Yasukuni Shrine and Korean Identity

English: Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo.

English: Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Lilia Yamakawa

In his research on nationalism, Craig Calhoun talks about when and how nations were formed. Some people say nations are primordial, that they have been around forever, that they are “natural” phenomena. Others, including Calhoun, believe that nations and nationalism are modern and constructed. By 1815, the world was full of nations. He calls nationalism the most momentous phenomenon of modern history. He writes:

In East Asia, nationalism has throughout the twentieth century been the rhetoric not only of anti-imperialist struggles but of calls for strengthening and democratizing states from within. (p213-214) 

Calhoun cites references on China, relating how anti-Japanese imperial protest, the May Fourth Movement in 1919, was both anti-imperialist and served to strengthen and democratize China. This was later to have led to the revolution.

It seems as Korean nationalism has beeb strengthened through protest against Japanese policies. Recently, the Korean president refused to negotiate with the Japanese because Japan refuses to apologize for its wartime actions. One of my Korean friends told me that he cannot talk about the history of his country without talking about what Japan did when it controlled Korea from 1910 to 1945.

Jukka Jouhki (2009) discusses the Japanese politicians’ visits to Yasukuni and the impact of those visits on Koreans. In the following passage he describes Yasukuni as a “wormhole”:

Symbolically, Yasukuni can be thought of as a wormhole that goes through time and space. When this wormhole crops up, the entire Korean nation seems capable of being transported backward into the era of Japanese colonial rule. 

Jouhki says that the Korean image of Japan is as she was in the colonial period, and Yasukuni represents imperial Japan just as if it were now. The image exaggerates the difference between us and them, Korea and Japan. He says that when the Koreans were colonized, it made the Koreans see themselves as “Other”, just as they saw the Japanese as “Other”, and Yasukuni represents an identity that they are trying to work through.

Japanese leaders’ nationalism, such as visits to Yasukuni Shrine and the museum and textbooks that fail to show wartime atrocities, is not only a means to form a certain Japanese identity. It seems that Japanese nationalism strengthens a certain Korean identity as well.

References

Calhoun, C. (1993). Nationalism and ethnicity. Annual Review of Sociology19, 211-239.

Jukka, J. (2009, May 8). The second invasion: Notes on korean reactions to the yasukuni shrine issue. Retrieved from http://www.academia.edu/179474/The_Second_Invasion_Notes_on_Korean_Reactions_to_the_Yasukuni_Shrine_Issue 

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s