Altteuru airfield

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Today, this area of south-west Jeju grows vegetables of all kinds – radishes, leeks, cabbages, potatoes and more – but there are still plenty of clues about the wartime role of this flat land.

That tree-topped hillock in the photo below isn’t natural: It covers a man-made shelter. You can go down the steps in the little gap near the right-hand end and emerge at the other end.

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The shelter is a relic of the war, and this was an airfield built by the Japanese to defend Japan and from which to launch bombing missions on China. The photo below shows some of the bunkers that remain as well as showing, in the distance, how Sanbangsan rises out of the landscape.

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Jeju Love Land

Jeju_love_land_1Before I go any further, I’d like to make it clear that this isn’t a cheap attempt to increase the number of hits on my blog; however, I have a hunch that’s the likely outcome.

Jeju has a set of museums and theme parks to cater for all tastes and for no taste whatsoever, and Love Land must be one of the most well known and outrageous. This is a PG review of an attraction that’s 18 through and through, and you’ll have to search the internet for further information. These photos may leave plenty to the imagination but that’s simply discretion on my part.

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I can’t even call this place unique on Jeju. Seogwipo has the World Eros Museum and just outside Jungmun is the Museum of Sex and Health.

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Jeju: Designated one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature (2011), UNESCO Global Geopark Network (2010), UNESCO Natural Heritage Site (2007), UNESCO Biosphere Reserve (2002), or you could just come and visit Love Land.

Plenty for the geologist on Olle 10

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Olle trail 10 is home territory, with the finish point in Museulpo (or Moseulpo, depending on how it has been transliterated), close to Global Education City. So I knew that the route went past the volcanic features of Sanbangsan and Songaksan but I didn’t know about some of the features at the start of the trail.

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Within a few hundred metres of the start you come across this debris of stratified conglomerate (I made that up) fallen from the cliffs along the edge of the sea. That’s Sanbangsan in the background of the picture above.

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A few hundred metres further on and it’s all change; it’s back to the volcanic black rock that’s so common on Jeju.

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Here are a couple of pictures of columnar jointing. You can see this in lots of places along the south coast of the island but to see it in such close proximity to the sand-coloured rock we’d passed a few hundred metres earlier, and which returns later along the trail, was quite something.

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The legacy of war

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There are plenty of physical legacies of war on Jeju although they’re not always easy to spot. Here’s another tunnel dating from the occupation by the Japanese, this time from inside looking outwards rather than the other way round.

Sadly, the emotional legacies are more damaging. The BBC news published an article recently – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-25411700 – in which it explores the reasons. One of the interesting themes in the article echoes something that a Japanese friend said to me before I came to Jeju: Schoolchildren in China, South Korea and Japan are all taught different versions of history.

I’ll pick out some comments of the article that reflect this, although I’m unable to verify the accuracy of the statements. One Chinese writer for the state-owned People’s Daily is quoted as saying that none of Japan’s 25 apologies to China have been covered by the Chinese media, and neither has the £21.8bn of aid that China has received from Japan over the years. The article also claims that, since 1989, the Chinese Communist Party has promoted nationalism within China by breeding “hatred against the most recent invader and aggressor”, i.e. Japan. The article also refers to China’s “patriotic education” policy.

China doesn’t have a monopoly on such things, of course. There have been strong feelings in South Korea recently about how history books approved for use in schools here describe the war; some people claim that the history books whitewash events that show Japanese brutality. The reason? I was told that it’s in the financial interests of some prominent Koreans not to rock the boat with Japan.

Add to that some of the statements that come from the right-wing politicians and public figures in Japan (“the comfort women system that the Japanese army employed during the Second World War was a necessary one”, “the 1937 Nanjing Massacre in China by Japanese troops never happened” – that sort of thing), and it all creates a legacy of distrust and recrimination.

On that basis, you shouldn’t believe what you read in the newspapers or history books; history is a tool used by the powerful to manipulate the “laobaixing” (Chinese for “old 100 names”, i.e. the average man in the street) in order to achieve their own political or financial objectives.

A time of war on Jeju

Japanese_occupation_Kunsan_oreum1Jeju was an important military base for Japan, both for offence and defence, and I’ve been collecting photos of what remains of the wartime Japanese occupation of Jeju since I got here. They’re not very impressive as photos, but they have prompted me to do a little research about that period of time. I know there’s been a lot written in Korean – I’ve seen it in the library of Jeju National University – but I’m having to use signboards at the sites I’ve visited and the internet to find information in English.

The photo above shows the entrance to a tunnel in the side of Kunsan oreum; the photo below shows tunnels along the shoreline at the base of Songaksan. There are plenty of others. In the latter stages of the war, the Japanese army used local people to dig these and others in order to create an extensive underground tunnel system as a defence against the threat of an allied invasion.

There’s an abandoned airfield near the southern tip of the island that was within bombing range of Shanghai – but I’ll save that for another post.

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Mulchat in the snow

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We were at sea level yesterday but above the snow line today. This is Mulchat oreum, reasonably high on the eastern slopes of Mt Halla. The top of the oreum was off limits today (for conservation reasons?) so we didn’t get to look into the crater. Instead, I’ll just have to imagine it from the description on the notice at the highest point on the path we walked:

“There’s a funnel figured crater lake with watered, year round and it’s one of the very precious crater lake in Jeju island with 1km out-diameter.”

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The sun shines on Olle 9

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There have been never-ending gales and rain in the UK and disruption caused by snow in Yokohama, but it’s been bright and sunny on Jeju today; blue skies, warmth in the sun, the gentle sound of waves on the beach. Can you see any clouds in these photos? I can’t.

We walked Olle 9 today, which is shorter than most of the trails that circle the island. It follows the coast in the early part, climbing from the little harbour at Daepyeong to the top of the cliffs in the picture above before turning inland to Wolla-bong peak. It then follows the Andeok valley back to the coast at Hwasun.

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There’s a view from the side of Wolla-bong across the small town of Hwasun to Sanbangsan in the photo below. Sanbangsan, which is also in the photo at the top of my blog, is the most prominent feature of this part of the island, rising steeply from the mostly flat landscape around it.

I’ve been careful to make sure the industrial buildings and chimneys of Hwasun haven’t appeared in any photos before, but it’s probably more honest to include them in at least one photo.

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Yakchunsa Temple

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This is Yakchunsa Buddhist temple close to Jeju’s south coast. It’s not far from the start of Olle trail 8, which we walked today – wrapped up against the cold northerly wind. The construction of the temple was started in 1988 and completed in 1996, although there was a small temple of the same name on the site in 1918, during the Anti-Japanese Movement period. The temple is the largest in Korea, and the notice outside claims it to be the largest in Asia. The Buddha statue housed in the temple is 3 meters tall.

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There’s also a cenotaph for the Pacific War outside with a dove atop a slender column. That’s a palm tree beside it but it didn’t feel very tropical today – my fingers were decidedly cold as I took these pictures.

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Shanghai street food

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As a change from analysis of the local political situation, and for anyone who prefers pictures to words, here’s a set of photos I took within a few minutes and in one short stretch of a Shanghai street. I’ve saved the pigs head (or parts thereof) till last.

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Arguing with the neighbours

The lead headline in the front page of the January 29th edition of the English-language newspaper, The Korean Times, said “Korea slams Japan over Dokdo”, with a subheading that quoted a Korean Ministry for Foreign Affairs spokesman as saying “Japan will face untold consequences”.

On the same day, The Korea Herald, another English-language newspaper, had the lead headline “Tokyo revises textbook guidance on Dokdo claim”.

what_the_papers_say2Moving on to 3rd February, The Korea Herald ran the front-page headline shown in the photo above, next to a photo of the U.S. chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee paying respects to a “comfort women” statue in California. The caption goes on to say “The statue was erected last year to honor the Asian women and girls who were forced into prostitution by the Japanese military during World War II”.

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You have to go to the editorial in the China Daily newspaper to read the “Japan brainwashing kids” headline shown above.

The headlines, together with the text underneath, show that there’s real anger in Korea and China. It’s all about the revision of school text books in Japan to say that the Dokdo islets (i.e. too small even to be called islands), claimed by Korea, and Diaoyu Islands (claimed by China) will be described as an integral part of Japanese territory.

Let me quote from the China Daily, representative of the articles beneath all the headlines:

“The media in Japan reported on Tuesday that the Japanese education ministry will revise its teaching materials so that the Diaoyu islands – an integral part of Chinese territories, will be described as an integral part of Japan’s under the name of Senkaku.

“The fact-twisting textbooks for schools will teach Japanese students a false version of history, which risks breeding generations of confrontation, says a Xinhua News Agency commentary.

“Japan’s revisionists have for a long time attempted to whitewash Japan’s wartime past in its school history books, hurting and outraging its Asian neighbours whose sufferings as a result of Japan’s brutal wartime aggression is never mentioned.”

To be fair, the Chinese and Koreans are pretty good at teaching their own versions of history – the text in the newspapers is pretty inflexible and doesn’t show much evidence of reflection.

Whatever the importance of Dokdo/Takeshima or Diaoyu/Senkaku, the current spat is indicative of greater underlying problems. Whereas in Europe there’s real trust between old enemies of World War II, that trust hasn’t been achieved in Asia. That trust is nothing to do with how much money has been paid, but by the will of all parties to learn from the past in order to avoid repeating it. Japan may believe that they have paid their dues since the end of the war, but their neighbours don’t see that at all. I’m a great admirer of all things Japanese, but it’s not surprising that the actions of Prime Minister Abe and other right-wing politicians will make their neighbours nervous and angry.

Korea seems to be caught in the middle – literally. While Korea argues with Japan to the east, China flexes its muscles to the west as it gains increasing power and influence on the world stage.