Lee Young-hoon et al., “Anti-Japan Tribalism :
The Root of the Korea-Japan Crisis


Senior Research Fellow/Associate Professor, Reitaku University Jason M. Morgan

Prof. Lee Young-hoon has achieved notoriety in South Korea for boldly challenging what could be called the foundational myths of modern Korea. But he has achieved something much more important than notoriety, namely distinction, by buttressing his assertions with a bevy of documentary evidence and historical fact. The victim of several violent attacks and other assaults at the hands of his fellow countrymen, Prof. Lee has refused to discontinue his work of putting South Korea onto a firm foundation of historical truth and economic common sense.
In "Anti-Japan Tribalism: The Root of the Korea-Japan Crisis", translated into Japanese after the Korean-language original became a runaway bestseller in the Republic of Korea, Prof. Lee and some of his colleagues from the Naksungdae Institute of Economic Research in Seoul systematically dismantle the legendary lies upon which Korean society has been built. Divided into three parts and twenty-two short chapters, this is a work of first-rate scholarship using mostly Korean-language source materials to document the truth about Korean history. Prof. Lee and his five co-authors, all of them experts in the field of Korean history and economics, have produced a book which is sure to stand among the classics of works about modern Korea. This is a critique not just of wild historical inaccuracy, but also of the national culture which, Prof. Lee and his colleagues lament, made the inaccuracies possible in the first place.
Prof. Leeʼs judgment of his countryʼs current state cuts to the quick. His central premise is that Korea has come under the spell of what he calls “Anti-Japan Tribalism” a form of ultra-ethno-nationalism which functions only by using Japan as a "totem" to unite the tribe. But there is more. Prof. Lee does not condemn just the histrionic anti-Japanism one so often encounters among those who have lived in or studied Korea—the emotional hatred for Japan that mars the scholarship of many self-styled Korea and Japan experts in the American academy—he also traces the roots of this "Anti-Japan Tribalism" deep into the Korean past. For Prof. Lee, the culture of lies and status-seeking that he sees as characterizing modern South Korea comes out of shamanistic materialism, strains of Confucianism, and a devotion to practices such as geomancy. Prof. Lee laments the hold that anti-Japanism has taken on South Korea and in this book attempts to alert his fellow Koreans to the danger they face if they continue to premise their national life on the irrational hatred of all things Japan.