation but two states, there is more than enough room for separation between the nation and the state.
  • South Korea is an extremely wired country, so has a lot to attack. Unfortunately for the South Koreans, North Korea has extremely limited internet connectivity and hence is a target-poor country. Hence, the only option is [conventional] war - or convincing the North Koreans that they can attack them in cyberspace as well.
  • Hostility toward Japan is not just a political posture, but a part of South Korean political identity.
    • Robert E. Kelly, as quoted in "Japanophobia" (29 March 2014), by R.E. Kelly, Asian Security Blog: International Relations of Asia.
  • Korea's grievances with Japan are very legitimate. Japan sexually enslaved Korean women into war-time brothels. It attempted to erase Korea as a cultural entity by coercing the use of Japanese, even to the point of re-naming people. There are still Koreans alive who went through this. Japan has not really come clean about the empire and the war, a point made not just by Korea, but in China and the U.S. as well. But Koreans do not stop there; they go over-the-top with things like the 'Sea of Japan' re-naming campaign with no obvious point other than to provoke Japan, unfounded claims that Japan wants to invade Korea again, equating bad Japanese behavior in Korea with the far-worse Holocaust, or that Liancourt is worth going to war over, even though a Korean use of force against Japan would almost certainly eventuate a U.S. departure from South Korea and dramatically reduce Korean security.
    • Robert E. Kelly, as quoted in "Japanophobia" (29 March 2014), by R.E. Kelly, Asian Security Blog: International Relations of Asia.
  • 'Japanophobia', I have argued, stems from Korea's national division. The Republic of Korea should be the anti-DPRK; it should be the successful capitalist twin competing North Korea into illegitimacy. But it cannot be, because North Korea manipulates the language of Korean nationalism to de-legitimize the south. It instrumentalizes its control of Mr. Paektu, the mythic birthplace of the Korean people, and plays to Korean race-nationalism by regularly indicting South Korea as the globalized, bastardized 'Yankee Colony'. Pyongyang also enjoys enough sympathy in the South that an aggressively anti-DPRK foreign policy is impossible.
  • The South Korea left often if confusedly excuses the north, and South Korea's most 'progressive' president, Roh Moo-Hyun, thought Japan and the U.S. were a greater threat to South Koreans than North Korea. This creates a weird dynamic. South Korean conservatives are 'internationalist', they support the U.S. alliance, while the left are the nationalists. Strangely then, North Korea and the South Korean left are more nationalist than the South Korean right.
  • South Korea has one of the highest suicide rates in the world, more than double that of the United States. According to one recent OECD report, [South] Korea had bucked a trend of falling suicide rates among developed nations, with suicide rising to become the fourth most common cause of death. Unlike most other countries, South Koreans actually become more likely to commit suicide as they age.
  • In 1910, the Korean Empire, which had been a vassal state of China, signed a treaty with the Empire of Japan that merged the two empires into one. The Korean royal family was absorbed into that of Japan. Japan was the successor state, and the Korean Peninsula became part of the Japanese empire, enjoying equal status with its other territories. From then on, and notwithstanding the undeclared war that Japan waged on China from 1937 onward and its 1941 sneak attack on the U.S. Navy base at Pearl Harbor, Korean subjects not only paid taxes to Japan, but also contributed to Japan's Pacific War by serving in its armed forces. There were even Korean voluntary units in the Japanese military, and Koreans such as Crown Prince Euimin and Hong Sa-ik reached ranks as high as lieutenant general. All ROK Army chiefs of staff from 1948 to 1969 were former officers of the Japanese army, and the same is true of former ROK president Park Chung-hee. Japan was the lawful government of the whole of Korea during World War II. Considering these historical realities, what position is South Korea in to commemorate the anti-Japanese war?
  • A group of Korean nationalists set up a 'Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea' in Shanghai in 1919. On October 10, 1938, the Korean Liberation Army (KLA) was set up in Wuhan, China. This force operated under the authority of the Political Training Board of China's National Military Council, which also supplied its provisions. In 1940, the Chinese Nationalist government based in Chongqing decided to provide assistance to the Korean provisional government and placed the KLA directly under the authority of China's National Military Council, while the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) dispatched military and political officers to guide its operations. Following World War II, the ROK established a government and set up an independent state with the U.S.' backing. Considering its history of dependence on China and the U.S., what justification does South Korea have for its claimed tradition of anti-Japanese resistance? South Korea is not the only place where peripheral Sino-centric thinking obscures historical reality. Taiwan's governing authorities are holding an exhibition in the Zhongshan Hall, the former Taipei city hall, to mark the anniversaries of the 1937 Marco Polo Bridge Incident, China's victory in its war of resistance against Japan, and Taiwan's 'retrocession' to China from Japanese colonial rule. The exhibition glorifies resistance and martyrdom, and it embodies the outlook of a victor nation. Since its real purpose is political mobilization, it cannot be expected to present a fair account of historical facts.
  • Japan and South Korea are both democracies that fear Chinese domination, yet the animosity between the two societies restricts what should be natural strategic partnering.
  • The war is a huge embarrassment. While the Chinese, Americans, and even the Filipinos got to fight, we were torn between ineffectual partisans and collaborators. So many collaborators in fact, that our country is still turned upside down by this issue a hundred years later. The dictator-president who put us on the map was a collaborator too, and we even ripped off our economic model from the Japanese. All this is pretty hard to stomach, so we've therapeutically fashioned our political identity in part as the anti-Japan.
  • In Korea we live on the floor, we sleep on the floor, we play on the floor, we do everything on the floor. So, it is very important to keep the floors clean.
  • At more than 35%, the gender wage gap in South Korea remains the widest in the OECD group of developed nations.
  • South Korea has built its national identity so much around Japan as a competitor, if not enemy, that it is difficult to move on.
  • Victor Cha acutely observed that South Korea teaches a 'negative nationalism' of 'anti-Japanism', and that most countries would have accepted Japan's two big apologies in the 1990s, the Murayama and Kono Statements, and moved on.
  • 'Anti-Japanism' is now a form of political correctness in South Korea; public officials dare not bend. Particularly on the right, where many are the children and grandchildren of collaborators.
  • In the west, much of the debate over how to respond to communism has faded into intellectual history. That acrimonious and largely unresolved split between right and left has, thankfully for all, receded. But in South Korea, it feels like time stands still. It is still 1982, with an evil empire, replete with gulags and economic collapse, threatening nuclear war, and all the McCarthyite paranoia that breeds in response. Just as in the west a generation ago, conservatives here see the left as appeasers, if not traitors, while left-wing parties think the South Korean right is unhinged and bellicose, driving North Korea into belligerence.
  • The north and south are not morally analogous competitor regimes which deserve a similar chastising. South Korea is easily the better place on almost every conceivable vector, including importantly, the one privileged by the marchers themselves, the treatment of women. Does it need to be said that South Korea has elections, a free press, due process, nothing like the 'songbun' system or the gulags of the north, a female president, and so on? Given how obvious this is, I found it worrisome that the marchers ducked these obvious distinctions in their various press conferences.
  • It is immediately obvious to anyone who has spent substantial time in South Korea that its people and its elites have an extraordinary, and negative, fixation with Japan. Korea's media talks about Japan incessantly, usually with little journalistic objectivity and in negative terms, as a competitor for export markets which must be overcome, as a rival for American attention, as an unrepentant colonialist, as a recipient of the 'Korean Wave', watch Korean analysts triumphantly argue that Japanese housewives are learning Korean, as a lurking military imperialist just waiting to subdue Asia again, and so on.
  • North Korea so successfully manipulates Korean nationalist discourse that South Korea cannot define itself against North Korea in the same way West Germany did against East Germany. So South Korea uses a third party against which to prove its nationalist bona-fides in its national legitimacy competition with the north.
  • South Korea, as seen from the outside, is indeed that rare country that transitioned from poverty and dictatorship to affluence and democracy in a miraculously short time. Yet it is viewed by many people here as a crony capitalist state run by corrupt elites who have monopolized power and the national economy, fostering government incompetence and popular distrust of the state.
  • South Koreans, who have a long history of political and social turbulence, including previous spates of political scandals and man-made disasters as well as an endless state of war against North Korea, know how to handle calamity with a certain aplomb.
  • There seems something endemic in Korean neo-Confucianism that seeks to control knowledge from subordinates. I have never been in a culture where workplaces strive so hard to prevent employees from knowing what is going on, in order to maintain power. This proves a problem with government ministries who in theory are tasked with disseminating information to the public, but at the same time have this culture of only doing so on a need-to-know basis, and reluctantly.
  • I am tired of reading daily articles on comfort women in the South Korean media. The group that hosts Wednesday protests in front of Japanese embassy, Chong Dae Hyup, is a leftist group with close ties to North Korea. The husband of its leader was arrested as a North Korean spy. Other members are also closely related to North Korea.
  • By publishing anti-Japanese articles on a daily basis, the South Korean media are harming South Korea's interests. More anti-Korean sentiment in Japan means less South Korean export to Japan and less Japanese tourists to South Korea. More serious than the economic loss is the harm on South Korea’s security interest. If the South Korean media understand this, why would they keep publishing these silly articles?
  • North Korea does not fixate on Japan the way South Korea does. The primary objects of North Korean enemy propaganda are the 'Yankee Colony' South Korea and the United States. Japan is surely a villain but mostly serves as a foil to demonstrate Kim Il-sung's early heroics and nationalist commitment. If anti-Japanism were a deep, Korea-wide sentiment, surely the north would use it more for legitimacy's sake, instead of the far-away Americans, or the preposterously mystical 'Baekdu bloodline'.
  • If South Korea gets involved in the South China Sea flap, opposing China, then China will resume its relationship with North Korea. Right now that relationship is the coldest it has ever been. That is awesome. We really, really want this. The day China cuts off North Korea is the day the countdown to North Korea’s implosion begins.

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