Korea and Japan
What a fantastic goal against Japan by Park Chu-young, the footballer who plays for Arsenal in the English Premier League, which helped Korea go on to earn the bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics in the early hours of Aug. 11.
What a decisive strike by Koo Ja-cheol, who scored during the second half to secure Korea’s victory. Who cannot recall the unforgettable memory of the 2002 Korea-Japan World Cup when watching the great number of ``Red Devils" and all the cheering by Korean enthusiasts who gathered at the center of Seoul’s City Hall Plaza to root for their team.
What makes me think of Park Chu-young as the main character of the popular Korean TV drama ``Gaksital,” which means a traditional bridal mask, and him wearing one? Can you imagine why Park Chu-young wearing a bridal mask is being associated with the lead role from the show based on a 1974 cartoon by Huh Young-man, also called “Gaksital?”
The drama airs every Wednesday and Thursday and is about a superhero that wears a bridal mask who wants to avenge the Japanese occupiers' of Korea recruitment of “comfort women” (sex slaves) for Japanese soldiers under the pretext of offering them work as nurses with a high salary during World War II and the 36 years of Japanese colonial rule.
Have you ever heard of a large billboard reading, ``Do you hear their cry?" in the U.S. state of Texas, set up by 13 Korean-Americans and Seo Kyong-duk, an expert in Korean advertisements?
It says: ``In the picture are comfort women who served as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers during World War II. Since 1992, ex-comfort women have been continuously meeting outside of the Japanese embassy in downtown Seoul every Wednesday. While there are only a handful of surviving comfort women, gradually the number of supporters attending the meetings has grown to over 1,000. The Japanese government, however, has never expressed any intention of direct compensation or public apology to the women for its atrocities. The Japanese government must sincerely apologize to the women and compensate them for their mental and physical suffering at once.”
Unfortunately, the Japanese government and some rightist organizations and try to leave no stones unturned to hide the fact of their invasion of Korea and the atrocities carried out like sexual slavery of young Korean girls for Japanese soldiers. They also dared to set up a stake saying ``Dokdo is Japanese territory" beside a statue of a girl that was unveiled to mark the 1,000th protest of the wartime sexual slavery in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul.
Where is their conscience? Do Japanese people believe that they can hide what they did in the past to Korea and other countries in the world, even if they can hear the comfort women's cries? What is worse, the Japanese government openly has the impudence to educate the Japanese youth by denying as well as distorting the fact of the of young Korean girls as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers through textbooks including the distortion of the truth.
It is regrettable that the Japanese youth have for decades been deprived of the opportunity to reflect on their past atrocities against Koreans and to apologize due to being educated in a wrong way by the older generations in Japan.
What has made it possible for Koreans to beat the Japanese in all kinds of international sports? The main reason is due to Koreans being aware of the historical fact of the heinousness of Japanese crimes against them, as well as the older generation of Japanese trying to distort the historical facts in Korean and Japanese relations so Japanese students have lost their chance of learning historical facts.
This is thought to motivate Korea to beat Japan in sports. Koreans long for a footballer wearing a bridal mask to beat the Japanese team just as superhero Gaksital in the drama helps Koreans who are being exploited by the Japanese in the era of colonial rule.
History does repeat itself. On Liberation Day, Aug. 15, I hope that as the billboard advertisement says the Japanese government will recognize what past administrations did to Koreans and sincerely apologize to the sex slave victims, which is the only possible way for Korea and Japan to work together towards peace and prosperity in Northeast Asia.
The writer is an English teacher at Jeonnam Middle School in Gwangju. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.