Thursday, February 08, 2007

New project update

So I have been very happy with the moderate amount of attention that my translation blog has been getting on the English language Korea-related blogosphere, and I've been fascinated at the amount of information that others have put forward on the subject of antisemitism in Korea. Someone commenting on The Marmot's Hole says that the first books in the series were more academic, but that when the author started writing about Japan and Korea he started to go off the rails, and the quality of the information in his books started slipping. Interesting theory that I'm not in a position to judge. So many people have added their own stories of people in Korea launching into tirades about the Jews, all similar to what I myself have heard. I recently met a Korean guy who had lived in Philadelphia for many years before moving to Korea to open those deli stands you may have seen in some Hyundai Department Stores (basically the only place in Korea where you can buy nice fresh turkey). When I told this guy I was from Long Island the first thing he said was "You're not a Jew, are you?" When I told him I wasn't he said (exact quote) "Those Jew-boys give you a lot of trouble?"
It's anecdotes like that that I actually want to keep off the Reading Monnara project. I want the text being presented as fact to speak for itself without any question of "Is Korea antisemitic?" The bottom line is that the author and the book are antisemitic, and that's all that I can say with authority.
One more thing that I can say with authority is that these books are popular. I busted out my copy at a memorial service (제사) last night and it passed around the room for an hour, ans everybody there, all the old folks and not-so-old folks alike declared it interesting and fun to read. All the more reason to fight it.
As for my personal opinion about Korean antisemitism (a topic I definitely don't think is appropriate for Reading Monnara), I suspect that the reason many Koreans are attracted to the concept is that it allows them to hate elements of the West and at the same time consider those elements foreign even to the West. Rhie Won-bok's book blames all the wars in Europe, slavery, colonialism and the decimation of the Native Americans on the Jews. In his book, "WASPs" (he doesn't seem comfortable with the fact that many white Americans and nearly everybody in my home town are not WASPs) are the helpless puppets of Jewish financiers. See, they're victims like us, so it's OK to identify with them even as we hate elements of their country. Because those elements are the Jews' fault.

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