The tense history between South Korea and Japan

About a week ago an NBC analysts commented on the relationship between South Korea and Japan. According to the New York Times the analyst aid “a country which occupied Korea from 1910 to 1945, but every Korean will tell you that Japan is a cultural, technological, and economic that has been so important to their own transformation.” This angered many South Korean’s and goes to show that you should know a little background about a country before you talk about it or when you start to show interest in it.

Since you’re here, I’m assuming you are interested in Korean culture to some extent. One of the most important things to know about Korea is their history with Japan. This is important because if you say the wrong thing like the analyst from NBC, it can land you in hot water.

From 1910 – 1945, before the Korean peninsula was divided, Japan had rule over Korea. During this time Korean’s were pressured into taking Japanese names, and their culture was largely blocked according to The Korea Times, a Korean newspaper. During specific times during the Japanese rule Koreans were not allowed to speak their own language but were instead forced to speak Japanese.

But one of the most upsetting things that happened under Japanese rule, was the drafting of young Korean women as “comfort women” or sex slaves for Japanese soldiers. Many Koreans still hold a deep resentment for Japan because of this fact. As recently as 2015 there was an agreement reached between South Korea and Japan for Japan to apologize and to give $8.8 million to comfort women survivors, according to the New York Times.

Many South Korean’s did not think this was a sufficient apology on the part of the Japanese government. However current South Korean president Moon Jae-in decided to uphold the agreement in January 2018, even amidst backlash from fellow South Koreans.

Korean Statue
Statue of a Korean Comfort Woman

Today in front of the Japanese embassy there stands a bronze statue of a comfort woman, symbolizing that Koreans still remember, and they want Japan to apologize for the treatment of the women. Though South Korea and Japan are allies politically, there is still tension between the two countries.

You don’t want to go to South Korea, and make a comment about Japan and find yourself facing heavy backlash. This happened to a popular South Korean singer Tiffany Hwang after she posted on snapchat on August 15, 2017 while she was in Japan.

According to news site Soompi, on August 15, which also happens to be National Liberation Day in Korea, Hwang posted a picture on snapchat with a filter that showed the Japanese rising sun symbol. The symbol is associated with Japanese Imperial Rule in South Korea, and many South Koreans were upset with the celebrity after the incident. This ultimately lend to Hwang’s apology and her stepping down from her spot on reality TV show “Sister’s slam dunk.”

No matter where you are on your journey to learning Korean, please keep in mind their history, and try to learn more about the country on your own, so that you don’t find yourself in an awkward situation.



Why Learn Korean?

South Korea used to be a small country that no one knew about, but as their economy grew, so did the outside world’s interest in the county. With its TV k-drama’s, their K-pop music, language, and food becoming more recognized by those outside of South Korea, it is safe to say South Korea has been on the rise in recent years. With this year’s Winter Olympics being held in Pyeongchang, South Korea it doesn’t seem like the rise is stopping.

With South Korea making more of an impact world wide, many people have grown curious about the culture and language, maybe you have to, which is why you are here. Korean language is called hangul, and many more people are beginning to recognize it. The first step to learning any language is being able to read it. Hangul is the Korean alphabet that is used both in South and North Korea. According to zkorean hangul first made an appearance in the 1500’s. It uses 24 characters and upon first look it may seem difficult to understand, as to the untrained eye it may look like a jumble of lines and circles. Most people however can learn hangul within a week.

As South Korea continues to industrialize and make a name for itself, people cannot help but also look at the country to the north, it’s sister country North Korea. North Korea and South Korea use to be one country under the name Korea, but after World War II the country was split. With the winter Olympics taking place in South Korea this year, the two countries are being thrown into the spotlight, and their similarities and differences are becoming more apparent to the world.

Some of these differences include the exact things that have drawn people towards South Korean culture. Things such as music which in South Korea includes the famous Gangnam Style by Psy, and the K-pop group BTS who performed at the 2017 American Music Awards. It includes foods such as kimchi, bulgogi, and Korean barbecue that are steadily growing in popularity throughout the states. It also includes huge brand names that many of you might not have known was based in South Korea. Some of these brand names include the car brand names, Hyundai, and Kia Motors, as well as the phone brand Samsung.

On top of South Korea being a very advanced country and drawing people’s attention to their language through pop culture, and big name industries, learning more about Korea their language can also help better your chances of getting a job, and there are many other reasons to learn Korean as well.

With Korea becoming so big, it may be useful to many in the near future, to learn the language of the country. Though it might seem intimidating, the best place to start is by learning hangul. After that the learning process doesn’t have to be tedious and boring. Use K-pop, TV shows, dramas, movies, even youtubers stationed in Korea to start honing you’re listening, and reading skills today.