18 August 2004

Sins of the Father…

South Korea is a country obsessed with history, as is its brother to the North. “Text Book” battles are regular features of Korea’s relations with its neighbors in Japan and China, where Seoul takes issue with Tokyo and Beijing’s views of history, colonial or ancient.

But history also has a more immediate and often sinister tinge. North Korean defectors find their life tinged with mistrust by Southerners who can’t get past their Northern history. Orphans find life difficult at best, given their lack of family history, yet being nationalistic often to the point of racism, Koreans really can’t tolerate the adoption of their “own” to foreigners.

But the lack of parents is often better than coming from “disreputable” parents. And we are talking about SOUTH Korea, not the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, where a father or grandfather’s actions and words can tinge the “political reliability” of generations of family.

Take the latest news out of South Korea...

SEOUL, Aug. 17 (Yonhap) -- Ruling Uri Party leader Shin Ki-nam is likely to step down from his post following media reports that his father collaborated with Japan during its 1910-45 colonization of Korea, sources said Tuesday. "Shin appears resolved to resign, and I heard that he already informed Cheong Wa Dae of his decision," a senior Uri Party official said. "He will hold a press conference tomorrow (Wednesday) to announce his decision."

This issue of “collaborators” is one that will not die, despite efforts by civic groups and some politicians to move beyond what someone’s ancestor (however near) did during the occupation. Many have sought to hide their parents’ and grandparents’ actions, even if those actions are the only thing that kept the family together or alive. Sitting in a high-rise in Seoul, it is easy to moralize and say that, in similar circumstances, “I would never betray the homeland…” But while I make no judgment on either of the sides (those “pure” and those “tainted”) it is interesting to note that, while Seoul risks economic relations with China over who controlled part of the peninsula over a thousand years ago, Koreans are still sniping at their own over much more recent history.

No comments: