Naming namesBy announcing the names of 4,776 people who will be included in a who’s who list of Japanese collaborators during the period of colonial rule (1910-1945), the Institute for Research in Collaborationist Activities and the publication committee for a biographical dictionary, both private groups, have stirred up controversy.
“It is intended to be a stern look back based on objective truths, so that the mistakes of the past are not repeated,” the publication committee said.
Of course, accepting a title or a rank of nobility from Japan or selling the country to Japan are undeniably collaborationist activities, and such acts deserve the judgment of history.
However, some people had no choice, or had acted based on the belief that colonial rule was their reality, and they should be looked at with understanding. When unavoidable actions of the past are judged by today’s eyes, it is no wonder that the concerned people feel victimized. Most of the people named on the list have already died, and they don’t have an opportunity to defend their actions.
The focus of the controversy is why those people were selected as collaborators. The publication committee said they were “those who actively cooperated with the Japanese imperialist deprivation of Korea’s sovereignty, colonial rule and invasive wars, and subsequently caused physical, monetary and emotional losses to Koreans and other races.” However, the list included all the people who worked as judges, prosecutors, governors, military officers and senior government officials during the colonial period.
It is wrong to use the same standard indiscriminately without taking into account the specifics of their jobs and their actions. Furthermore, the cultural and artistic figures named on the list were judged by different standards depending on their genre, be it music, fine arts or literature. We wonder whether the selection was really fair.
This is a serious issue because those named and their descendents will suffer unimaginable damage to their reputation. Of those listed, many later contributed greatly in founding the Republic of Korea and developing the nation. If they are all labeled as pro-Japanese collaborators, how can we possibly protect and maintain this country’s legitimacy?
The publication committee argued that the list is for academic purposes. If so, only those whose active collaboration was confirmed should have been named. If not, this is nothing more than a political act.