Korea

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Seoul, Korea, December 2008.

The first thing that struck me on-board the Korean Air plane were the very pretty air hostesses, all of them, same in Seoul, and in the second plane to Chiang Mai. Japanese women – or men – are not particularly fine, worse, I had been fascinated by their bad and unaesthetic habit of turning their feet inside when standing or walking, a great many of women did it and I annoyed my companion by constantly and blatantly calling her attention to it. In general, Japanese appeared to us as rough cut, funny though because both people have at least a common ancestry. The two countries were even connected through land back in the glacial period, people and animals moved to Japan both from the south and the north. But then they must have grown apart, a common origin does not necessarily mean a common evolution.

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Seoul, Korea, December 2008.

Rough and surely warlike, the Japanese attacked anything around them under all sorts of pretexts, and first of all Korea. The Meiji establishment argued in the 1860s that “Japan would be vulnerable to aggressive Western imperialism unless it extended a line of advantage beyond its borders which would help to repel foreign incursions and strengthen the Japanese economy”, and they did stress they had “preeminent interests” in the Korean peninsula, which they described as a “dagger pointed at the heart of Japan” ! It’s more that they had economic interests – not unlike that U.S. general who said he was acting for the benefit of Wall Street – and they did not back from massacring these “weaklings” in their way, like the murder of the Korean Empress Myeongseong in 1895, their bloody occupation of Manchuria (both Russian and Chinese, which led to their resignation from the League of Nations in 1933), and the ignominiously famous Rape of Nanjing, in 1937, with between 150,000 and 350,000 inhabitants slaughtered … BTW the Japs have never apologized to any of their victims. They had already invaded Korea back in the 1590s but were eventually repelled by admiral Yi Sun-sin with assistance from Ming China. Three centuries later, in 1910, they succeeded though into purely and simply annexing Korea (it had been a “Protectorate” in 1905 already) … till Japan’s defeat in WWII !

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Seoul, Korea, December 2008.

Japan-based Philippines workers heading back home with their families via Korea. As a developed economy, Japan has its share of fellow Asian workers, we met people from Thailand, China, Iran.

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