Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Korea-Japan Frictions Coming to American Schools

To continue Kyuran's previous post on Korea-Japan relations, I came across these two articles in the Chosun Ilbo about a book that is being read in some middle schools in America. Written by a Japanese-American and supposedly autobiographical, it talks about Korean "atrocities" towards the fleeing Japanese in Korea after Japan lost the war. Reading about the book was enough to irritate me, but I have to give credit to Japan for banning the book. I personally want to read the book and see for myself what she has to say. That should be something!


Erin Robinson said...

The main question I came out of these articles with was, what schools were using this and how were they using it?

I understand why Koreans are touchy about this subject, but in some ways, articles like this just make it worse. By simply stating that "schools in the US" were using the book, it makes it seem like it's a standard text for all schools, which I highly doubt to be the case. I'd be interested to know exactly what schools are using it and in what context. I'm not saying I believe schools should be using it, but the impression given in the article makes it seem much larger than I would imagine it to be.

On the other hand, perception is often all that matters, and if it's perceived that the US is just as complicit in painting the Japanese as the victims, then it could possibly become a contentious issue for US-Korean relations, if someone with an agenda gets ahold of it.

Jaime said...

To get a sense of how this book might be used in classrooms (or at least how a publisher and/or publicist for the author suggests that this book be taught), I found a set of discussion questions and a section about Japanese History on this website about Yoko Kawashima:

This is only one internet site and by no means indicative of what individual teachers are doing in their classrooms. In this guide, the brief Japanese History section mentions that Koreans were denied many human rights but fails to note any violence and oppression. The few discussion questions that address the historical context lead the reader to sympathize with the Japanese as victims.

I also found this teacher's guide from the McDougal Littell textbook company:

Nowhere in this lesson guide is the greater historical context of the Japanese occupation of Korea mentioned. Some activities suggested in this guide ask students to compare the Japanese in Korea at the end of WWII to Japanese-American in internment camps. Without suggesting any additional historical context about the Japanese colonization of Korea, it seems to me that this activity would clearly lead students to perceive the Japanese as victims.