The image: http://instagram.com/p/TFLTApDG6I/
Hi there, thanks for your message :)
I honestly only think it’s that friend, actually, along with many others. I don’t this incident necessarily means all Koreans are ignorant about the Holocaust. Many are also incredibly sensitive of the extreme mistreatment they’ve received by foreign powers like the Japanese; and I’ve been in many conversations in which the Japanese colonial era has been compared directly to the Nazi regime, so yes, people are aware of it. I don’t know how widespread this awareness is, and I also don’t think it’s a common part of the public education curriculum in South Korea. Maybe this friend is among those who are unfortunately in the blue of what the Holocaust was all about, but seeing the intended use of these symbols tells me this isn’t accidental. With that said, I don’t know why he would in his right mind use these images as his desktop background and avatar, unless he identifies with the cause (who the eff knows) or he doesn’t see it as a big deal*, or he really isn’t aware of the entire history and just basically thought these symbols looked cool. I don’t know. The least we could do is ask, “why on earth do you have these images all over your Instagram?” I guess we’ll only know from there.
*Which would be weird. I was told that Frank Ocean is not very liked in South Korea because the bandana he often wears is thought to be akin to the Japanese imperial flag. If this is a big deal, I would like to think those who know of Nazi history even the slightest would apply that same logic and choose not to appropriate their symbols.
Going beyond this issue though, South Korean society is not a black hole in which awareness about non-Korean histories and issues are 100% absent. I’m sure there are Koreans in Korea who know about these things and who know the depth of such things the same way as we do. At the same time, there are those who know but are unaware of their magnitude, and there are those who do not know at all. Each individual goes through their own personal experiences despite being from the same motherland, and as a result, have developed their own frames of mind. However, compared to other societies, in South Korea the dialogues that surround such issues are not as socially prevalent and their importances are not as deeply emphasized. This is why issues like this, appropriation of offensive and sensitive histories; even blackface and body policing in the media, happens, because the history behind and the social implications of it are unaware of on a broader level. We call it ignorance, but this is because these issues have not been placed in the forefront of many peoples’ minds. You can blame the individual, but at the same time you can’t hold them to the same responsibility as you should society. An individual only knows within the constraints of their surroundings, and it takes effort to have oneself go beyond these constraints. Some people do, but not everyone does, especially if they have other priorities they choose to be preoccupied with. I’m not disagreeing with you in that yes, they should know about things like this - everyone does - and its problematic that they don’t and it’s inexcusable, but I do believe we ought to address greater forces at play that creates this mass ignorance in the first place. We also have to remember this is the case in many parts of the world, not just in Korea.