a bit on Korea and Japan

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Living in Korea, it’s not long before you start to inherit a bit of a grudge against Japan. Even traveling in countries around Korea, I’ve been told several times of the suffering the Japanese caused during the early half of last century. But many Koreans are especially bitter, still, about what was done during the colonization. Then there’s Dokdo, the disputed island, which hasn’t been in the news lately, but occasionally pokes up like a thorn in the side. For that reason, I was a bit curious how my students were going to react today. i wasn’t sure how much compassion they would have for Japan, now. I didn’t bring it up at all, actually, and neither did they. I moved to Korea just after the huge Tsunami in South-East Asia, and was a bit shocked at the reactions from the children then. They thought it was quite exciting that so many people died. I didn’t want to risk the chance of that becoming the topic of conversation, this time.

Interestingly enough, after teaching one of my private students tonight, it was his mother who brought it up, and I was surprised how much she praised Japan for remaining calm, and not slipping into chaos, or looting and rioting like some other places. She actually didn’t believe Korea would have handled it as well as Japan is doing and went as far as saying that she thinks Korea still has a lot of catching up to do to be as progressive as Japan. She told me she learned a lot from seeing the people coping with the disaster.

Not being Korean, it’s easy for me to agree with the things she said, but also after having lived in Korea for this long, I understand how difficult it would be for a Korean woman to express such praise. Her saying this showed to me that Korea is progressing, too, even at their own rate.

4 responses »

  1. It always makes me sad, this grudge against Japan. Held, on the most part, by people who weren’t even born during the occupation. It’s a bit like a French teenager today holding a grudge against Germany. Almost inconcievable. Sadly, I suppose, it’s all about finding an external enemy. And it’s easier to hate pacifist Japan than aggressive nuclear North Korea I suppose.

    Thank goodness for good people like your student, who can see the good in people.

  2. It is nice to see transcending sterotypes and reaching out to others. I’ve also heard a lot of admiration for how calmly the Japanese have behaved. There’s been an outpouring of sympathy as well.

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