[FORUM]Japan scholar serves as model

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[FORUM]Japan scholar serves as model

Professor Yuji Hosaka of Sejong University, who was naturalized as a Korean citizen two years ago, is a unique person. He is 49 years old and was born in Tokyo. After graduating from Tokyo National University, he made up his mind one day that he would jump into research on historic relations between Korea and Japan.
He gave up metal engineering which he majored in for four years, and also turned down a management position at his father’s company. He even gave up the opportunity to grow up as a successful engineer at first-class corporations like his college friends did. He gave them all up because of his fascination with history studies that he cherished since his high school days. He studied Korean on his own and started to study Korea-Japan relations out of his belief that “my ancestors must have come from the Korean Peninsula.”
Watching the lives of the Korean-Japanese around him, he concentrated on studying the background of Japan’s invasion of Asia. He even organized a Korean poem recital group with his friends.
Then, one day he fell in love with a Korean girl who attended the recitals. He managed to marry the girl in 1986 despite fierce opposition from his family and thought that he was destined to love Korea. He passionately studied Korea-Japan relations and got his master’s and doctorate degrees at Korea University with theses titled “A Study on the Background of Japan’s Invasion of Korea (1995)” and “The People Assimilation Policy of Japanese Imperialism (2000).” And then he chose to become a Korean citizen without hesitation.
His three brothers were worried that their brother, a bright Tokyo University graduate with a bright future ahead, took the wrong path in life since he married a Korean woman and then tried to become a Korean citizen. They opposed his naturalization plan fiercely, but they couldn’t change his mind. The only thing they could agree on was that they would keep his Korean citizenship a secret from their aging father because of the shock it would give him.
The reason I take time to explain Professor Hosaka’s life story is to make you understand how different the background of his Japanese studies is from that of Korean scholars. He speaks whatever he wants to say on Japan’s distortion of history. He is thorough and corroborative when it comes to history research and analysis.
That is why his studies of Japan’s territorial claim of the Dokdo islands hold up. He not only analyzed the old maps of Japan, but he also analyzed all recent maps published by the National Geographical Institute of the Japanese government.
The result is a study showing that Dokdo was not included as Japanese land from the Meiji administration until 1988. (The study is published in the July issue of NEXT).
Japan’s reaction to this study was huge. There were groups that called Professor Hosaka a traitor, but there were a lot of Internet users who said they were surprised to see the evidence he produced. He immediately started to respond to the criticisms of the Japanese government and readers one by one and resumed debates on historic issues. He uses hidden historical data to expose the fabrication of Japanese awareness.
There is definitely a difference between Professor Hosaka’s attitude to research and those of Korean historians. One Korean professor declined to give an answer when he was asked to historically analyze his contention that Dokdo is part of Korean territory. He did not so much as decline to answer as he ran away from the debate.
Another scholar got the media’s attention when he produced some unreliable evidence and had failed to unfold his view logically. Korean people were too fragmentary and shallow in their research.
One Korean professor clung to an anti-Japan report that was totally emotional. One elder professor ignored young scholars who objected to his Dokdo theory by saying, “What bad-mannered people...” and tried to clamp down on the freedom of study and the freedom of speech.
The field of history studies in Korea is not free from the criticism that there are sanctuaries, whether right or wrong.
Professor Hosaka’s study on Dokdo and other historic studies were all done by first approaching all the information he could find both in Korea and Japan. That is why a reasonable and logical discussion is possible.
However the studies of some Korean scholars are disposable, emotional and caught up in preconceptions. They are also lazy in their research.
All this just stresses the reality that they are not supported well. That is why a few heated arguments soon show us how shallow their studies are.
Nothing much has changed in 10 years or even 20 years. This is the area where the Korean government and history scholars have to reflect on themselves.
Professor Hosaka’s “anti-Japan” stance looks lonely. However, his sincere attitude to study Japan in a Japanese way, while standing firmly on Korean soil, catches our eye.

* The writer is the editor-in-chief of the monthly magazine NEXT. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.


by Choi Chul-joo
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