Interesting comments on China’s hatred of the Japanese

A post I put up earlier today seems to have generated some of the most emotional comments this blog has seen. A fascinating microcosm of different cultures and perspectives…

I’m drawing attention to this because I put up way more posts than usual today, and it’s very easy for this post ot get buried. Those who come here for links on China will certainly want to read it.

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 11 Comments

In 1996 I shared a house in Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia, with a Japanese man by the name of Maru, and with a Korean woman by the name of Yee Oon-Hee.

The three of us were all of the same age – all born in the year 1969. Maru was an exchange teacher from Yokohama, working as a teacher of Japanese at the nearby Jesmond University High School – where I too, was at the time teaching. Oon-Hee was studying at the nearby University of Newcastle (my old university) for her Masters Degree in Nursing.

When Oon-Hee and Maru first met in the living room of my home in the Newcastle suburb of Jesmond, I could sense, behind the initial politeness, feelings of ambivalence. Oon-Hee, being a South Korean, had been taught from early childhood that the Japanese “race” is inherently evil, that they are barbaric and cruel. And Maru had been taught that the Koreans not only hate the Japanese, but also that they are culturally less developed and inferior.

I spent two years of my life working as a middle school teacher in South Korea, beginnnig the year after that, from 1997-98, and I know how most Koreans view the Japanese. The fair majority are not unlike the Oon-Hee that I first met in the southern summer of 1996. And in 1999, I lived in Japan for a year, so I also have a good idea of how many Japanese feel towards Koreans.

South Korean school text books, from middle school upwards, teach hatred. Period. Every Korean I have ever met has expressed the exact same line: that the Japanese are “cruel”, in sharp contrast to Koreans, who are “kind.” This is the common line. If you think the Chinese hatred for the Japanese is strong, then you ain’t seen nothing. Trust me, the Korean hatred of the Japanese is far stronger, far more widespread, far scarier, far more neurotic indeed.

I had a young Korean girlfrind, Ji-Sook was her name, and she too, harboured these sentiments. And all of the staff that I worked with too – they all expressed not only a chauvinistic nationalism, but also a deep hatred of the Japanese, and of the Japanese “character” – which they generally defined a being quintessentially cruel, as being defined by the “sword” rather than by the chysanthemum.

I love the people of South Korea, but I really did (and still do) find this chauvanistic nationalism, and this anti-Japanese sentiment, this strong, overwhelming hatred, to be troublesome, to be deeply disturbing, to be, quite frankly, both neurotic and dangerous.

My most vivid memory of my time living with Oon-Hee, was the time when I walked out of my room at about 2 o’clock in the morning one Tuesday night, after a hard session of Miles Davis and a local Hunter Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – only to discover, much to my surprise, her sitting on the living room sofa, in complete darkness, sobbing. I could hear her sobbing, and when I switched on the light, sure enough, the tears were streaming down her face.

“What’s the matter Oon-Hee?” I asked. “Why are you crying?”

I will never, for as long as I live, forget the conversation that followed. To cut it short though, to summarise if you like, I had just confronted a girl in her late twenties, who, for the first time in her entire life, had been forced to come to terms with the fact that she had spent her entire life to date, living a lie. And an outrageous one at that.

Within only two months of having come to Australia, of having met Maru and me, she had been forced to acknowledge to herself, that, contrary to everything she had ever been “taught” about Japanese men, that Maru was a kind, decent, very likable man – a man without a cruel bone in his body. “Not all Japanese men are evil,” she sobbed. “I must admit that now.”

Oon-Hee had sat through an hour of the ABC news earlier that evening, and had learn’t of how many Australian, British and American World War Two veterans had been, for many years, pressuring the South Korean government into helping them to bring to justice a number of South Korean nationals who had served in the Japanese Imperial forces as executioners and torturers, of how the Japanese army actually preferred to recruit the services of Koreans to carry out these gruesome tasks, because most Japanese soldiers were considered by their superiors to be too “squeamish” to carry out such acts. None of this was ever discussed or reported on in South Korea. Thus these revelations were to her, both deeply surprsing and shocking.

She had just learn’t what I had known for years – that South Korean soldiers had a reputation during the Vietnam War for being particularly cruel and viscious, and she had been forced to consider what I had alerted her to about a week earlier (after I had scolded her for rather rudely and unfairly telling Maru, to his face, that she hated all Japanese because they were “cruel” and evil) – namely, that some individual Koreans are also capable of committing acts of extreme cruelty, as many soldiers demonstrated during the Kwangju Massacre of the 80s for example, when we saw Korean soldiers dragging pregnant women off public buses, and then bayonetting them on the streets.

Suddenly, for the first time in her life, it dawned on Oon-Hee that all human beings are fundamentally the same! That all human beings are capable of acts of extreme cruelty, just as we are all capable of extreme acts of kindness and humanity. She suddenly became aware, was forced to admit to herself, that the Japanese are absolutely no different from Koreans or Australians or anybody else for that matter.

This, quite clearly, came as a painful shock to her. She was sobbing. Everything she had been taught about the Japanese and the Koreans for the last 28 years had suddenly fallen apart, had collapsed – and with it, her confidence in herself. Her confidence in her own world view, her confidence in her own history, and in her future. Her whole world view had just been shattered.

Oon-Hee, like many South Koreans, was a Christian, influenced by evangelical Methodists who had also taught her to hate – all non-believers, all atheists like myself, she had been taught, were evil, were condemned to hell. Yet she knew that I was no evil sinner (and no saint either!) – she knew that my atheism was logical and human. She couldn’t deny my humanitarianism, my humanity.

She had come to Australia with an intense dislike of homosexuals too, but was forced to acknowledge, after having met many of them, that they too were simply human. That they were really no different from anybody else. She was at first shocked by the fact that nearly all of my best friends were either gay, or were radical feminists, or were Marxists even – some of them were bisexual Marxist-Leninist Muslim revolutionaries of high school age even (yes! students of mine). All of these things challenged her worldview, and made her, I believe, a much better person. When she returned to South Korea, she certainly wasn’t the same Oon-Hee that she was when she first arrived in sunny old Newcastle.

The point that I am trying to make here, I guess, is this: all human beings are fundamentally the same. We are all, fundamentally social creatures, though we are all existentialists too. Nothing in this world, human nature included, is black and white.

Both of my grandfathers fought the Japanese during World War Two. Both of them, my mother’s father in particular, witnessed a lot of killing, and was tormented by this until the day he died. My father’s father is still alive today.

My younger sister started learning Japanese as a language when she was in high school, and it was then that she first started inviting Japanese exchange students into our home for varying lengths of stay. Each time, and there were countless times, each time she would introduce our young Japanese guests to my grandparents. I am very proud of both of my grandfathers – both of them, despite their war experiences, and despite all of the atrocities that occured in the Pacific theatre of war by the Japnaese Imperial forces against their fellow Australians, neither of them held a grudge. In fact, both of my grandfathers always welcomed Japanese guests into their homes with open arms. They felt no hatred towards today’s Japanese youth, or towards older generations of Japanese either for that matter. And why should they? Why should they hate?

The Chinese can talk all they want about how cruel the Japanese were during the past, just as the Jews can continue to alert us to the ongoing legacies of the Nazi holocaust, just as the Palestinians can alert us to what the state of Isreal is doing to them, just as the Iraqis can, and probably will for generations to come, continue to suffer the torments of US imperial agression, ad infinitum. And the Tibetans can alert us to their sufferings under Chinese occupation too, and of all the atrocities that occured during the initial Chinese invasion of 1950, and the Vietnamese can continue to harbour their deep resentment not only towards the Americans, but also towards the Chinese, who also invaded Vietnam – which they did after the US-Vietnamese War.

There is no excuse for such acts of aggression and violence. Nor is there any excuse for teaching our children to go on hating.

I do not believe in the death penalty. I do not believe in revenge. Violence begets violence.

It’s about time we all learn’t to acknowledge and to accept the fact that all human beings are fundamentally the same, and in the interests of our collective futures, it’s about time we all learn’t how to forgive.

My grandfathers were able to forgive – and without any apologies – and by doing so, they were able to develop new friendships, to experience new cultures – they were able to share and to develop and to grow.

Best regards,
Mark Anthony Jones

December 31, 2004 @ 2:30 am | Comment

Mark,

very nice writing! Indeed, human beings are fundamentally the same, capable of kindness and cruelty.

It is worth pointing out, that China is such a big diverse country, e.g., youth in the north is more openly hostile to Japan than youth in the south, e.g., shanghai. I think most chinese do realize that today’s Japanese has nothing to do with old crime and chinese itself has committed numerous killings throughout history.

The open hatred of chinese youth is partly a failure of CCP policy viewed as soft by some nationalist. In US, anyone openly worship Nazi will be barred from entering US and no company dare to support Nazi worship openly.

China should institute a law to bar Japanese officials worshiping class A criminals from entering China and barring any products from companies openly supporting this kind of worship. This kind of law will be more effective than annual protest of worship.

Dave made a point that China should not target worship per se, instead should ask for separation of class A criminal from other soldiers. I think this reflects cultrual difference. In the west, act is evaluated and suggested. In the east, people fucused more on intention/good will, instead of openly dictating others behavior.

December 31, 2004 @ 7:21 am | Comment

Mark,

Please show us the evidence of your alleged butality of Chinese in Tibet. BTW, Tibet had been part of China way before CCP took power.

You are wrong about alleged Chinese action against Vietnam in 1979. Vietnam invaded Cambolia in 1978, Cambolian King was in exile in BeiJing. China had to punish Vietnam for its aggression.

December 31, 2004 @ 7:28 am | Comment

Vietcong has committed many atrocities against its own people. But invading Cambodia and ending the Khumer Rouge, just another brutal regime backed by Beijing, definitely is not a one of those.

In 1979 China went to rescue murderous Pol Pot by invading Vietnam. Facing humiliating defeat, that goal was never achieved, but Deng achieved other domestic political ones – all at expenses of Vietnamese and Chinese lives.

That’s not the history book BL has read told him. Feel free to trust communist propaganda. A warning: don’t even try to re-write history, which would be a mission impossible. Chinese communists just do not have a monopoly on world hisotry. At least so far.

Same thing apply to Tibet. Like Liu Shaoqi said, history will be written by people after all. You want me to start on the Chinese atrocity against Tibetans? You ask for it.

December 31, 2004 @ 8:28 am | Comment

bellevue,

First of all your HATRED toward CCP and China is staggering. Maybe you should apply the medicine you subscribed for others. Let me make it clear you have HATRED against China not criticism.

Now regarding Vietnam, just want to point out your excuse for Vietnam’s invasion of Cambolia is exactly the same Bush adm. using against Iraq today. Only Vietnam was spreading its own version communism instead of democracy. Could it be true, bellevue supports communism after all? oop, sorry. But still he hates CCP, maybe because CCP is from China.

About Tibet, show it to the world, truth can not be hidden. If China was wrong, then Chinese gov. should appologize. Again it’s not approapriate to discuss Tibet in this setting, because Tibet is a Chinese internal issue. There is no hatred of Chinese toward Tibet.

I suspect you are the type advocate Tiben independence, Taiwan independence, overthrowing CCP, spliting China, on and on. Of cause the suffering of Chinese people as a result is not of your concern. And 6.4 is where you can show your disingenuous concern for Chinese people. No matter what the topic of the day, 6.4 is your pet issue when you open your mouth.

Like I said it’s time for you to examine your hatred before accusing others.

December 31, 2004 @ 9:57 am | Comment

and the discussion continues back at the original post, btw…

December 31, 2004 @ 12:49 pm | Comment

That little border clash between China and Vietnam lasted a month and killed 8000 Chinese and 7000
Vietnamese.
And, while the invasion of Cambodia by Vietnam was “unilateral”, it did stop Pol Pot and The “year one” crowd from continuing the genocide. You could say that Pol Pot was a WMD.
BL, next time you travel in China ask any Uighur you meet what they think of “China”
Speaking of Tibet, I understand that it has become quite a tourist attraction for the Chinese.

December 31, 2004 @ 2:10 pm | Comment

What Japanese women want: a Western husband
By Bennett Richardson | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

Mixed marriages in Japan

Japanese men marry:
Chinese 10,242
Filipinos 7,794
Koreans 5,318
Americans 156
British 65

Japanese women marry:
Koreans 2,235
Americans 1,529
Chinese 890
British 334
Filipinos 117

Source: 2003 Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare

[Editor's note: In the chart, some data was reversed in the original version of the story. Last year, 5,318 Japanese men married Koreans while 2,235 Japanese women married Koreans.]

Interesting huh!!!!

January 1, 2005 @ 5:35 am | Comment

To everyone here:

I find the comments here very interesting.

Seriously, i think the blame is squarely and Solely on Japan. Why? Because its behaviour never really reflected its remorse nor apology. Japanese politicians on many occassions have make very evil commenst about thw world. For instance, the Nanking Massacre is a “fabricated” lie against Japan, the occupation of Korea is one “requested by its own people”, comfort women not given any compensation, the list continues as the Japanese ultra-nationalists continue whitewashing history.

Another interesting point is many here actually diverted Japan’s guilt and refusal to face history by mentioning CCP’s own despotic and tyrannical record. Yes, the CCP did commited huge mistakes and crimes aginst its own people, but i did not see the connection at all. If Chiang and the KMT were still China’s rulers, they would have done the same.

For your information, i am a KMT-inclined nationalist who has no love for the PRC and the CCP for subverting the Republic of China (ROC) est by the late father of modern China, Dr Sun Yat Sen. But my dislike for Japan’s refusal to face history and make amendments was not affected by my ideological differences with the CCP. Any Chinese, be they communists, democrats, socialists, liberals, as long as they were nationalists, they would feel the same towards Japan’s misguided and regrettable attitude towards its own past.

January 1, 2005 @ 9:18 am | Comment

bellevue,

“Vietcong has committed many atrocities against its own people. But invading Cambodia and ending the Khumer Rouge, just another brutal regime backed by Beijing, definitely is not a one of those. ”

I do not think you have even passed college history in school. Vietcong is a term used to describe south Vietnamese rebels formed under the National Liberation Front to overthrow the Saigon regime, it was not only consisted of communists but many other nationalist groups which opposed Saigon and her foreign masters. To use Vietcong as a term for the Hanoi communist regime goes to show how much credentials you have to debate historical issues with others. its time to grab a college history textbook again dude.

January 1, 2005 @ 9:28 am | Comment

I’m closing this thread to keep the comments consolidated at the original post. Thanks.

January 1, 2005 @ 9:39 am | Comment

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