Anti-Japan Education in South Korea

 The abhorrence against Japan is an important part of identity of Korean people. In the Chungang Ilbo's opinion survey, Japan has never missed the position of most disliked country since 2004. The difference from the second place is always more than 10% points, and sometimes more than 40% points.

Most Disliked Country in Chungang Ilbo's Opinion Survey (%)
Survey Round 1st Place 2nd Place 3rd Place
Sept 2004 Japan (41) USA (24) North Korea (11)
Sept 2005 Japan (68) USA (9) North Korea (9)
Sept 2006 Japan (26) North Korea (15) USA (13)
Sept 2007 Japan (38) USA (14) China (14)
Sept 2008 Japan (57) China (13) North Korea (10)
Jan 2010 Japan (33) China (12) North Korea (12)

 Such a strong anti-Japan attitude is sustained by both mass and personal communication, and through formal and informal education. This page examines children's books to see how the abhorrence against Japan is reproducted in South Korea.


초등학생이 꼭 알아야 할 우리땅 독도, 전지은 글, 김재일 그림, 계림 (Jun Ji-Eun, 2005)
뚱딴지 독도 탐방대, 글 송명호, 그림 김우영, (주)대교출판 (Song Myeong-Ho, 1996)
뚱딴지 일본 탐방, 글 김용운, 그림 김우영, (주)대교출판 (Kim Yong-Woon, 1996)
고고씽~ 일본에 가다, 이은진 글, 윤유리 그림, 이지형 감수, (주)라나출판사 (Lee Ji-Eun, 2007)
유관순, 글 이영호, 그림 박찬복, (주)예림당 (Lee Young-Ho, 2002)
유관순, 글쓴이 장재훈, 그린이 계창훈, 꿈동산 (Chang Je-Hoon, 2004)
애국의 꽃 유관순, 이준연 글, 최윤지 그림, 지경사
(Lee Jun-Yeon, 2005)
유관순, 소중애 글, 김광운 감수, 파랑새 (So Jung-Ae, 2002)
불멸의 겨레 사랑 윤봉길, 송종호 글, 박영돈 그림, 지경사 (Song Jong-Ho, 2006)
평화를 꿈꾼 대한국인 안중근, 박용기 글, 이상권 그림, 주니어랜덤 (Park Yong-Gi, 2002)
항일 독립 운동과 안중근, 이정법 글, 이의근 감수, 사강 출판사 (Lee Jeong-Beob, 2006)
겨레의 스승 김구, 송재찬 글, 박영돈 그림, 지경사 (Song Jae-Chan, 2005)
대~한 독립, 남~북 통일 김구, 곽옥미 글, 김천일 그림, 주니어랜덤 (Kwak Ok-Mi, 2006)
만화 한국사 바로 보기 10 일제 강점기와 광복, 이현세, 녹 색지팡이 (Lee Hyeon-Se, 2005)

Nagative Campaign against Japan

 Japanese pop culture, especially manga, is quite influential in South Korea. Without anti-Japan education, children could be very pro-Japan and even respectful toward Japan. To avoid this, it is necessary to teach that Japan is an evil, untrusting, odd and poor country. For example, it is taught that Japan has never apologized about the coercive mobilization of comfort women.

"Apologize to the Former Comfort Women!"

"What a noise! Was there such a thing?"

Among modern nations, Japan is the only country that established official comfort women system in the military force. When the number of women was short, Japan coerced Korean women into the comfort station under the name of labor mobilization. A TV show based on a documentary film had a scene explaining that a policeman kicked a small boy crying and clinging to his mother's skirt when the mother was seized. (Kim Yong-Woon, 1996)

 Korean children are taught not to believe the Japanese because they are brutal barbarians and could invade Korea again. In addition, the Japanese are very pragmatic and opportunistic when money matters. The message is "if you believe Japan, you will lose again."

Japanese soldiers
"Long lasting regime of the Emperor!"

It is said that you can win in hundred battles if you know the enemy and know yourself. The reason why we were defeated by Japan was that we did not know about our enemy. Even now, we just get angry about Japanese invasions but we are not paying effort to study Japan seriously. (Kim Yong-Woon, 1996)

Sword dance of Japanese students

Samurai was a warrior class in Japan. The original meaning is an armed warrior standing beside a noble man. It is said that the word came from Korean "Ssaulabi," which consists of ssaul (to fight) and abi (a man). (Kim Yong-Woon, 1996)

"China or Korea, which makes more benefit?"

While Japan behaves like an idealist when only words matters, it behaves extremely pragmatic and opportunistic when money matters. This behavioral style appears in politics, culture and foreign affairs in Japan. There are many examples also in Korea-Japan relations so far. Thus, it is better not believe Japan even though two countries are in alliance. (Kim Yong-Woon, 1996)

 Korean children are also taught not to admire Japan because Japan is a very odd and poor country.

Korean boy
"Stop your disgusting smile and straighten your back!"

Korean boy
"They look like overgrown preschoolers."

The Japanese can feel comfortable only when they follow laws and leaders. This tendency can be easily seen in their propensity of group behavior. The view of old Japanese tourists following a tour conductor raising a flag has become an object of sightseeing at many sightseeing spots around the world. (Kim Yong-Woon, 1996)

Bullying in Japan is so nitrous for causing many suicides of students that the word ijime is now internationally used. The difference between ijime in Japan and school violence from other countries is that plural students abuse one victim in Japan, which reflects collectivism peculiar to Japan. The victim suffers psychological trauma for losing his/her group rather than for physical violence. Since a Japanese student is afraid of being bullied and discriminated, he/she aggressively abuses and violates others to avoid becoming a victim. (Kim Yong-Woon, 1996)

Korean man
"Please, you don't need to do it..."

Korean boy
"Wao, it's so cool"

Houses in Japan are so narrow that when guests come, sliding doors are removed to make a more spatial room. Thus, a room can appear and disappear in a Japanese house. (Lee Eun-Jin, 2007)

 In reality, problems are more serious in South Korea than in Japan.

Beware the 'Ugly Korean' [The Marmot's Hole 2004/02/21]

8 High School Girls Booked for Bullying [The Korean Times 2010/02/12]

Giant American houses: another symptom of overconsumption.

Liancourt Rocks

 Liancourt Rocks are called Dokdo in Korea and Takeshima in Japan. The islets are currently administered by South Korea, and Japan often claims its right. Interestingly, Koreans cannot ignore Japan's claim but respond with horrible anger. For Koreans, Dokdo is the most powerful symbol of anti-Japan nationalism even for a small child. A good Korean child is supposed to get angry at Japan.

"Takeshima is ours because Korea abandoned it."

Korean boy
"What!? We didn't abandone but temporalily vacated it! We'll chastise you if you keep saying that!"

"East Sea is Sea of Japan, Dokdo is Takeshima c"

"Is it?"

Korean boy
"What the hell are you saying?"

Korean boy
"Japan is a robber tieing up the owner, depriving the property and even changing the name plate."

 Violence is approved if it's against Japan.

Japanese soldiers
"Hahaha, now Dokdo is Japan."
"Since Dokdo is ours, whole part of Korea will be ours soon."

Korean boy
"What the hell are you saying? Fuck Jap!"

 Other countries will beat Japan, too.

The United States
"Do you wanna do it again?"

Korean boy
"It's nice!"

Japanese soldiers
"We didn't mean that."
"Poor my nose."

North Korea
"You intervene other nation's post stamp?"

"Kicked out again!"

 The effectiveness of this Dokdo education can be seen in the following cute drawings by Korean children.

Children's drawings in the subway!, How cute [ 2005/06/13]

More children's drawings displayed in the subway. [ 2005/06/18]

An Jung-Geun

 An Jung-Geun (1879-1910) was a Korean independence activist who assassinated Ito Hirobumi, the first prime minister of Japan. He learned French and converted to Catholic. In 1908, he fought with Japan as an officer of Korean irregular army. On 26 October 1909, he shot Ito Hirobumi to death at Halbin station. He was sentenced to death and executed on 26 March 1910 at Port Arthur Jail House.

After the Russo-Japanese war, Japan started an extensive development program in Korea. An Jung-Geun devoted himself to fund raising movement to stop Japan's economic invasion. When he was questioned by a Japanese policeman about his intention, he replied;
"I will collect 13 million won from 20 million contributors."
"I don't believe primitive people like Koreans can do such a great job."
"You must be jealous for our patriotism. Japan had better get the bond back and go home as soon as possible."
The policeman gave a blow in anger to An Jung-Geun but was struk back hard. He ran away and never showed up again.

In June 1908, An Jung-Geun fought with Japan in the northern frontier as an officer of Korean irregular army. His unit killed more than 50 and captivated more than 10 Japanese soldiers. Japanese captives cried and knelt down to plead for their lives. An Jung-Geun questioned them;
"Do you think this war is justified? Do you know Japan has ruined the Oriental peace and killed so many innocent people?"
"We know it, sir. We were just coerced by Ito Hirobumi. He is the person who forced us to fight this immoral war."
"Very good. Now you can go back and never involve yourself again in this unreasonable invasion."
He freed all the prisoners.

Japanese captives ran away and informed the detail of An Jung-Geun's unit. They stroke back and defeated the Korean resistant force. An Jung-Geun lost his unit and escaped together with few soldiers.

An Jung-Geun hated Ito Hirobumi so much. Ito was the person who commanded the assassination of Korean empress, dethroned the Korean emperor, robbed the country and slaughtered so many innocent Koreans. When he heard that Ito was coming to Halbin, he decided to assassinate Ito there.

"Bang, Bang, Bang!"
The three shots of his gun astonished the whole world and cleared the resentment of all Koreans. His shots precisely hit Ito's chest.

Japan attempted to appease him so that the incident did not obstruct the annexation of Korea. The inspector forced him to confess that he regretted his crime. An Jung-Geun refused and said;
"While Japan has millions of soldiers and ten millions of cannons, why it plays petty tricks to kill just one person? Stop coercing me to tell a lie, or I will give not a word."

Yu Gwan-Sun

 Yu Gwan-Sun (1902-1920) is an icon of Korean independence movement and is admired as Jehanne Darc of Korea. When the U.S. president Thomas Woodrow Wilson declared the principle of self-determination in advance to the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, independence movement aroused in Korean peninsula as well as in other parts of the world. On 1st April 1919, she participated in a demonstration march at Aune market in Chuncheon-do and was arrested. She died in prison at the age of 17. Little is confirmed about her life and many of the following episodes can be fictions.

Gwan-Sun's early life was already disturbed by the Japanese. Her father owed a debt to a Japanese man named Komado (or Komoda). Komado treated Gwan-Sun's mother cruelly and brutally, which caused strong hatred against Japan in young Gwan-Sun's heart.

Gwan-Sun's father was deceived by Komado to have a huge debt. He tore the bond in anger and was beaten by Komado's colleagues to be heavily injured. Gwan-Sun cried for anger and decided to drive out all the Japanese from the peninsula.

Gwan-Sun was approved a scholarship at Ewha Woman's School in Seoul. She proved to have enthusiastic faith in Christianity and strong patriotism as a Korean.

After reading the story of Jehanne Darc, Gwan-Sun prayed;
"Father God, please let me be Jehanne Darc of Korea, let me die after achieving something great for this country which is now violated by Japs, I pray in the name of my Lord Jesus, Amen."

She participated in the demonstration march in Seoul on 1st March 1919. The Japanese military police suppressed the march cruelly. Citizens were shot and dead. The down town of Jong-ro was painted by their blood. When the school was closed, Gwan-Sun decided to organize a demonstration march at her home town.

On 1st April at Aune market, Gwan-Sun made a speech;
"We Koreans are independent people with shining history of 5,000 years. However, those Japs threat us with gun and sword, and they even robbed our country. On 1st March In Seoul, people marched to regain our nation. Since then, people have been shouting 'long live Korean independence' around the country. Can we keep silence at such a time even we are rural people? Now, let's shout together 'long live Korean independence'!"

When the police fired, the demonstration march turned to a riot. People destroyed the police station, post office and town office. Gwan-Sun saw her parents were shot by the Japanese police and die during the riot. She lost her temper and rushed to the police captain.
"Bring back my parents, this son of a bitch!"
She shouted at him.

The police questioned her about the organizer of demonstration march. She asserted that she planned by herself. In spite of harsh question and torture, she did not change her answer. She was heavily wounded.

She rejected to accept her crime at the court. She yelled at the Japanese judge;
"You Japs are robbers. I just fought with robbers as a good Korean. I committed no crime. I have no reason to be tried by you barbarians!"
She threw a chair at him shouting "Japs go home!"

She was sentenced to seven years' imprisonment. She never stopped protesting against Japan. On the first anniversary of March 1 demonstration, she organized prisoners to shout 'long live Korean independence!' in the jail house. She was tortured harshly for this activity.

Her body was damaged disparagingly. She prayed;
"My God! Please give our people an early independence, and let Japan fall. Please punish Japan really severely..."
She died in prison on 12 October 1920. Her last words were "Japan shall fall."

Yoon Bong-Gil

 Yoon Bong-Gil (1908-1932) was a Korean independence activist who threw a bomb at Japanese military generals. He joined a Korean terrorist group organized by Kim Gu in Shanghai. On 29 April 1932, he carried out a bombing attack at Hongkew Park in Shanghai killing two and hurting many Japanese attendants to celebration of Emperor's birthday. He was sentenced to death and executed on 18 December 1932.

Yoon Bong-Gil arrived at Shanghai in 1931. He attempted to contact with Kim Gu. At that time, Kim was leading a terrorist group called Korea Patriotic Legion. Kim said;
"We need to assassinate some big figures of Japs. We need to terrify the Japs with a gun or a bomb to show that we Korean people are still alive."

Yoon Bong-Gil expressed passionately his wish to Kim Gu;
"I wish nothing but blasting the bomb in my heart. I love peace and I respect Gandhi. I know his non-violent movement showed a great power. However, Japan is not a country of gentlemen like Britain. Japs are the most evil and cruel people on the earth. If we cannot eliminate them, the global peace is never achieved."
Kim accepted Yoon Bong-Gil to his terrorist group.

Yoon Bong-Gil threw his first bomb at the stage of Japanese army celebration of Emperor's birthday. He saw the bomb exploded and Japanese attendants fell down.
"Yes, I did it!"
He shouted in his mind. He was about to commit suicide with the second bomb when he was arrested by the Japanese military police.

Kim Gu

 Kim Gu (1876-1949) was a Korean independence activist who led the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea in China. In March 1896, Kim Gu and four other Koreans murdered a Japanese trader Tsuchida Josuke and robbed his property. However, Kim asserted in his autobiography that he did it alone, he never robbed Tsuchida's property, Tsuchida was actually a military officer, and he was responsible to the murder of Empress Myeongseong. Kim was imprisoned but broke out of jail in 1898.
 Kim exiled himself to Shanghai in 1919 to join the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea. In 1931 he organized a terorrist group "The Korea Patriotic Legion" and sent Lee Bong-chang and Yoon Bong-Gil to terrorist attacks. Kim took the presidency of the government in 1940 in Chongqing. When Japan surrendered to the Allies, the United States did not approve Kim's Provisional Government. Kim and colleagues had to return home as individuals. Kim was assassinated by Ahn Doo-Hee in 1949.

Kim found that man was actually Japanese and hiding a sword under his Korean costume. He thought;
"He must be one who is responsible to the murder of Empress Myeongseong. It's a chance to avenge the death of our empress."
Kim pushed out the Japanese man to fall downstairs on the ground and rushed to him. Kim put his foot on the neck of that Japanese and yelled;
"This is a Jap! I'm killing this son of a bitch to avenge our empress!"
He took away the sword of the Japanese and stabbed him on his body.

Kim Gu checked the Japanese man's luggage and found his name was Tsuchida, a first lieutenant of Japanese army. Tsuchida had 800 ryangs money. He handed it to the inn owner to distribute to poor people. He wrote a notice that it was him that slaughtered the Japanese to avenge the death of empress. He waited the police to come to his home.

In the court of Incheon, he stated;
"We need to take the death of empress very seriously. If we do nothing, Japs will kill your sons and daughters in the future. To avoid this, you must do just like I me. Kill all the Japs that appear in your sights. Live or let the Japs die!"

In 1919, Kim Gu left Korea to join the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea in Shanghai. He organized the Korea Patriotic Legion to assassinate VIPs of Japan. He took the presidency of the government after escaping to Chongqing.

The United States was not impressed by Kim's provisional government and did not approve it. Kim wanted to come back as the legitimate government of Korea but John R. Hodge, the military governor of South Korea, ordered them to return as individuals. Kim worked as one of most important politicians but was assassinated in 1949.

Ugly Japanese and Goodlooking Koreans

 When the comic book Hating the Korean Wave by Yamano Sharin became best seller in Japan, Norimitsu Onishi, a reporter at the New York Times, blamed the differential depiction by the cartoonist.

...The Japanese characters in the book are drawn with big eyes, blond hair and Caucasian features; the Koreans are drawn with black hair, narrow eyes and very Asian features.

Ugly Images of Asian Rivals Become Best Sellers in Japan [The New York Times 2005/11/19]

 Mr. Onishi seems to have intentionally ignored that all the cartoonists differentiate between us and them. Lee Hyeon-Se (2005) gives a good example for Korean version of such an activity.

Ito Hirobumi (1841-1909) was the most important stateman in modern Japan. After taking the position of Prime Minister for four times between 1885 and 1901, he played the key role in establishing the Japan-Korea Annexation Treaty in 1907. He was assasinated by An Jung-Geun in 1909. He is respected in Japan but so much hated in Korean peninsula.

An Jung-Geun (1879-1910) was a Korean independence activist who assassinated Ito Hirobumi. See above.

Yu Gwan-Sun (1902-1920) was a Korean student who organized a demonstration march in 1919. See above.

Saito Makoto (1858-1936) was an Admiral of the Japanese Navy and politician. He took the position of Governor-General of Korea in 1919-1927 and 1929-1931.

"Are you idiots?"

Japanese officials.

"Yes, Sir!"

Japanese Miritary Police.

"Come here! This impudent son of a bitch!"

Yoon Bong-Gil (1908-1932) was a Korean independence activist who threw a bomb at Japanese military generals. See above.

Kim Gu (1876-1949) was a Korean independence activist who led the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea in China. See above.

"Well, you speak Korean."
"What can I help you?"

Japanese students.

Korean students.

"You all follow me!"