"Can’t We All Just Get Along"

Warning: This post is not meant to inflame, but contains content that may be considered inflammatory. Read at your own risk.


odney King was no Othello, but those simple words ring loud and clear. If you remember, King was beaten by LAPD after being stopped for a traffic violation and not following police instructions. The now infamous incident was caught on tape and broadcast all over TV, clearly displaying police brutality. The policemen accused of beating King were later exonerated of any crime, instigating a major riot in the City of Angels. It was around this time that King uttered these simple but honest words, words that I wish Korea and Japan would take to heart.

Now, the history behind the Korea-Japan relationship is long, and for most of its history, rather positive. Koreans, who had learned and mastered Buddhism, brought much learning to Japan in the 5th through 9th centuries. Kanji, architecture, clothing. Much of this came from Korea via Buddhism, and the Japanese willingly ate it up. From the Heian period on, Japan–thinking it had learned enough, I suppose–slowly isolated itself from the continent and remolded much of what they learned into something that is uniqhely Japanese, just as the Koreans had uniquely molded what they learned from China into something uniquely Korean. Of course, there are differences and each culture have developed things that have no basis in Chinese culture–hangul writing system in Korea, manga comics in Japan (don’t laugh, this is serious stuff). And intentionally or not, both cultures have shared their developments with each other over the centuries. (I should mention that I am not a Japanese or Korean historian/anthropologist and so I am only talking off the top of my head.)

This, of course, is not meant to overlook the events of the early 20th century when Japan colonized Korea and, particularly during WWII, victimized many Koreans for their own benefit–forced labor, comfort women, etc. This is a black stain in Japanese history that cannot be and should not be forgotten. But if we are to move forward, I believe that we should make an earnest attempt to understand each other and accept each other. As stupid as this sounds, I thought that Japan’s broadcast of Korean home dramas was a small step. If Japanese are willing to watch Korean shows, enjoy them–even if it’s a silly drama–it suggests a willingness to accept those from the other side of the Korea/Japan Sea, to view them as a people who share similar tastes and values.

Then someone sent me a link of photos of drawings by Korean elementary school students that depicted Japan as the hated other.

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Pissing on the Japanese flag

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Stomping on the Japanese flag

These are by young kids and sometimes young minds can get carried away. A student of mine–a Korean–told me not to take them seriously. When she was a child, she was often instructed to draw awful things depicting North Korea as demons, and that she and her friends did not necessarily share these feelings but drew them to please their teacher. And this may be the case here as well. But that does not explain that fact that these are basically sanctioned by adults. They are drawings created in school, supported by teachers, and posted in a public train station presumably sanctioned by the rail administrator–government or private, I do not know.

The background of these photos concern the dispute over a small group of islands–called Tokdo by the Koreans and Takeshima by the Japanese–which are basically uninhabitable. Of course, claim to these islands go a long way in demarcating territorial waters and this will affect the fishing industry of two countries that love to eat fish. I am not in a position to say who is right, but I believe that a solution lies in political discussions between officials of the two countries. Not by teachers and others who try to evoke hatred and promote an agenda that is hopefully not a reflection of the Korean government or its general population.

I hope I haven’t offended anyone. My stepsons are half-Korean half-Japanese and so I too am invested in bi-cultural understanding–if only, perhaps, to a small degree. I was hesitant to post these photos, but if you don’t already know this, you should since it is already in the public domain. Click below to see other photos.



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