Author: Committee of the Directory of Pro-Japanese Collaborators
Publisher: Institute of National Issues
Hardcover | 3-vol. set / 3000 pages | 257*188mm
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About This Book
Nation Should Confront History Not to Repeat Mistakes
Can Koreans like the Japanese from the bottom of their hearts? Or can the Korean people overcome the trauma resulting from 35 years of Japan's colonization during the first half of the 20th century? The answer to the two different -- actually the same -- questions will be, "No," at least as long as this nation refuses to face historical facts as they are.
The publication of the "Biographical Directory of Pro-Japanese Collaborators" by a group of private scholars Sunday was significant in this regard as the first step toward the right direction.
It took eight years for the Institute for Research on Collaborationist Activities to finish the three-volume, 3,000-page compilation, which contains the list of 4,389 people, who the publisher says "inflicted physical, material and mental damages, directly and indirectly, on Koreans and other people by positively cooperating with the Japanese imperialists' pillage of sovereignty, colonial rule and war of aggression."
Given the dissent and protests against the list raised by the descendants of those on it as well as the conservative establishment, however, it may take as many years for the book to fully get over all these controversies before being undisputedly recognized as an official record.
And the listing of some figures appears more controversial than others. Take, for instance, former President Park Chung-hee, who wrote a letter of allegiance to the Japanese Imperialist Army in blood, and fought against the Chinese resistance troops, which included some Korean independence fighters. Park's supporters argue the general-turned-president should be taken off the list for his contribution to the nation's industrialization decades later.
Yet, the nation doesn't have to divide all historical figures either as patriots or traitors. Nor should one person's merits be allowed to offset his or her demerits, and vice versa. The same could be said about 20 people, who had been formerly categorized as "contributors to national independence" but were re-classified as collaborators this time.
Still others point out the "inevitability" of circumstances, in which people had few other choices but to cooperate with the colonialists for the survival of their organizations, families or themselves. True, it would be too much to expect every single Korean at the time to become an independence fighter, in which case the nation would not have been annexed by Japan in the first place. The compilers of the list might then consider grading the collaborationists by the gravity of their activities, or at least dividing them into "active" and "passive" groups.
Again, however, there can be no revocation of acts themselves committed by leaders and public figures, as what's done is done.
Critics of the publication also note the ideological bias of its compilers, saying they were too lenient on left-wing leaders, an allegation on which the institute is required to state its stance.
That said, there should be no more ideological wrangle over this issue, as seen by some conservatives' attack on this as a job of the leftists to deny -- or at least weaken -- the legitimacy of the Republic of Korea in comparison with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea in the north. The battle over the superiority of ideology and political system has ended on the Korean Peninsula with the decisive, one-sided victory of South Korea, and no amount of collaborationist lists can shake this country's stability.
If we avoid facing the shameful history as it is, however, we can hardly be free from it. And if Koreans do not recognize what actually happened, how can we demand the Japanese to do so?
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