Koreans dream of revenge on Japan

IN APRIL, a South Korean television company showed a drama series in which a Korean travels to Japan and tries to assassinate the emperor. On the surface it was a soap opera fantasy, but it immediately drew an official protest from the Japanese ambassador in Seoul, and developed into a diplomatic incident.

What aggravated the Japanese most was that the television company, MBC, had used newsreel footage of Emperor Akihito's enthronement parade in 1990 in the drama. MBC blithely asserted that the whole story was fiction, and that political sensitivities between Seoul and Tokyo should not interfere with drama productions. But as the Japanese embassy knew well, the underlying intention of the drama was to tap into the strong anti-Japanese sentiment in Korea.

It is one of Asia's many paradoxes that its two most dynamic economies, Japan and South Korea, get on so badly. And although Japan's brutal colonisation of Korea ended 47 years ago, surveys indicate relations are getting worse. In February, 67 per cent of South Koreans surveyed said they disliked Japan, and only 18 per cent said their country should try to establish friendly relations with their former coloniser.

'Never in the last 10 years have relations between Japan and South Korea become so chilled,' said an editorial in Chosun Ilbo, one of Seoul's main daily papers, last month. 'Let's stop extending a hand to Japan,' the paper said. The level of ill-feeling and inflammatory rhetoric, much of it originating in Korea, does not augur well for the post-Cold War era in Asia, as the US scales down its military presence in a region seething with ethnic animosities.

Any Korean, from senior government official to the lowliest of farmers, can cite a long list of reasons for the country's dislike of its neighbour across the Sea of Japan. Japan has invaded Korea twice. For six years from 1592, Toyotomi Hideoshi laid waste to the Korean peninsula and deported thousands of Korean artisans back to Japan, where they became the leading potters and temple builders, a fact the Japanese rarely acknowledge today.

In 1910 Japan again took over the Korean peninsula, and for 35 years tried to absorb it into the Japanese empire, forcing the Koreans to speak Japanese and to assume Japanese customs.

The Japanese occupation became particularly oppressive after Tokyo's all-out invasion of Asia in the Second World War. A quarter of a million Koreans were deported to Japan as forced labourers, and between 100,000 and 200,000 Korean women were abducted to serve as prostitutes, or 'comfort women', for the Japanese army.

Since three former 'comfort women' sued the Japanese government for compensation last year, relations between Seoul and Tokyo have become even worse. That Japan still refuses to apologise outright for its wartime atrocities in general, and is reluctant to accept responsibility for the 'comfort women' in particular, infuriates the Koreans.

South Korea's resentment of Japan extends to the economic and military fields. Last year South Korea had a dollars 9bn ( pounds 4.5bn) trade deficit with Japan, even though Japanese cars and many electronic goods are banned in South Korea.

Seoul has often complained that Japan refuses to sell up-to-date technology to Korean companies seeking to modernise. Japanese companies privately argue that it makes no sense to help a potential competitor.

Seoul has been one of the main critics of Japan's decision to send its troops to Cambodia in October as part of the United Nations peace-keeping operations, breaking the post-war taboo on sending Japanese soldiers overseas. South Korea has linked this to other developments, such as a recent plan by the Japanese navy to expand its fleet to protect sea lanes outside Japan's territorial waters, to argue that Japan is on the verge of another military build-up.

Seoul has also expressed concern about Japan's intention to amass huge quantities of plutonium. Tokyo says this is strictly for electricity generation, but scientists in South Korea and elsewhere believe Japan could easily develop nuclear weapons technology if it chose to do so.

But perhaps most galling to the Koreans in their otherwise black portrayal of their neighbour is the grudging admiration for Japan's successful economic reconstruction, and South Korea's blatant attempt to mimic the Japanese model. Tokyo's policies of giving long-term support to strategic industries at the expense of consumers have all been faithfully copied by Seoul - albeit with a 10-year time lag due to the Korean war in the 1950s, and the ever-present technology gap.

Deep down, the Koreans know that shooting the Japanese emperor will not help them achieve their real goal: the economic Holy Grail of 'beating the Japanese', which fires the imagination of every economic planner in government and industry in the country.

Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Support Technician (2nd Line / Server Support) - Bedford

£24000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: 2nd line IT Support Techn...


£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Would you like to have a b...

Year 3 Teacher

£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: KS2 TeacherWould you like ...

Science Teacher

£100 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Are you a qualified science t...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments