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Forgive and Forget? Not Quite the Korean Way…

Interesting finding, courtesy of and The Marmot's Hole.

Check out the following responses from a survey that was televised on Japanese TV in 2004. It juxtaposes how the Japanese view Koreans and vice versa.


What is quickly evident, even in a glance, is the significant disparity in how they view one another. The majority of Japanese view Koreans as "Partners" (56.1%); an even greater percentage of Koreans view the Japanese as "Rivals" (62.9%). The following screenshot (from the same source) shows a ordinal list of how Koreans ranked a list of countries under "Like" or Dislike" or "Favorable" or "Unfavorable". As we can see again, Japan ranks most unfavorable by a longshot.


Now I know that there is a great deal of animosity from the Japanese occupation of Korea (1895-1945), but what is amazing to me is how this statistic compares to the percentages of Christians in Korea versus that of Japan. It's not so evident that our faith speaks louder than our cultural hate. It just begs the question, doesn't it? I mean, if Koreans doa great deal of missionary work and have the largest churches, shouldn't our faith speak to our culture about how we should forgive?

Even with the recent World Baseball Classic where Korea and Japan played an incredibly intense series of games, it was evident that this rivalry runs a lot deeper than baseball.

If we have never seen Christian forgiveness modeled here from the first generation perspective, will we truly grasp what that means to forgive and forget in real and measureable ways?

Many years ago, as a waiter in a sushi bar (where the Japanese sushi chef had married a Korean), I served a Japanese student who asked me how I felt about the Japanese. I told him that I know there is animosity in the generation of my father, but I didn't know any Japanese personally (other than my boss). He told me that he was sorry for what his people had done to mine. I nodded and told him things would be different with us.

When I relayed that conversation with my boss, Hajime-san, we had a real candid conversation. And finally he turned to me and asked me point-blank, "Do you want to know what the problem with Koreans is?"

"Do tell."

"If a Japanese guy fights another guy. He loses, but then he says, 'OK, you're better than me. I follow you.' But if a Korean guy fights some guy and he loses. He doesn't even acknowledge. He won't tell anyone, and he will fight another day. In his mind, he says, 'I will never let you beat me.' That's what the problem is."

I was speechless. "You're right, Hajime-san. You are right."

And statistically, he's right. But I want him to be wrong. Things will be different with us, for the love of God, they will be.


About David Park

Christian 2nd-generation Korean American; Atlanta Georgia; more details to come.

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