Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Korea-Japan Relation Saga, Part I: Background

Hello The Korean!

In the past I had heard that the Japanese look down upon Koreans. Recently, I heard that now in Japan everything Korean is "cool" and "hip". So, my questions are 1) Why the bigotry in the past? and 2) Why the heightened status now? Thank you and I love your website.

Curiouser and Curiouser

Hey, Korean!

Love your blog, it’s funny and informative… when you are draft age, do you have an option of which branch to join? If so why didn’t you become an ROK Marine? I hear they kick ass.
My favorite local sushi bar is owned by a Korean; he also makes great teriyaki; when I went to Seattle I had some good sushi (much more expensive, though) but really no better than the Korean’s. The chef (Japanese) asked me where I was from and I told him, then I described how great the Korean’s sushi & teriyaki bar is, and he was really offended, couldn’t hide it. If I was Korean I’d have punched him out for putting on such airs and acting so superior, but since I’m white I just left a crummy tip. So my question is this: What’s this continuing animosity between Koreans & Japanese? Do the Japanese really think they’re superior to other Asians?

Drunken Psycho,


Greetings and Happy New Year, Korean,

I'm a newbie to your site, and am having a grand time reading and learning. Thank you.
I'm 48, caucasian, and my girlfriend is 47, Korean, and we have lived together and I have loved this woman with all my passion and heart for the past 4 years. My question is, I tend to enjoy Japanese restaurants. She absolutely abhors anything Japanese, citing the abysmal treatment of the Korean peoples in WWII and before, and probably after. What is her block against the Japanese? Yes, I did some studies in college about the treatment, but the Japanese basically treated EVERY country, nation, people very badly. The Chinese, the Philippines, etc. So what is her problem?


Dear Alice in the Wonderland, Drunken Psycho, and Michael,

What a group of questioners, and how hilarious that this is the question that ties them all together! The virulent hatred between Koreans and Japanese is well-documented, and the Korean, although trying to rise above it, is not an exception to the trend. (See here for the evidence.)

Let’s take care of some tangents first. Drunken Psycho, yes one can choose one’s placement in the military at draft age, although with a lot of limitations. The regulations are too complicated to describe in detail, but in general “desirable” spots (desk jobs, close to home, etc.) require some tests and lottery (and often, some connection to pull the strings,) and “undesirable” spots (on the front, first to be summoned to combat, etc.) has less requirements, generally height, weight, and physical fitness. ROK (Republic of Korea) Marines certainly kick ass – they are generally known as the “ghost-catching marines,” and they take immense pride in their elite status. In fact, they are the most insufferable among all insufferable Korean men who went through military (described here.) The Korean left Korea before draft age so he didn’t have to worry about which branch to serve.

Michael, you can’t be serious about your second to last sentence. Suppose your girlfriend was raped, then the rapist would have the nerve to say, “Don’t get mad at me, your girlfriend is not the only one that I brutally raped!” Doesn’t quite work, does it? Readers, I cannot stress this enough: whatever you send to the Korean WILL BE ON THE INTERNET FOR EVERYONE TO SEE!! THINK TWICE BEFORE CLICKING “SEND”!!

Alright, onto business. Korea and Japan were placed near each other for literally thousands of years, so their history of interaction is very long and complicated. So this epic saga will be in four parts: background, pre-modern, WWII, and post-war. After everything, it would be easy to see why Koreans so violently hate the Japanese.

Of course, since this is the age of people not reading anything too long, the Korean will give a summary in today’s edition. Here goes the historical relation of Korea and Japan, in one paragraph:

In early history, Japan owed much (but not all) of its cultural heritage through Korea. During 15th and 16th century, after Japan was unified after centuries of civil war, Japan relentlessly invaded Korea; this was the last large-scale conquest campaign that Korea suffered until the 20th century. In the early 20th century, Japan once again invaded Korea, annexed it, and committed atrocities that rivaled Holocaust, such as Unit 731 and Comfort Women. After the war, many Japanese leaders would continue to pay tribute to the war criminals of WWII, claim that Japanese Imperialism was beneficial to the invaded countries, and deny the existence of their atrocities. Currently, Korea and Japan still have territorial disputes stemming from the annexation era. But recently, as Korea began to produce highly popular cultural products that Japanese consumers enjoy, Korea-Japan relation is entering a new era.

Whew! That is way too condensed, and doesn’t really help understanding anything. But if you are the type who are content with the most basic of knowledge, then there it is. Others, more details will be forthcoming. Keep on reading!

(Note: The Korean chose the above map because it must have been made by a Korean person. Guess why. The answer will be on the next part.)

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at


  1. I'm thinking that's a Korean map since it uses "East Sea" rather than "Sea of Japan," no?

  2. regarding curiouser's question and without going into all the history, cultural appropriation isn't a new phenomenon. just because aspects from one culture is "cool" or "hip" does not mean that they have a "heightened status." for example, hip hop is considered cool and hip, but that doesn't mean that all black people have a higher socioeconomic status. white people get to act black, but they still enjoy the privileges of being white. i would argue that cultural appropriation is just another form of tokenism that hides deeper levels of racism. imo, the kpop phenomenon in japan is pretty much not that different from seeing a white girl in a "mandarin dress" or hanging a dreamcatcher off their mirror.

  3. The map is maybe too small to tell, but I was also thinking that (given the probable Korean origin of the map) Dokdo Island was drawn using the same color as Korea, thus denoting it as being part of Korea.

    Sidenote: as you can see, I just discovered this blog, so my comment obviously has little currency, though if the Korean reads new comments to old posts, he may acknowledge at least the validity of this thought...

  4. i guess korean straight and east sea.

  5. The two correct answers are:

    1) Dokdo (spelled "Tokdo" on the map)
    2) East Sea (many maps these days label that particular body of water "Sea of Japan/East Sea")

    The Korean Strait has always been the Korean Strait, and just across from the Tsushima Strait.

  6. At our college we have a four person dorm room and two Korean girls were placed with us who speak almost zero English. I'm not a language major, and they don't teach Korean on campus. Do you know a reliable online translator that does a decent job at converting English that I can use to make flashcards? I just want some easy phrases to ask them things so that they can relay requests, like "Do you need anything from the store?" or "Do you need help finding anything?".

  7. re: Drunken Psycho

    As for the chef, maybe he was a little upset because "sushi" and "teriyaki" (as you called them) are Japanese words for Japanese foods. (I understand that nearly identical items exist in Korea, but likely go by Korean names).

    It would be like a French man going to a burrito joint run by a Mexican in France and telling him about the delicious burrito he had made by an American in France. There's a chance he'd be very openminded, but he might be thinking "what does this &^@!%@ French man know about burritos if he thinks an American made a great one"

    Just a thought, since from my experiences with Japanese, they think it's weird & no authentic that many sushi/pseudo-Japanese restaurants in the states are entirely staffed/owned by Koreans and Chinese.

  8. 1. United 731 was in China, not Korea.
    2. Many Koreans were prominent members of the Imperial Japanese Army (some of which were responsible for war crimes, particularly, Lieutenant General Hong Sa-Ik & Minister Shigenori Togo)

  9. @aaa aaa: Unit 731 was in Manchuria, so surely some Koreans were included among the victims. And what if there were traitors, collaborators and Korean-Japanese working for Japan? Are you suggesting that makes Koreans out to be liars, or that it somehow negates/mitigates the evils perpetrated by Japan? Here's news for you: it doesn't.


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