Saturday, 25 September 2010

The prickly relationship with Japan

Rob McGovern, Jeonbuk Ilbo, September 24th 2010 ‘ Japan’

There are many great things about living in Korea, many of which I have mentioned in these very pages but Korea’s geographical location in the heart of East Asia makes it the perfect base for exploring the rest of this wonderful continent and the closest country is one of Korea’s longest  and fiercest foes, Japan.

Many expatriates in Korea, myself included learn may things bout Korea and the Korean people  very soon after arriving here and maybe chief amongst them is Korea’s dislike of Japan. That is not to say that all Koreans dislike Japan, the many many Koreans I have overheard in super markets and restaurants in Japan testify to that but as a generalisation and if we were to sum up our experiences in Korea many expats would mention that Korea has some problems with Japan.

Many more of us expats know why this relationship exists but for me personally that does not fully explain why the attitude is still so prevalent in 2010, especially amongst the youngest Koreans.

As the roads were getting clogged with people travelling around Korea to meet up with family members to celebrate Chuseok I was on a bus bound for Busan with the intention of getting on the Beetle ferry to Fukuoka in Japan. I have been to Japan on 5 different occasions now and I have loved every single minute of it.

After World War 2 the attitude to Germany was understandably hostile but now, over 60 years later Germany is only regarded as the home of the Nazi party by the most ignorant and insular people. I understand that wounds inflicted by that period on people who are still around today will never fully heal, much like Koreans who suffered at the hands of the Japanese these feelings and prejudices should not be passed on to future generations. I have been to Germany and I love it, a wonderful and beautiful country with great food and beer and some of the most delightful people I have ever met.

The attitude in Japan to Korea was similar with previous generations but that is changing too and the owner of the hostel in Fukuoka I talked to about this told me that his parents’ generation were no great fans of Korea but he likes Korea, has been to Seoul and Busan and like lots of Japanese people he really enjoys Korean barbecue. He mentioned he likes the spicy aspect of Korean food and likes kimchi too (which incidentally I saw was on sale in lots of convenience stores.)

There are a few things that Korea and Japan could learn from each other especially from my perspective as a tourist, albeit a long term tourist in Korea. Japan is the cleanest country in the world, it is certainly the cleanest country I have ever visited and it really does make for a much more pleasant experience and being British I very much enjoy the Japanese attitude to queuing. Small queues form at the doors to every subway or bus stop and people patiently wait for people to disembark before calmly walking onto the subway, bus, train or boat. In Korea there is more of an ‘every man for themselves’ attitude. This was hard to come to terms with when I first arrived because as a British man, I would always allow older people and those with children to go in front of me, but in Korea before I get the chance to be a gentleman people are usually pushing me out of their way.

The Japanese could learn a thing or two from Korea too, particularly when it comes to eating and communicating. Eating and drinking out in Korea is a very pleasurable experience and more often than not the food is delicious and inexpensive. It is for this reason that Korean food has formed the cornerstone of my love affair with Korea. In Japan the food is also delicious but it is more expensive to go to restaurants with a carefree attitude, especially as the menu is almost impossible to decipher if you cannot read Japanese. Which brings me to my next point about Korea and Japan, the language. As I have mentioned before Hangeul is a great creation and has made my time in Korea much better as I am now able to read, particularly menus and therefore understand what I have ordered and how much the bill is likely to come to (my mother instilled a sense of economical responsibility in me from an early age!) in Japan this is not really possible and it makes me sad to think I have missed out on so many wonderful dishes.

If you have any reservations about Japan go and see for yourself just like the tour groups that were on the boat going to Japan and the different one that was on the boat back.


한국에서 살면서 나는 여러 멋진 경험들을 할 수 있었다. 한국은 동아시아의 중심에 자리잡고 있어 주변 나라로의 여행이 용이한데, 그 중에서도 한국에서 가장 가까운 나라이자 길고 긴 숙적 관계인 일본을 자유자재로 여행할 수 있는 완벽한 기반을 제공한다. 한국 사람들이 가족을 만나기 위해 고향으로 떠난 이번 추석에 나는 일본 후쿠오카로 가는 배를 타기 위해 부산으로 향하는 버스에 올랐다.
나를 포함한 한국에 있는 많은 외국인들은 한국이 가지고 있는 일본에 대한 반감을 잘 알고 있다. 물론, 모든 한국인들이 일본을 싫어하는 것은 아니지만 일반적으로 우리가 한국에서 겪었던 경험들을 종합해 봤을 때 많은 외국인들이 한국이 분명 일본과 문제가 있다고 말할 것이다.
우리 외국인들은 한국과 일본이 왜 이런 관계에 놓였는지 알고 있지만, 나는 개인적으로 2010년 현재까지 특히 한국의 가장 어린 층에서도 일본에 대한 이런 감정이 널리 퍼져있는 것을 완전히 이해하지는 못하겠다.
세계 2차대전 후 세상의 독일에 대한 태도는 적개심에 불타올랐고, 이는 충분히 수긍할만한 것이었다. 그러나 60여 년 후인 지금, 독일은 대부분의 무관심하거나 편협한 사람들에 의해 나치당의 근원지로서 여겨지고 있을 뿐이다. 일본의 손 아래 수모를 겪은 한국인들처럼, 오늘날 아직도 살아있는 그 시기에 고통 받은 사람들의 상처가 절대 완전히 치유될 수 없다는 것은 안다. 그러나 이런 감정이나 편견이 미래의 세대에까지 전해져서는 안 된다. 나는 독일에 가본 적이 있는데, 나는 그 때 맛있는 음식들과 맥주, 그리고 내가 이제껏 만나본 가장 유쾌한 사람들이 있는 아름다운 그 나라를 좋아하지 않을 수 없었다.
일본의 한국에 대한 태도도 이전의 세대와 비슷하긴 하지만, 이 또한 바뀌는 중이다. 후쿠오카의 한 호텔 주인은 그의 부모세대에는 한국을 좋아하는 사람이 없지만 자기는 한국을 좋아한다고 말했다. 또한 서울과 부산에 가본 적이 있으며 다른 일본인들처럼 한국의 매운 음식과 김치, 불고기를 즐겨먹는다고 했다.
나는 관광객이라는 입장의 관점에서, 한국과 일본은 서로 배울 수 있는 점들이 있다고 생각한다. 일본은 세계에서 가장 깨끗한 나라이며, 일본인들의 줄서기 문화는 훌륭하다. 모든 지하철이나 버스 정류장의 문 앞에서 사람들은 침착하게 지하철, 버스, 기차, 또는 보트에 타기 전에 참을성 있게 다른 사람들이 내리는 것을 기다린다.
한국에서는 '자신이 최우선'이라는 경향이 있는 듯 하다. 내가 처음 한국에 도착했을 때, 나는 이런 태도를 받아들이기가 힘들었다. 나는 언제라도 연장자나 아이들과 함께 있는 사람에게 나의 앞자리를 양보하려 했지만, 내가 신사가 될 수 있는 기회를 얻기도 전에 사람들은 보통 나를 밀치고 가버리곤 했다.
일본 또한 한국으로부터 몇 가지 배울 점이 있다. 특히 먹는 것이나 의사소통을 하는 것에 대한 것을 들 수 있다. 한국에서 먹고 마시는 것은 매우 즐거운 경험이며, 대부분의 경우 음식은 맛있고 비싸지도 않다. 이는 내가 한국의 음식과 사랑에 빠지게 된 이유이기도 하다. 일본의 음식도 맛있긴 하지만, 너무 비싸서 편한 마음으로 식당에 가는 것이 어렵다. 특히 일본어를 읽지 못한다면 메뉴에 써 있는 것이 무슨 뜻인지 알 수 조차 없다. 그 다음으로 내가 꼽은 점은 한국과 일본의 언어에 관한 것이다. 내가 이전에 언급했듯이, 한글은 위대한 창조물이며, 읽는 것을 쉽게 배울 수 있어서 특히나 메뉴 같은 것을 읽을 수 있게 되어, 내가 한국에서 훨씬 나은 시간을 보낼 수 있도록 해주었다. 따라서 나는 내가 무엇을 주문 했는지 알 수 있고, 어느 정도 계산해야 할지도 대충 알 수 있다. 일본에서는 이런 일은 거의 불가능해서 내가 먹을 기회가 있었던 많은 맛있는 음식들을 놓친 것 같은 느낌에 뭔가 아쉬울 때가 많다.
한국과 일본이 안좋은 감정으로 서로를 부정적으로 바라보기 보다는 이제는 서로의 좋은 점을 배워가며 발전해 가는 동반자적 입장이 되길 바란다.
번역 정보빈

Rob McGovern, 전북일보, 2010년 9월 24일 ‘ 한국과 일본’

Originally published in Korean by the Jeonbuk Ilbo newspaper and translated by Bobin Jung

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think some of the reasons why some Koreans continue to have lingering hostile feelings towards Japan have been reciprocated feelings and also lack of closure for lack of better words. The first part I mean is that there are still people in Japan that have hostile feelings towards Korea. A recent event came up during a soccer game where some Japanese fans hung flags of Korea during its occupation time. As vengeance begets vengeance so does hate. Some Korean friends I have that are sadly anti-Japanese are usually felt so as a response from hateful comments from Japan to Korea. The second one which I was thinking was reflected on your comparison to Germany. The problem though is with Germany, their actions were transparent compared to Japan's. Where Germany in a way, apologized for the Nazi actions, Japan still feigns ignorance on their holocaust actions as well to Korea, China(lot of Chinese people have anti-Japanese sentiment as well), etc. By not even acknowledging their crimes and STILL retaining a vast amount of Korean artifacts and treasures, it still flares some anger. However, I have no hate for Japan, just the people behind what happened before. I hope as well, that people realize that times have changed and the people once hated, are not the same. The Korean friends that have anti-Japanese sentiments I mentioned before are sadly young, and is due to the first problem of some Japanese people still being racist as well. I hope they will learn that those Japanese people are racist, and not Japan in general. Anyways just my thoughts on it.

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