[FOUNTAIN]'Joseon animals' live on?

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[FOUNTAIN]'Joseon animals' live on?

In 1907, when Korea's Joseon Dynasty was on the road to ruin, a newspaper here reported with anger the "Joseon animal" scandal. A living man and woman from Joseon were displayed at an exposition in Tokyo as if they were rare animals. The reports said Japanese visitors to the exposition giggled and commented on the pair. The people from Joseon looked like savages to Japanese and Europeans.

The third Summer Olympics held in St. Louis in the United States in 1904 put on two days of special games under the name of "Anthropology Days." The games were called an experiment to see whether "savages" could adapt themselves to modern sports. Various tribes from all over the world, including native North Americans and pygmies from Africa, competed in the games. The incident stained the history of the Olympics.

Julia Pastrana, a Mexican Indian, had an ugly face and a body covered with black hair. She was talked by a showman into touring with him as an object of interest in the United States. Then she went to London and satisfied the curiosity of Europeans as "a hybrid born of a human being and an orangutan." She died from complications of childbirth in 1859. Her similarly hairy and deformed baby boy died shortly before she did. After their death, the showman mummified the two bodies and then resumed his tour, showcasing both bodies. Pastrana served as a plaything for 110 years, living and dead, until the 1970s.

Saartjie Baartman, born in South Africa in 1789 among the Khoisan people called "Hottentots" by the Dutch, lived a similar life. She was discovered by a British doctor, who took an interest in her large buttocks and other sexual characteristics. The doctor persuaded her to go with him to London. She was moved from circuses to museums to bars in Europe, exhibited like a beast as the "Hottentot Venus." She died six years later. French scientists dissected her body and exhibited parts of it in a museum. In 1995, the Khoisan asked for the return of her body. According to the news agency Agence France Presse, her body, once humiliated as a "human exhibit," was finally transferred to the Republic of South Africa. The country plans to bury her body in her native place and to establish a memorial hall.

Are the tragedies of the "Joseon animal" or Saartjie Baartman now only old stories? People have not ceased to discriminate against those who are "different from us" even today.

The writer is a deputy international news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Noh Jae-hyun

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