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Professor under fire for praise of Japan

Mar 06,2005
A magazine article by a retired professor who wrote in praise of Japan’s colonial rule in Korea has ignited a firestorm in academic circles and among the public, leading last night to the professor’s resignation from Korea University.
In a contribution to Seiron, a monthly publication put out by the Sankei Shimnun newspaper, Hahn Sung-joe, a professor emeritus at Korea University, argued Japan’s occupation of Korea from 1910 to 1945 should be regarded as a godsend.
“The fortunate part about the occupation of Korea is that it was Japan that had colonized the peninsula,” Mr. Hahn wrote. “It was rather a blessing for Korea.”
In the article and afterwards in an interview with Korean media, Mr. Hahn said that the early 1900s were a period of fierce competition among regional powers in Asia.
“At the time, if Japan had not occupied Korea, Russia would have done so,” the prominent 75-year-old politics professor said. “If it were Russia, the Korean Peninsula would have been communized. Korean people would have been dispersed under Stalin’s policies. Therefore, I think Japan’s colonial rule rather reinforced Koreans’ awareness and nationalism.”
Mr. Hahn said Korean nationalism had risen during the colonial rule, and it was Japanese scholars and their Korean disciples who had built the foundation of Korean studies.
He urged Koreans to stop making compensation claims for Japan’s use of Korean women as sex slaves during World War II. He said the episode was only temporary and an exceptional case that had done no great damage.
Following the publication of the article, originally written in Korean and then translated and printed in Japanese, fierce attacks erupted in Korea against the professor. Civic groups, even conservative organizations, said Mr. Hahn’s views were inappropriate.
“A Korean academic has provided opportunities to Japan’s ultra right-wing politicians to continue their thoughtless claims,” said Kang Ju-hye, secretary-general of the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan.
The Free Citizens Alliance of Korea, a league of the nation’s 43 conservative civic groups, held a press conference yesterday to denounce Mr. Hahn’s position.
Mr. Hahn was the co-chairman of the group but resigned from the post becuase of the uproar. He also stepped down from the his univesity post.


by Baek Il-hyun, Ser Myo-ja


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