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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Aug. 27)

All News 07:02 August 27, 2019

What a shame!
Book shows haunting legacy of colonialism

A controversy is swirling over a book written by Korean scholars to provide "alternative" views about wrongdoings Japan committed against Koreans during its occupation of the country.

The book, titled "Anti-Japanese Tribalism," is now one of the best-selling books in South Korea. According to Kyobo Bookstore, the country's largest bookstore chain, it has remained on top of the best-seller list for the past three weeks since Aug. 7. It is believed that over 100,000 copies of the book have been sold here.

The book challenges historical facts and conventional belief here about what Japan did to Koreans during the 1910-45 colonial period, especially during World War II. For example, it denies forceful mobilization of Korean women as "comfort women" for Japanese soldiers, claiming most of them were victimized by Korean "pimps," and some were even sold by their relatives.

It also states that conscription of Koreans for labor at Japanese firms during the wartime was not forceful at all, and many willingly worked there hoping to make money.

Koreans are quite familiar with these views because they have long been advocated and repeated by Japan's far-right politicians. But it is quite shocking that such a book was written by Koreans, and is now one of the best-sellers here at this time when a united voice and action is needed more than ever against Tokyo.

What is more deplorable is that some South Koreans are sympathizing with the scholars and using their biased views to blame their own government for the ongoing diplomatic struggle with Japan. What a shame.

This is all the more so because behind the ongoing tensions with Japan is the Korean Supreme Court's ruling last year that ordered Japanese firms to compensate the remaining South Korean victims of wartime forced labor. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Japan began a trade war against this country in apparent retaliation against the court ruling. The Japanese firms resisted paying compensation, so the plaintiffs seized some of their assets here, requesting the court order an auction of the seized assets. We urge the court to approve the sale of these as quickly as possible to help the victims get due compensation. The Japanese firms should also be ordered to leave Korea, if possible.

As for the comfort women case, some victims and their supporters have held a rally demanding Japan's apology every Wednesday near the Japanese embassy in Seoul since January 1992. It is needless to say that the wartime forced labor and sex slavery by the Japanese military were crimes against humanity.

In the book, however, the scholars repeat claims of the Japanese right wing, humiliating their compatriots who are still living with painful memories of abuses and suppression during the colonial era which ended in 1945 with Korea's liberation.

We note that four of the six authors of the book, including its lead author Rhee Young-hoon, a former Seoul National University economics professor, belong to the Naksungdae Institute for Economic Research, which has received funds from a foundation affiliated with Japan's Toyota Motor Corp.

The book proves that the legacy of the unresolved past is still haunting Koreans. It also shows views based on distorted history are becoming more familiar to the public in the name of alternative historical perspectives. We need to take stern action against this because they were created only to serve the needs of unrepentant Japanese politicians and right-wing groups.

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