Over on Occidentalism, Marmot's Hole regular Sonagi reviews the latest Japan-related issue to have certain Korean groups and even the Korean government up in arms, namely a memoir by Yoko Kawashima Watkins called "So Far from the Bamboo Grove". Unlike the vast majority of angry netizens who gave the book a single star on Amazon, Sonagi actually bothers to read the thing before passing judgement on it, and the conclusion is ...
As a teacher, I wouldn’t choose this book as a class reading, but there is nothing in the story that justifies banning it, and if I were a librarian, I would add it to the library collection. The book clearly singles out “Korean Communists” as the bad guys, and given that America has no historical animosity towards Korea as a whole, but does towards China and North Korea, the story is more likely to reinforce negative impressions of Communist countries than inspire any prejudice against Koreans or Korean-Americans.How utterly unsurprising. As always, when it comes to matters Japan-related, a large number of Koreans and Korean-Americans require shockingly little to work themselves up into a tizzy of anger and condemnation. An Amazon reviewer by the name Rosemary Redmond puts this episode well:
Shame on koreans, who have bombarded this forum with bigoted thinking. I recommended this book to my students to read to look at history from a different perspective after we had class trip on stories from iwo jima. Pretending you are someone else does not help your cause. Jennifer Diaz? Ann Rose? Morida Takashi? I see a common link, which is equally bad english. You shameful behavior more than proves that your hatred of all things non-korean is horrendous. This forum is for readers, not your political ego.We must of course remember that these idiots don't represent all Koreans or Korean expatriates, but their numbers, their vehemence and the fact that they've been able to mobilize the Korean government and mass media on behalf of such a pointless crusade - even to the point of getting the Korean publisher of this harmless book to cease publishing it - tells you the whole story about South Koreans' relations with their neighbor across the sea. It is always one side which is quick to anger over the most meaningless trifles, one side ready to throw a tantrum over insults and "revisionism" which exist only in its own paranoid imagination, and one side which embraces the most ridiculously sinister portrayals of the intentions of its neighbor, and that side is South Korea, not Japan. One could easily dismiss what I had to say if this were so only with the Japanese, but South Korea's relations with America - and increasingly, even China - are also in the same cantankerous mode, as if a small, divided nation still officially at war with its other half were in any position to be heedlessly antagonizing the major powers surrounding it.
Now, as for the decision by the Korean Foreign Ministry to start making demands for censorship to be carried out in American schools, and this even without its officials having done their elementary homework by actually reading what they were condemning, one hopes this absurd measure will set off a few bells in the heads of Americans the next time one hears the Korean government raising a hue and cry over the contents of Japanese textbooks, as the exact same haste to anger, contempt for educational freedom, disregard of the sovereignty of foreign states, and carelessness about getting the facts right, is at work in both situations.