A book Anti-Japan Tribalism (2019), which claims that Japanese military sexual slaves during the Japanese occupation period were willing prostitutes, has been the bestseller for three weeks in Kyobo Book Centre. As some politicians posted negative reviews on the book, the book became famous for its harsh criticism, not for its favorable reviews. The book's five co-authors make claims that justify the colonial view of Korean history. It is unfortunate that there are some who distort and even mock such a painful history.
A site called “Lee Seung-man School,” has a number of videos that show a pro-Japanese tendency and reveal a number of cases that they use as evidence for their claim that hardships in the colonization period were not actually done by Japanese force. One example is a video named “Was It Really Sex Slavery?” where Professor Lee Yeong-hoon (Department of Economics, Seoul National University), claims that “Korean comfort women for Japanese soldiers were basically a small business of Korean girls chosen by their own will.” It is somewhat misleading to disregard the tragic stories of Korean women that had to go through such violent and harsh situations. The site and the videos uploaded raise serious controversies in that they mislead people to certain historical viewpoints.
It is true that the interpretation and viewpoints toward history could differ from scholars and people. However, distorting the historical fact itself is something to be rejected. For instance, when faced the history of colonization, some people would try to sympathize with the victims of hard labor, while others try to analyze a step behind what happened and why did it happen. The matter of attitudes toward history is quite hard to be intervened but changing historical facts with insufficient evidences should surely be rejected in that it could hurt people who are directly or indirectly involved.
The problem is some people try a bit of distortion based on their own interests. For instance, according to Yonhap Television News (YTN), a nongovernmental organization called International Chartered Governance Institute (ICSA) has afforded most of the cost Professor Lee Woo-yeon (Institute of Economic Research, Naksung University) needed when he took part in the conference at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, Switzerland on August 1. Some professors in Korea get financial help from Japan and do research that describes history of colonization in favor of the country which colonized their own country. This can be seen as relating history with their own interest, which needs to be carefully avoided.
No matter whether people view history rationally or emotionally, what is needed is the pursue of historical truth. Scholars and intellectuals should go towards the high height of truthfulness at the head of nations, and people should also try to care more about honesty when talking about history. Furthermore, it would be much better to have courage to make voices claiming for rightness and justice when someone talks about incorrect history.
According to YTN, on August 27, the foreign minister of Japan Taro Kono said at a press conference, “If South Korea wants to change history, they need to know that it is impossible.” However, history is not something to be changed. History is something to be analyzed with accurate evidence and studies. The reason for an in-depth analysis is to avoid repeating painful history and to take the responsibility for inhumane history. People need to know that the purpose of learning history is not trying to figure out how to make use of historical facts for one’s own interest. A more empathetic attitude would also help in understanding history and at least would not make one mock the past.