[VIEWPOINT]Events to celebrate Japan’s invasion

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[VIEWPOINT]Events to celebrate Japan’s invasion

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and the Rural Development Administration are going to launch large-scale events to commemorate “the centennial of the modernization of Korea’s agriculture” from Aug. 30 until Sept. 3 at the expense of some billions of won (millions of dollars).
It is a commemorative feast to express our gratitude toward Japan for the establishment of an agricultural industry promotion center which was called “Gwoneopmobeomjang” in 1906, one hundred years ago.
The venue for the event is the Rural Development Administration, located near Seoho Lake in Seodun-dong, Suwon, Gyeonggi province. This place is famous for the historical fact that King Jeongjo of the Joseon Dynasty, after creating a model innovative town called “Hwaseong” in Suwon, made various agricultural experiments there and tried to develop advanced agricultural techniques by creating a model farmland called “Seodun,” west of Suwon, and a reservoir called “Seoho.”
After imperial Japan annexed Korea, it established an agency in Suwon to plunder Korea’s agriculture. The government defined that agency as the predecessor of the Rural Development Administration.
In the geographical names such as “Seodun-dong” and “Seoho,” we can find the vestiges of King Jeongjo’s will to modernize Korean agriculture. At the site of the agricultural reform, where King Jeongjo devoted all his efforts before he died, there still stands the monument that was established to commemorate the king.
And that is the place where the College of Agriculture and Life Science of Seoul National University had been located until a few years ago.
The organizers say that the modernization of Korea’s agriculture started with the establishment of the Japanese agency and that the event is in commemoration of its establishment.
If that is the case, “the bicentennial seminar on the studies of Korean agriculture” that was held in 1999 by the Rural Development Administration and the Agriculture College of Seoul National University in commemoration of the bicentennial of the establishment of “Seodun” and “Seoho,” and the fact that they took pride in the boastful history of Korea’s agricultural tradition, will be null and void.
Imperial Japan, while justifying its invasion of the Korean Peninsula, taught us that the occupation was to give favor to the Korean people and that the annexation was for the development and modernization of Korea. The colonial historical view of denying and distorting our history has penetrated into almost all areas of our society.
It is, of course, manifest that imperial Japan, which denied that Korea could reform, behaved as if Korea’s agricultural modernization was an achievement they accomplished.
The problem is that some sham intellectuals, who have blindly followed the propaganda of imperial Japan, still exercise their influence and mislead the flow of our country’s history.
The typical examples are the contradictory commemorative ceremonies on agricultural development, as mentioned above. This is what actually happens behind the scenes of the so-called “campaign to rewrite history in a right way.”
The way that the Japanese agency Gwoneopmobeomjang was established at the site of King Jeongjo’s model experimental farm is similar to the way the Japanese colonial government building was built in the Gyeongbok Palace, then becoming the building that housed Korea’s government.
However, no one says that South Korea’s government succeeded the Japanese colonial government, because of the fact that the government was once housed in the same building that used to be the head office of the Japanese colonial government.
Moreover, it is unthinkable that we hold a commemorative ceremony praising the Japanese invasion as a favor that helped modernize Korea. The historical perception of our society is as vulnerable as to miss this simple logic.
A few days ago, on Liberation Day, President Roh Moo-hyun questioned the historical consciousness of the Japanese prime minister. He said that his visit to the Yasukuni shrine was equal to justifying imperial Japan’s invasion of its neighboring countries.
Two weeks after that, Mr. Roh’s own administration planned to glorify imperial Japan’s invasion at a place where our ancestors’ proud agricultural reform was pursued and trodden down ruthlessly by the Japanese imperialists.
The level of historical perception of a government should not be this poor. The government should be more discreet in the pursuit of “rewriting history in a right way” by equipping itself with “fair and balanced historical understanding.”

* The writer is a professor of Korean history at Hanshin University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Yoo Bong-hak
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