The 300-page graphic novel, or Manga, has sold more than 360,000 copies since it was released in September and is part of a rise in nationalistic sentiment aimed at Japanese youth that is worrying some people.
Susumu Yamanaka, editor of the book, says: “Our Manga Ken-kan-ryu has been translated as Hate Korea by the media, but I don’t think that’s correct.”
He prefers The Attacking Korea Craze.
The comic book, published by Shinyusha, is based on a fictitious debate between two female Japanese students and an angry-looking panel of South Korean students at a university.
Using the debate as a vehicle to ridicule Korean achievements, the book also dismisses Seoul’s claim of sovereignty over the Takeshima islands that lie between Japan and the Korean peninsula and which the South Korean military occupies.
Japan v Korea
The Japanese students debate their country’s contribution to Korean culture and civilisation and provide black-and-white photos of the region before and after Japan’s annexation in 1910.
Japanese characters in the book
Thatched hovels have been replaced by tall buildings and subsistence farming with heavy industry. There is also finger-pointing over counterfeit products that are copies of popular Japanese drinks, books and food.
There are images of wide-eyed university students learning that Korea should be thankful for all that Japan did for the peninsula during the years of colonial rule between 1910 and 1945.
The book, which costs ¥1000 ($10), concludes with one of the students declaring: “It’s no exaggeration to say that modern Korea was built by Japan.”
“At first, we thought the book would appeal to young men but it has sold well regardless of age or sex,” said Yamanaka.
“About 90% of our Japanese readers have given us positive feedback, although responses from the Japanese media have been negative, but we don’t think they have actually read it.”
“It’s no exaggeration to say that modern Korea was built by Japan”
Japanese student in Ken-kan-ryu, or The Attacking Korea Craze
Yamano’s book follows in the footsteps of a possibly even more virulent work by Ko Bunyu titled Introduction to China.
“The only good thing to come out of China is food” concludes the comic book which also shows Chinese Communist terrorists spraying Japanese soldiers with cyanide gas during the war.
It also claims that cannibalism is widespread in China and suggests Beijing has dispatched 600,000 prostitutes infected with Aids across the world.
Released in August, it alleged that Beijing is behind Chinese crime syndicates operating in Japan. It also dismissed reports that special Japanese units conducted chemical and bacteriological warfare tests on prisoners of war and civilian detainees during the occupation of China in the 1930s.
Some 180,000 copies were sold in the first three months after its release.
Makoto Watanabe, a lecturer in media and communications at Hokkaido University, is surprised so many of the books are being bought.
“I see in youngsters today a sort of radical conservatism alongside plenty of naivete and that’s where conservative political parties are targeting their message and publishers aiming their books.”
“I see in youngsters today a sort of radical conservatism alongside plenty of naivete and that’s where conservative political parties are targeting their message and publishers aiming their books”
Makoto Watanabe, a lecturer in media and communications at Hokkaido University
And while he does not believe radical conservatives are in the majority yet, he fears that the younger generation of Japanese are increasingly expressing more “pride in their nation”.
“Japan’s baby-boomer generation made up the core of the opposition to war here, but they have become sandwiched between the neo-conservative forces in modern society,” he said.
Today in Japan there are the very old, who remember the war years with a good amount of nostalgia, and younger people who are growing up in an aggressive, materialistic and nationalistic environment, he adds.
The actions and attitudes of the country’s elected leaders have reinforced this new-found pride in Japan.
The visits to Tokyo’s controversial Yasukuni shrine by Junichiro Koizumi, the prime minister, have been applauded at home while derided in China and South Korea.
Professor Marks says Manga
Relations between Tokyo and its immediate neighbours are at an all-time low in the year that marks the 60th anniversary of the end of the second world war, with the nations’ leaders unable to agree to even hold talks.
Toshiko Marks, a professor of multicultural understanding at Shumei University, sees the affects of the comic books.
“It is unfortunate, but I can actually see the influence these Manga are having on my students.
“Somehow they feel that Japan is not being treated with respect, we are being looked down on and they are becoming more nationalistic.
“Quite often young people don’t even know their own history and there is an atmosphere in the country that is being created by these magazines among the young.”
Marks links the rising nationalism
Her own students have told Marks that they would not discriminate against a black person, but they do not like the Chinese.
“And that makes me quite worried,” Marks says.
She can trace the start of the rising national sentiment back about five years, and links it to Koizumi’s annual trips to Yasukuni.
Hokkaido University’s Watanabe believes that nationalistic Manga publications were scarce in the 1980s because an anti-war environment prevailed in the education system.
“But now we have textbooks that give a biased account of Japan’s policies in the early part of the last century and movies and comic books reinforce those ideas.
“Japanese youth have also lost the stability of going straight from school into a job for life and so radical opinions as found in the Manga are appealing, even if they are very aggressive.”
Source: Al Jazeera