Wednesday, November 18, 2009
The Collaborators with the Japanese?
It is the victors that write the histories that we read, much of it doctored by those who write it, sometimes knowingly and sometimes not. The way the Japanese write about Korea is quite different from Korean understanding of itself.
During the years 1910 to 1945 of the Japanese occupation 4,389 Koreans, are listed as collaborators in a new Encyclopedia that was printed. In the words of the publishers: " they inflicted physical, material and mental damage on Koreans."
In the list were 7 Catholics, one bishop, 4 priests and 2 layman. The bishop was the first bishop of Seoul, (Paul) Ro Ki-nam , (John) Chang Myon was prime minister from 1960-1961 a Catholic lay leader. The publishers mentioned that a major consideration of listing the collaborators was how much they actively, voluntarily and consistently cooperated with Japan.
Working in the country I remember hearing about members of the parish who worked as policemen under the Japanese. They were often leaders in the community but there was always some one to tell me of their past. It is important that we look for the truth and make this known. Autopsies are unpleasant but at times necessary, but as with all things it is the prejudice of the truth tellers that often colors what is said and often the reason for dismisal of what is 'uncovered'.
It is important for a country to be honest about its past but it is human nature to hide what is embarrassing to the country and speak loud and clear about what is its glory. This is true of all groups be they family , church, societies or countries.
In parish work I can remember stories of those who sympathized with North Korea and how many of them suffered at the hands of those in the South. Communism was the devil and this was so much part of the thinking that many atrocities were committed in the name of anti- Communism. This was after the defeat of the Japanese and the division of the country into North and South. Many of these were independence fighters against the Japanese with strong sympathy for the North.
As Catholics it is always a problem on how to balance forgiveness with truth. Knowing all the truth makes it easier to be merciful but most of the time we only know partial truth. We have been taught to forgive and when wrong doing is acknowledged, this is not difficult. Some of those who are listed in the book of collaborators can't say anything to defend themselves and how many of them would in a court of law be acquitted is anybody's guess. It is part of our Korean history and there is much more of that history that we are still not prepared to face. The time is still not ripe.