If you have been around Korean people, you have probably seen some older Koreans who said some negative/nasty things about Japan or Japanese people. Even some younger Koreans that I’ve known have joked that Japanese people look like monkeys. One Korean cartoonist actually went as far as to draw monkeys on a subway and call them Japanese people. For me, such hatred was shocking to see. But then I hear about how the younger Koreans who feel this way are taught this by older Koreans. But why do these older Koreans hate Japanese people so much?
Do you know when The Republic of Korea was founded? According to some, the actual date is August 15, 1948. Japan has been credited with colonizing Korea from 1910 to 1945. I actually got to talk to a Korea woman born during this period who said that she was forced to learn Japanese by the Japanese government who insisted that all children in her area speak Japanese. The truth is Japan has dominated Korea throughout its history and the effects are still felt in some ways. How deep are the effects of Japanese domination of Korea? Even down to this day, Korean dishes are sometimes influenced by Japan. Many Korean restaurants have a dish called Tongkatsu. This dish, a breaded and fried pork steak served with a barbecue sauce, rice and cabbage covered in a salad dressing is actually Japanese. Also, the cooking in southern South Korea was said to be influenced heavily by Japanese military and businessmen who came to Korea via the sea port of Busan. Yes. The influence of Japan can be felt, or in this case, tasted down to this day in Korea.
World War 2
Japanese occupation of Korea in modern times ended with the end of World War 2 (WWII). But what was the war like for the Koreans living then. The Japanese Emperor felt that he was God and that Koreans should be willing to sacrifice themselves to him. While the story of what took place during WWII is usually not talked about by Korean people alive at the time, Korean men did face death if they did not serve in the Emperor’s Army. Very few refused to serve the Emperor’s command for them to serve in his military and to acknowledge him as God. (I will talk about the men who did not bow down to the Emperor in a later article and why Koreans turned their back on these men in the future.) The pain of that moment is still hard for some older Koreans to talk about.
You may have heard about Korean women who were forced to be “comfort women”, but do you know what that term means? A comfort woman was a woman who was forced by the Japanese into sex slavery. This was highly prevalent during WWII in Korea. This forced prostitution for Japanese men is still a sore spot for many Koreans due to the fact that there was never a real apology for this happening. Some of these women are still alive and able to tell their story, which is a sad story indeed. There has even been debate between South Korea and Japan about the Statue of Peace, a statue to honor comfort women that was first put in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, before being moved to Busan. There is a serious lack of closure for many Koreans over this issue.
The scars that Japan has left on Korea still stings for many older Koreans. For some of these generations, they do not hate Japan or Japanese people anymore. But for others, closure is hard to come by and the pain is something that they want their children and grandchildren to never forget. The point of this article is not for me to pick a side in the debate between Seoul and Tokyo or to say what should happen next. Rather, it is to explain why some Koreans feel the way that they feel. I hope you have a better picture of what has happened and why it still hurts people down to this day. As always, if you have a question, please feel free to #askthewaygookin .