Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Government to Confiscate Land

This Joongang Ilbo article states that the government will confiscate about $6.7 million worth of land from the heirs of Japanese collaborators. The property will then be given to the heirs of independence fighters.

Although nice in theory, this act is alarming to me. Some of the evidence is more than 100 years old, and it is essentially the heirs of the collaborators, who have done nothing wrong, that are being punished. I can only see two possible justifications for this move: either the government thinks it's ok to punish heirs for violations committed by ancestors, or the land decrees are void due to the illegality of the colonization.

The first would be especially troubling because a free society can't allow a person to be punished due to the actions of others unless there is a fiduciary relationship. These acts took place several generations ago so there is no fiduciary duty. Imagine if we could be personally held accountable for the actions of our ancestors over 100 years ago. Where would the chain of liability end? Could it lead to a de facto caste system for these people?

In a weird way, this reminds me of Larry's earlier post on Cho's grandmother taking responsibility for his actions. But one could kind of understand a parent or grandparent being held responsible for a child's actions (although Cho was obviously not a child). We're talking about people being held responsible for the actions of their great great great great grandfather.

If it's the second reason then the government would have to hold all contracts created during the colonial period void. It would also have to prove that the colonization was illegal. This is not only impossible, but would also lead to absolute chaos.


Will Buck said...

Yeah, I saw this article earlier as well and had a similar reaction. The fact that this deals with something that happened almost a century ago is really baffling. I feel like this just comes from a place I can't relate to at all.

Certainly, a painful history shapes contemporary identity, but there has to be a limit. I'm sure this isn't a thoughtful comparison, but I feel like a personal equivalent would be me going around spewing about "those damn British," seeking justice for my people, (The differences in nationalisms and histories ceratinly explain why I don't do this). Like I said, a poor comparison, but it illustrates just how unjustifiable I find this kind of thing.

One theory to explain this gap in understanding would be...culture (gulp). The whole "group vs. individual" focus of Asian and Western cultures, and a stronger emphasis on family responsibility in Asian society (like the Cho thing) stand out.

My Chinese tutor explained to me that Chinese don't like Japanese b/c (loose translation) "you're grandfather killed my grandfather...unless you apologize personally, I hate you." Of course, culture is a product of history and self-image/identity/nationalism. I'm sure we'll get to it next week.

Erin Robinson said...

I wrote about this in my last paper for this class. It ties into the concept of "settling history" that we read so much about. I think part of the desire is to punish these people for being successful where so many were not. I don't think it's so much a matter of them having made money, though, but rather that they are now considered traitors to the Korean nation. And in that sense, maybe they believe it's acceptable to punish the children of traitors? But yes, they've been moving towards this for about a year now, changing laws to allow them to retroactively punish those who profited off the Japanese colonialization. In my paper, I described it as a function of the desire to purify the nation by excising those who were considered collaborators and therefore traitors. I don't know if I'm right, but that's how I conceptualized it. And I'm with both Sean and Will in that I think it's wrong and against the democratic principles, but it seems to be a movement with a lot of support, so I'm not sure they will stop. But how do they determine who all needs to be punished? At what point do they stop?