The difference between anti-Chinese and anti-Japanese attitudes in South Korea

Cho Mun-young is a South Korean anthropologist who attended “a symposium on Koreans’ attitudes toward China on the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) at the end of August.”

A few interesting points from her description of the presentations:

  1. South Korean youths are more negatively and positively disposed towards China and Japan, respectively, than older generations.
  2. South Koreans tend to differentiate between the Japanese people and the Japanese state.
  3. South Koreans do not differentiate as much between nation and state when it comes to China, perhaps because the party-state claims to represent the nation. (Somewhat ironic when considering that Japan is more democratic than China).

Here are some excerpts from her article on Hankyoreh:

…[A]nti-Chinese sentiment has been heightened since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. A recent speech in which Chinese President Xi Jinping said that foreign countries will “bash their heads bloody” against a “Great Wall of Steel” made of the “blood and flesh” of more than 1.4 billion Chinese has only added kindling to the raging fire of anti-Chinese sentiment.

A shocking presentation was delivered by Kim Jun-ho, a graduate student in Chinese literature at the University of Seoul. Kim provided a detailed examination of the hatred against China that’s rapidly proliferating online. The language used in the videos and comments was so inflammatory that Kim had to give a trigger warning to the Chinese listeners who’d logged into the symposium…

Videos that present China in a positive light were singled out for hate and accused of being part of a CCP strategy of cultural infiltration. Kim drew attention to the fact that anti-Chinese videos were being viewed millions of times and getting thousands of likes, indicating that anti-Chinese sentiment has taken its place as a dominant cultural code among the younger generation.

…[Y]oung Koreans hold a negative view not only about the CCP and Chinese products but also about Chinese cultural artifacts and cuisine. Lee also reminded readers that Korea was the only country in which young people viewed China more negatively than middle-aged people in a poll about attitudes toward China conducted by the Washington-based Pew Research Center in 2020.

Younger Koreans’ anti-Chinese sentiment is distinctly different from their anti-Japanese sentiment, which was analyzed last year by professor Suk Ju-hee based on the East Asia Institute’s poll about Korea-Japan relations. According to Suk, Koreans tend to distinguish between the Japanese government and people in their views on Japan. Younger Koreans, in particular, are much more positively disposed toward Japan than Koreans in their 50s and show a strong tendency to view culture separately from history and politics in Korea-Japan relations.

Earlier generations became interested in China through various channels, including socialism, martial arts-focused films such as “Little Dragon Maiden,” and historical novels like the “Romance of the Three Kingdoms.” But young people today, Kim says, grew up under an international sense that China poses a threat and aren’t very attracted to the Chinese people or culture.

I also wondered whether the Chinese ruling elite’s characteristic conflation of state and nation had been appropriated against China itself while we were disregarding the diversity of public dynamics.

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