Fight details with detailsGunhamdo, or Hashima, is a special place for Japan. It illustrates the history of Japan working hard to attain modernization. It is the reason why Japan’s right wing wants to erase the history of the Koreans who were forced to work on the island and died of hunger and excessive labor.
Japan and Japanese people are good with details. Anti-Korean far-rightists don’t miss errors and mistakes. They use the errors to deny brutality during the Japanese colonial period, such as forced labor. Earlier this month, a promotional video screened in Times Square in New York used the wrong photo, and the Japanese rightists responded as expected. They insist that Japanese people were mistakenly depicted as Koreans in order to fabricate history. They are denying historical facts proven through countless testimonies and documents.
However, we need to take a note here. The same photo has been used by the media as a symbol of forced labor in Gunhamdo. Even a national public facility displays this photo with the wrong caption. A mistakenly cited image was repeatedly used without verification and was considered to be valid.
The fundamental problem is that we lack research and historical records on Japan’s compulsory mobilization. Japan has actually done more research on the history of forced mobilization, including Hashima.
A research paper on the labor conditions of the Koreans who were forced to work was published in the 1970s. A civil group in Nagasaki Prefecture was the first to find records of Korean casualties. Korea’s research has a long way to go. The only government-level study was a fact-finding report published in May 2012, and it was based on the findings of a Japanese civil group. That’s why the report is labeled “basic research.” It is not that researchers lack competency or passion. The research environment is so poor that they have had a hard time accessing existing materials. There are criticisms that useful materials such as the list of victims brought from Japan with taxpayers’ money are kept in the National Archive storage and not made available to the researchers.
Japan is persistent with fabricating and distorting history. We can clear their fabricated claims by approaching them with logical arguments with facts rather than sentiment. We need to fight details with details.
JoongAng Ilbo, July 28, Page 29
*The author is an international news reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.