Sunday, 25 February 2007

Another cartoon controversy?

After the tragic death of nine migrant workers in a fire at an immigration detention center a few weeks ago, and the government's recently launched campaign to make foreigner's feel more welcome, Korea really needed the following. Not.

"LOS ANGELES (AP) - Korean-American community leaders said they plan to launch a protest against the publisher of a popular South Korean comic book that contains anti-Semitic images. One comic strip in the book shows a man climbing a hill and then facing a brick wall with a Star of David and ``STOP'' sign in front. ``The final obstacle to success is always a fortress called Jews,'' a translation says. Another strip shows a newspaper, magazine, TV and radio with the description: ``In a word, American public debate belongs to the Jews, and it's no exaggeration to say that U.S. media are the voice of the Jews.'' Yohngsohk Choe, co-chairman of the Korean American Patriotic Action Movement in the USA, said, ``I don't have words to describe the outrage I feel.'' The group met Fridaywith Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish advocacy group. Cooper said he would travel to Seoul on March 15 to raise concerns about the book. The book, written by South Korean university professor Lee Won-bok, is part of a series called ``Distant Countries and Neighboring Countries,'' which is intended to teach youngsters about other countries. The series has sold more than 10 million copies. Eun-Ju Park, chief executive of Seoul publisher Gimm-Young, said in an e-mail that the author sent an apology to Charles Kim, national president of the Los Angeles-based Korean-American Coalition. Park wrote that she would look into the matter more closely and correct what needs to be corrected."

I absolutely agree with the quote from Noam Chomsky reproduced in the banner of this blog, I would not have put it there otherwise. But please, this type of material does not belong in school books. Especially in cartoon books aimed at the very young and impressionable.
Korea has the reputation for swift and vociferous responses to any published material they consider impugns their character or history. I find it somewhat disturbing that a country that has demonstrated such hyper-sensitivity to being slighted, would allow the publication of this kind of material and its distribution in Korean schools.
The fact that it was translated and published in English without anyone raising a flag is bad enough, but where were the editors of the Korean version? What were they thinking?

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