Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 13th 2015 Contents B31
Thursday, August 13, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
Perhaps the crystallisation of abysmal
Japan-South Korea ties can be found in
the widespread veneration of Ahn Jung-
geun, who shot down Japan s former top
official in Korea, Ito Hirobumi, in 1909,
the year before occupying Tokyo formally
annexed the Korean Peninsula.
A young, mustachioed Ahn, cradling a
hand disfigured when he sliced off part of
a finger as an expression of patriotism, can
be seen on banners and posters throughout
Seoul. A musical about Ahn s life, called
"Hero," has been staged every year since
2009. A sleek museum tells Ahn s life story,
culminating with a lifelike diorama that
shows Ahn aiming his pistol at a mortally
Throughout South Korea, there is what
Robert Kelly, a professor at Pusan National
University, calls an "extraordinary, and
negative, fixation with Japan."
People in both countries admire the
other s culture and recognise shared security
concerns, especially about North Korea s
But the Japanese colonisation---which
was followed by division in 1945 by the
Soviets and the Americans and the 1950-
53 Korean War that technically continues
today---still rankles because "Japan was
essentially trying to eliminate Korean-ness,"
said John Delury, a professor at Seoul s
"Japan will never be another Germany,"
said Doowon Heo, a 36-year-old teacher
from Siheung, South Korea, referring to
the postwar German reconciliation efforts.
"The number of people who have person-
ally experienced the colonial era will con-
tinue to decline, but Japan continues to
refresh our memory about what it was like
Poland, where the European war started
when Germany invaded on September 1,
1939, is the site of one of the most powerful
and unexpected gestures of German
A monument in the former Warsaw
Ghetto marks the day Willy Brandt, then
chancellor of West Germany, fell to his knees there
Brandt received the Nobel Peace Prize the next
year, with officials citing his kneeling at the Jewish
site in Warsaw as an example of his work "to bury
hatred and seek reconciliation across the mass graves
of the war."
Such efforts by Germany have been a consistent
feature of its policies toward Poland, which suffered
6 million deaths during the war, half of them Jew-
ish.Since the fall of communism in Europe and its
own reunification, Germany has strongly backed
Poland s efforts to join both the European Union
and Nato, steps that have helped bring unprecedented
German Chancellor Angela Merkel s backing was
seen as critical in the election last year of former
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk to head the
European Council in Brussels, the first time a Pole
has won a top leadership position within the Euro-
Trade flows across the neighbors borders, students
take part in exchange programs, and most young
Poles and Germans have largely overcome past griev-
Some Poles, however, have mixed feelings.
"Once, in a restaurant in Bonn, the owner, who
was in his late 30s, came up to a group of me and
other Poles and said, I am so sorry we did such
horrible things, please forgive us, " said Pawel
Kuczynski, a 60-year-old documentary filmmaker.
"But I only experienced this once. Mostly in my
dealings with Germans, I get the feeling that they
still look down upon us."
On a recent overcast day, a smattering of Chinese
tourists walked across the Marco Polo bridge in
southwestern Beijing, which some see as the site
of the first true battle of World War II.
Japan s Imperial Army occupied Manchuria in
the early 1930s, but on July 7, 1937, after a Japanese
soldier went missing in the area, thousands of troops
on both sides marched in the region. Fighting and
atrocities soon followed, including the rape of Nanjing
by the Japanese.
China keeps the memory of Japanese subjugation
and brutality raw through its education system and
popular culture. Television shows regularly depict
virtuous Chinese soldiers outsmarting villainous
Anti-Japanese sentiment is also easily channeled
into support for China s assertive claims to unin-
habited islands in the East China Sea controlled by
Japan but claimed by China.
"There is always going to be a certain amount of
loathing for the Japanese," said Cao Yongzheng, a
62-year-old office manager from Jiangsu province
in eastern China. "We ll buy their products, but we
don t like them. It s important that young people
come to these places to remember."
Japan occupied much of Southeast Asia during
World War II, but its legacy is much different in
China and the Koreas. Its 3 1/2-year occupation of
Indonesia, at the time a Dutch colony, added
momentum to a burgeoning independence move-
One of the few reminders of Japan s wartime
presence in Indonesia is the former residence in
Jakarta of Rear Adm Maeda Tadashi, who helped
draft Indonesia s first independence proclamation.
The building is now a museum dedicated to the
history of independence.
The Japanese portrayed their occupation of
Indonesia as the intervention of a benevolent older
brother and were initially welcomed as liberators
from the despised Dutch.
Japan, attempting to persuade Indonesians to join
the war, gave them roles in government for the first
time and steps toward self-administration.
Brutality increased in the twilight of the occu-
pation, but resentment among Indonesians against
Japan is rare today. (AP)
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