At a recent anti-Japan protest in South Korea, participants carried signs with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's face crossed out. They also carried signs with Anne Frank. One protestor appeared to stomped on both. Or did he? Whatever is going on?
Relations between Japan and South Korea, to be blunt, suck. As The Wall Street Journal reports, a new South Korean poll shows that by a slight margin North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un is viewed better than Prime Minister Abe. Stew on that one.
Over the weekend, there was a protest in Seoul over the Japanese government's announcement that it was re-examining a landmark apology it made over wartime sexual slaves (also called "comfort women"). Since the war, Japan has made numerous apologies over the atrocities it committed, as well as paying $500 million in aid to South Korea in 1965. Japan might be tired of the continuing wartime rhetoric, and South Korea might feel there hasn't been closure. There are very real emotions here. Make no mistake, there are also politics at play—on both sides.
In South Korea, Japan colonialism has evoked comparisons to the Holocaust, which might explain what Anne Frank is doing in the anti-Japan protest signs—drawing a parallel between the young women in sexual slavery. Or there could be allusions to how someone was ripping up copies of The Diary of Anne Frank in thirty-eight Tokyo libraries. Over three hundred copies were damaged.
The book is widely read in Japan. As The Irish Times reports, anti-semitism is generally rare (well, Jewish people are rare) as the country generally seems agnostic. Remember that religious minorities in Japan, such as Catholics, have served as prime ministers, and their beliefs have pretty much been a non-issue.
According to Time, right wing organizations in Japan are suspected in the vandalism. After it was reported that the books were damaged, over 130 copies of the book were sent to the Tokyo Metropolitan Central Library by an anonymous Japanese donor who requested that the books be distributed to the libraries that had suffered damage. The note was signed "Chiune Sugihara," who was a World War II diplomat that saved 6,000 Jews in Lithuania by issuing them visas. The Israeli embassy in Tokyo told Time it was planning to work with local Jewish groups to replace the books and it had received thousands of messages in support after they were vandalized.
In recent years, both Korean politicians and Japanese ones have been doing things that seem to provoke tensions between the two countries, whether that's former South Korean president Lee Myung-bak visiting disputed territory (to score political points domestically) or Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visiting Yasukuni Shrine (also to score political points domestically).
Which is why protests continue. In the recent protest in Seoul, one Korean man appeared to stomp on a photo of Anne Frank.
And here is the full television clip.
The incident can be seen starting at the 1:05 mark. The protester doing the stomping might not have known who Anne Frank was or, in the heat of the moment, was just stomping on anything put in front of him. What's more, these are protestors. Hardliners. Take that into account as well.
Newspaper Kukmin Daily is reporting that some online in South Korea are saying that the protestor didn't actually stomp on Anne Frank's face—that the footage was cleverly filmed or edited to make it look that way.
Footage that appeared on South Korean television network JTBC is being used to show the protestor didn't stomp on Anne Frank's image. You can see that footage below:
Note: this footage has been slowed down for clarity, and you can watch the original here.
And, via 2ch, here is the slowed down Japanese news footage that apparently shows the Korean man did stomp on the Anne Frank image. Decide for yourself. I guess.
Has it really come to this? Arguing whether or not people are stomping on Anne Frank's face? Ripping up her diary? Using her legacy for your own political ends? If people want to protest politicians—whether that is in Japan, South Korea, or wherever—that's their right. These are free countries. Go for it! Argue and scream until you're blue in the face. But, c'mon, let's leave Anne Frank out of this.
To contact the author of this post, write to bashcraftATkotaku.com or find him on Twitter @Brian_Ashcraft.
Kotaku East is your slice of Asian internet culture, bringing you the latest talking points from Japan, Korea, China and beyond. Tune in every morning from 4am to 8am.