Holy shit! Let's get upset about this!
I remember once, a Korean friend of mine told me that Koreans have "han" because Koreans "suffered more than the Jews" through history, what with Korea being invaded, and the miseries of the last century, and all that business. Now, for one thing, yeah, Korea WAS a colony of Japan, and that sucked, and Japan tried to squeeze the Korean language out of existence, by conducting all official affairs, including public education, in Japanese, and that sucked, too. So did the whole comfort women sex-slavery thing. That really, really, really sucked. But two more things about that.
1. Korea had its own land during its entire history. They never spent 2000 years as diaspora. Jews 1, Korea 0.
2.because people commented on this part of the paragraph, I won't take it out; however, I wrote it too quickly, and it's distracting people from the point of this post. Kindly ignore it. Further discussion of this paragraph in the comments will be considered beside the point that North Korea is still running concentration camps and ignored.
But it's not a race to be the country/group that suffered the most, and wearing one's suffering as a badge of honor that way, is trite and kind of asinine (maybe it's easy for me, male WASP, the oppressor himself, to say that... but still, when has a victim complex, and its attendant feelings of helplessness, helped anyone take control of their own situation? Groups/people take control of their destiny DESPITE their victim complex, not because of it.) [edit: add] and claiming that "our suffering is worse that this other group's suffering" is petty, ugly, and treats disrespectfully the suffering of both groups. Is self-pity the best you can do with surveying your country's history? Is it really so important to keep score, that we'll dismiss somebody else's misery, to make us feel better about our own? Isn't there more to be learned from suffering than victim's pride?
Every culture, or groups in every culture, suffered. Whether at the hands of another country, or at the hands of richer, more powerful men and women from their own country, for the poor in most places of the world, in most times of history, it didn't matter much whether it was a rich Chinese, Korean, Japanese, British, Danish, or Austrian taking your calf: your calf was still gone, and winter was coming. And everybody, everywhere, suffered from disease, drought, and the occasional bad luck.Lots of other groups have been enslaved, marginalized, massacred, disenfranchised, deprived, and scapegoated, too. Every time you swing a cat you'll hit someone with a sob story somewhere in their background. Some have suffered more than others, but that doesn't mean we're allowed to ignore the suffering of others, happening right now, just because sometime in the past, we suffered, too.
But while those elements of my friend's comment don't sit well with me, here's the real kicker, and this didn't occur to me until just recently: how much MORE trite, asinine, and even insulting, is it, for a SOUTH Korean to say that Koreans have suffered more than the Jews, or, to add a layer of irony, to send that to their friend by text message, when the latest generation of North Koreans is one of the few groups I'd honestly hear out, if they decided to claim that Camp 22 is worse than Auschwitz, and that this most recent generation of North Koreans actually HAVE suffered more than the Holocaust generation did. It's even more outrageous that Camp 22 exists today, when we were supposed to have learned these lessons from the holocaust. Those who gloss over North Korea's atrocities are worse than Holocaust deniers, because we can still DO something about this holocaust... but nobody is.
And still, the Auschwitz sign makes world headlines, when there should be protests every weekend, in every public space, in every South Korean city, and Korean diaspora in the rest of the world's major cities should be doing the same in public spaces abroad, demanding that world governments, and especially the South be more active and aggressive in trying to get food to their North Korean so-called bretheren.
Sorry, South Korea. Brothers don't let brothers starve to death, don't let brothers languish in concentration camps. Don't waffle and deflect about the topic of reunification, because it would be expensive for the south, while their brothers are dying. I wrote earlier that the South's ambivalence toward the North was the best sign I can think of that Koreans are aren't the specialists in "jung" people they claim to be (in a post subtitled, "The Desperation of the North, the Hypocrisy of the South), and now I'll hold up North Korea to repudiate South Korean Han, too.
Go ahead and say North and South Korea aren't the same country anymore, aren't the same culture anymore; heck, I agree. I think South Korea should change its name to... something else... to acknowledge the fact North and South Korea aren't one country anymore. But don't give me one-blood Minjok brotherhood, jung and han out of one side of the mouth, and disown the North, refusing to take responsibility for Camp 22, out of the other, that's all. I'm not saying all Koreans do that, certainly not, but the ones that do are hypocrites of the highest order, and I won't abide that kind of doublethink.