In de­fense of Han Kang

The Korea Times - - OPINION - Our colum­nist An­drew Salmon drew first blood when he fisked Man Booker award win­ner Han Kang’s op-ed con­tri­bu­tion to the New York Times, en­ti­tled “When the U.S. talks about war, South Korea shud­ders,” an anti-war piece about a crit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion caused by

About her un­der­stand­ing of mass mur­der­ers be­ing sim­ple:

The dif­fer­ences be­tween good and evil should be sim­ple and clear cut. The causes may vary from one case to another. But cir­cum­stances shouldn’t and couldn’t be an ex­cuse for evil be­ing par­doned. The same logic ap­plies to the case of No Gun Ri. It’s a mas­sacre by Amer­i­cans. True, we can as­sume there were com­mu­nist agents among them but still the killing couldn’t be jus­ti­fied by such terms as the fog of war. Then, the kind­ness of the U.N. or their help in de­feat­ing the en­emy wouldn’t com­pen­sate for No Gun Ri or other mas­sacres. In other words, each act in war, to­tal or par­tial, should be sub­jected to sep­a­rate judg­ment. Lump­ing them to­gether only ex­ten­u­ates the guilt for wrong­do­ing un­justly. This goes for South Korean-com­mit­ted mas­sacres too.

About the Korean War be­ing a civil war:

It looked like one. Af­ter all it was ini­tially fought be­tween Kore­ans. But we need to bear in mind the po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion then. The U.S. and the U.S.S.R. had di­vided the penin­sula and took con­trol of south­ern and north­ern halves be­tween them. At that time the two were turn­ing into su­per­pow­ers at the start of the hege­monic cold war. The two Koreas served as a test case of wills. As with many proxy wars dur­ing that pe­riod, the Korean War should be taken as a proxy war un­der the guise of a civil war. If you are not con­vinced, a look at the en­su­ing clash of the two su­per­pow­ers would bring the na­ture of the Korean War into sharper re­lief. There is plenty of old his­tory that shows the clashes of big pow­ers here even be­fore the Korean War.

About her lack of men­tion­ing North Korea:

True it can be grounds for un­fair­ness. But it shouldn’t be taken as a sign of tak­ing sides with the North. As ho­moge­nous as Korea may be (mean­ing hav­ing a built-in sense of wari­ness to­ward for­eign­ers) it is not com­pa­ra­ble to the an­i­mos­ity we feel to­ward the North’s regime. Rather the ab­sence means a great deal of re­sent­ment about it that is taken for granted. As you pointed out, the can­dlelit rev­o­lu­tion in the North is un­think­able. And we don’t have to say it aloud, do we?

About her deep fear be­ing not rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Kore­ans:

We are scared to death but are used to the cause of it — North Korea. Imag­ine liv­ing in that ex­treme state of fear for 70 years. One would get used to it. Our ex­ter­nal sense of nor­malcy is de­ceiv­ing. Per­haps Han Kang’s para­noia in her novel is re­lated to this Korean state of mind (my guess).

About the North’s threat to us: The U.S. is in­com­pa­ra­bly stronger. Would North Korea pose a clear and present dan­ger that the U.S. can’t de­fend it­self against? Un­likely. The dan­ger of the U.S. is that it can pick one coun­try for the en­emy at will, do what­ever it wants and get away with it. Judge, jury and ex­e­cu­tioner.

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