Friday, May 11, 2012

Time Machine

I gotta admit it must be a bit hard to come from Japan when you're in Seoul.

And I'm not even talking about the weekly protests by the tenacious Korean comfort women who sit in umbrage opposite the Japanese embassy demanding compensation.

No, I think it's even worse to claim origin from Japan when you're making the prerequisite tour of the royal palaces. Especially since Japanese rule over the Korean peninsula effectively ended less than a century ago. Much like the unimaginably vile taint they left over the rest of occupied Asia during the Japanese Occupation - as our aged grandparents are quick to remind us - the Japanese imperialists obviously committed far worse crimes in Korea.

Get out of my palace!

Honestly it doesn't take very long before the embittered mention of the Japanese Colonial Administration is made, usually with a faint sneer of derision, by one of the tour guides.

Guide : Yes, we have lovely palaces but most of it is new. Or at least partly refurbished. 
Paul : Oh really.
Guide : Yes, the Japanese destroyed all the buildings, razed almost the entire city to the ground. 
Paul : Ouch. 
Guide : The Japanese assassinated our queen. And then they forcibly removed our royal family and all the heirs to Japan. 
Paul : Double ouch. 
Guide : Without the Japanese, who knows. We might still have a royal family to speak of. 

Followed by a dismal sigh of melancholy from the woeful guide in the traditional hanbok.

Hard to blame the Koreans for feeling that way since it seems like the merciless occupying forces left a swath of wanton destruction each time they attacked. Which seems like every couple hundred years! Rather than the more amiable sort of visitors armed with DSLRs and guidebooks breaching the walls of the palaces now, the barbarous louts that invaded back then came armed to the teeth with swords and axes to pillage and plunder.

So yes, it's no wonder that bits of their beautiful wooden palaces are held in place with modern concrete cement!

Doesn't take away any of their lovely charm though. Compared to the massive palace complexes in Beijing, the palaces here seem almost quaintly provincial. Decidedly smaller, certainly much easier to get around in a day.


Alex said...

Actually it's quite sad... All these invaders pillaged and robbed and destroyed many of these wondrous places. I mean, what was the Japanese were thinking back then!

savante said...

Militaristic society I guess.