In defense of Han Kang
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.