I guess I have to give fair warning about my site to certain people, because saying "Nazi" and Korean national ideology – when there are clear links to it and other problematic European-based notions of race, nation, and history along with the fact that this is the only country I ever heard of having chains of "Hitler" beer houses – means I done broke the law or something.
OK – if you are easily offended by any statements that are critical of Korea, you've been given fair warning.
Now here's to one person who continues to berate me as a person doing something I swear I'm not, who continues to imply that I pretty much am not allowed to say anything bad about Korea. Well, I guess I lay down the last straw for her with the last post of Hitler youth and all. Perhaps she should go some Yi Pom Sok before jumping all down my throat about how "ridiculous" it is to mention Nazi and Korean ideology in the same breath? Here's two of her comments, followed up by my response to her latter one:
I haven't had the chance to read your entire posting but your reversion of the "Korean Folks dont like black people" is pretty repulsive. You claim to be an intellectual and making critical analysis of your experience in Korea...really...is that what the song is about as well? I have to say I was quite distraught by its lyrics. Whatever your justification for writing it...it certainly does not fly right!!! Songs like that are reasons for continued perpetration of the hatred amongst Korean/Blacks. Is that what you are after? Peace would sound like a better solution.
Continue on...but i see no difference in you or any other angry minority simply "Pissed off" at the world. May be that's justified or may be not. Yes I don't agree with your way of CRITICISM. And stop pushing your academic pedgree to justify or to make yourself believe that you are some sort of an academia with this grand influence over the Korean society. Life is unfair for you for me for everyone, one way or another...just deal with and stop making the ridiculous comparison between the Korean society and the Nazis.
This will be my last visit to your blog...originally you appeared to be an intelligent blogger...but you are no different from the average joe...blog on to your content.
Maybe someday you'll manage to come out of your anger and make peace within yourself.
It comes out. I am just another "angry minority" with no real right to be angry, or express that anger. Whom are we really talking about here? Maybe we should just drop the code words and just "call a spade a spade?"
So your solution is "life is difficult for everyone" so "deal with it?" I think any analysis that includes history, structural inequalities, or anything that goes past the equivocating "well, we all have problems" style that you maintain – actually elimininates the possibility of real, useful critique or social change and helps enable the inequalities in question. In other words, your solution is predicated upon ignoring the specifics of history or structure or anything else that might hint at the origins of the problem, or a solution.
And this is not a "ridiculous comparison." There is a clear, well-defined link between the notion of 단일민족, which one respected scholar argued to be heavily influenced by the fascist and racist ideologies of the Nazis. This all comes together in Yi Pom Suk. And there has never been a history of the negative effects of ideology in South Korean culture, say as in the rabid anti-communism that led South Korean soldiers to commit war crimes in Vietnam on a scale that shocked all the other soldiers in that conflict? My dad – who was stationed as an air-traffic controller in Vietnam – channeled a lot of traffic and heard the chatter and the rumors around South Korean soldiers at the time. The only people who scared the shit of the Vietcong – as well as just about everyone else – were the South Koreans. No one rivaled them in terms of their brutality. (Here's that link in Korean.) Yet, somehow Koreans all insist that the things I notice is not truly "dangerous" ideology and that Koreans have never done anything bad to anyone in the history of history. Ever. Uh-huh. (Here's a link to the Hangyeoreh exposé on Korean war crimes in Vietnam.) You still ideology doesn't mean anything? I guess it's wrong of me to bring up "negative" things.
Now, I am enough of a scholar – yes, I know it offends some people that I call myself that, but I don't know why, since that is what I have been trained for and am nearly finished gaining my qualifications to officially be – to know that this is based on a secondary source (Bruce Cumings) work. But having seen for myself the work of Shin Chae Ho (with the hints of secondary sources written by scholars who specialize in reading obscure texts from the 1890's written mostly in Chinese, which I do not), I know that he shared the sentiments of most western intellectuals about Social Darwinism, the relationship of race and nation, as well as the proper use of history in building nationalism.
In this respect, Shin was no different in his set of assumptions than the Japanese or the Germans or the French or the Americans. The more extreme versions of this set of thinkging – with some time and a fascist spin on "racial science" would evolve into the Nazism with which we are familar today. Given that many Korean intellectuals never rejected the racist, Social Darwinist assumptions that they shared with even their eventual colonizers, it is not a surprise to hear that some people looked to fascist ideology to help build a strong state; it makes even more sense when you realize that it is country building a sense of identity around a mystical sense of a singular racial purity. Who better than the Nazis, then? In fact, who else, besides the Imperial Japanese (who probably wouldn't offer themselves as a good model to a true-blue Korean nationalist)?
In any case, my point is that you refuse to deal with history or cold, hard facts. I am not obtuse enough to think that I am never wrong or that I am right because of my credentials, which I have never lorded over anybody to bully them into submitting to my opinion. I simply made an argument, backed it up with significant, compelling evidence, and made an admittedly ironic and sarcastic post comparing the two. But the comparison is not inappropriate, given that even present-day discourse about race, nation, blood, and "national character" differs in no real way from the way the Nazis talked about it.
Am I stupid enough to assert that the Korean and Nazi states are the SAME? Of course not. I am not saying that Koreans are going to round up foreigners, gays, and mixed-race people into camps and gas them qith Zyklon-B and selectively perform medical experiments on an even more unlucky few. What I am saying is that given that the notion of racial purity/national superiority in the very state that has partially influenced the self-conception of your own was one that directly resulted in the mass murder of over 12 million people (around 6 million Jewish and 6 million others, a fact often forgotten in the memorialized history of the incident) – I think that the purposeful obfuscation that goes along with hiding the problematic and embarrassing fact that your ideology shares a pedigree with the likes of Heinrich Himmler is also what is partially responsible with the fact many everyday citizens in this country simply have no idea why a "Hitler" bar is even offensive.
Do you really think that it is a coincidence that a person in just about every other country in the world – with the exception of Japan, actually, which is the other country that shares even more direct ties with the Prussians-cum-Germans-cum-Nazis – would bristle and shudder at the sight of a cartoon Adolf sipping on a brewsky as a decoration scheme? Of course, if a foreigner points this out, he or she is "bashing" Korea. If I academically talk about Korea and its own textbook problems, people call me an asshole; when Koreans do it in respect to Japanese textbooks, it's correcting "distorted" history. Ooooook.
I say it is not a coincidence and that you also can't go around saying "Koreans just don't know any better. Leave us alone." Ignorance is not even an excuse here, given the fact that Korean people are at least as exposed to the basic facts of what the Nazis did, how their actions are viewed in the eyes of the rest of the world, and how they are represented in the basic mediums that are now quite global – television, films, radio, print, translated books. I know for a fact that many Korean youth have read Anne Frank's diary, which has probably been in Korean translation for longer than I've been around, so don't tell me that Koreans are coming in from under some rock somewhere and just figuring this out.
At least – at the very least – shouldn't Korean people treat the Nazi past with the same respect and care that Koreans expect people to treat their history? There is even an organization that is a watchdog over all kinds of representations of Korea and Korean history as they appear around the world. People in Korea lose their minds when a map in the West says "Sea of Japan" – yet Koreans are drinking beers under Nazi party flags? Huh? What'd I miss? Is there something I'm not getting? Basic sensitivity, anyone?
"Hey – more beer? This Nazi theme just makes me so thirsty..."
I truly believe that one of the reasons that the emotional impact and true import of what the Nazis did is lost on many Korean folks is because the assumptions of the present notions of race/nation/blood/purity create a kind of cultural blind spot that limits the ability to feel – deep in the gut – that certain aspects of Nazism were wrong. Of course, gassing Jews and other acts of mass murder are not included in this, but the notion of one race, one blood, one people – all understood within a matrix of racial superiority, yet is tempered by the "sour grapes" of having been stripped of national soveriegnty and nationally "shamed" – runs deep, deep, deep in Korean national ideology. In other words, the inability to morally "see" the racist fascism for what it is – as something untenable for any "enlightened" country to believe in – is enabled by the fact that this country is itself stuck in a mode of racist fascism. Isn't it perfectly obvious, when it comes right down to it?
This is why – when I am actually discussion anti-Semitism with high school and college-level students in my American history and culture classes, as well as with even adults – people actually say, "But isn't it true that there is a Jewish conspiracy in the world?" Or they'll point out – "Look at Hollywood – it's all run by Jews, though" very matter-of-factly. These are not random occurences, but are rather the common questions asked by the students brave enough to ask questions at all, but I see the other student nodding in assent, implying "Yeah, that's right – I've been wondering the same thing." The mode of thinking commes straight out of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which is a historical fraud that was used by anti-Semites as "proof" of the Jewish "conspiracy" itself, while also being the origin of this malicious myth.
The ironic – and scary – thing is that I've actually had several students point to this very book as "proof" – hey, if it's a book, it must be true. Where are students getting these ideas? I'm sure some Koreans scholars recycle these lies, but I haven't looked into who yet. An article about strains of anti-Semitic ideology/rhetoric would be good to write, but I'm busy just trying to finish my dissertation.
Given that one of Korea's most prominent, best-selling authors–Yi Oh-Ryeong – is himself a racist bigot who has explicitly said that the Asian "race" is superior to the white one or the lowly African one that was the origin point for the "Great Journey" across continents and into high civilization whose end point seems to be Asians (and Koreans), I'm not surprised to hear echoes of what other, lesser scholars must be writing in Korea. Someone's filling my students' heads with this garbage.
Anyway, Elle – you continue sticking your head in the sand, meeting my quite reasonable and grounded arguments with "it's the same everywhere" despite the fact that NO, IT SIMPLY IS NOT. I clearly describe the nature of the problem, it's historical origins, as well as offer clear options for solutions. You simply don't like the fact that I am sometimes ironic, sarcastic, or even angry when I do it. Fine. But separate the emotional – and frankly, obviously knee-jerk and nationalist – reaction from the facts of the matter, the meat of my argument.
You think this is irrelevant? Or "negative?" I am simply trying to point out what is a glaring, obvious problem that literally sears through my mind when I see the fact that most Koreans think it's perfectly OK. Well, it is for a country that doesn't have self-proclaimed grand ambitions of being a "hub" or an "economic case study" for developing countries or "global" in it aims.
Lest we forget...
Once you do that, you open the doors for criticism. No one's beating up on Laos or Sierra Leone here – I don't have the same expectations for countries that obviously have their own, much more directly pressing problems. But Koreans and their history, as well as their identity, stand at the nexus of where both European and Asian nationalisms and imperialisms came together, where American cultural, military, and economic influence has remade the culture, and communal guilt and shame over all of this comes crashing against recently revived notions of national pride.
Given Korea's present state of development, as well as its self-described desire to play a major role in world affairs, as well as simply get the respect of the rest of the world, it automatically gets placed in the same light as any other culture worth criticizing. I think that Koreans should see it as coming of age to receive more global criticism – that's the true test of whether anyone really takes your country seriously, in a certain way. Instead of bristling at it and acting as if its some supreme insult, Elle, perhaps you should try to realize that this is the nature of a truly Hegelian form of "recognition" – the desire to challenge is in itself a tip of the hat to recognizing that you are worthy at the level of an equal. If I were truly as condescending as you say, I would do what Westerners have often done when encountering what they believe to be "inferior" cultures – just enjoy their "quaint traditions" and dismiss any shortcomings to what an elderly tourist might whisper to her husband when they see something that ain't cool: "Well, they just don't know better anyway, dear. Shhh. Leave it be. Just enjoy the pretty dances."
As you've made clear in your previous posts, that's the kind of foreigner you seem to want, though. Korea's quaint, beautiful, and steeped in its ancient, venerable traditions. Who knows – if enough people think as you do – that's all Korea will indeed ever be.
Elle – perhaps below is the kind of "minority" you want me to be? Nice and non-angry? I won't push my academic pedigree to say nothin' no mo'. Let's forget the past and just have "peace." Want me to do a good dance for ya? I's got some real mean feets and do's a good shuffle!