Jung Woo Suk likes nothing better than to sit down with some cool Japanese animation or a new Japanese-made video game. Jung, who graduated from a top university in Seoul last year, now runs a website for a computer magazine. But whenever he has spare time, he sits down with his PlayStation or his computer and plays video games -- Dragonquest 7, Black Matrix Cross and Super Robot War are among his favorites. When he feels like watching some animation, one of his top choices is a series by a Japanese team called Gonzo. It was shown on television in Japan, but he watched it over the Internet in Seoul. He also liked the Gatekeepers and the Vandred series.
Japanese animation has it all, according to Jung. The drawings are good, the production values are high, and the story lines are well structured. "They're really fun to watch and there are so many different topics," he says. Jung watches every bit of Japanese animation brought into Korea: he watches one or two animated cartoons a day, but sometimes he spends all night in front of the computer, watching clips downloaded from the Internet. His source of information on Japanese animation comes from a Korea-based on-line site where people go to swap tips and download clips.
Jung's interest has raised his awareness of Japan. He even went there on a short trip in 1999 and was impressed -- it was clean and the people were kind, he says. But he didn't have his rose-colored glasses on. He is well aware of Japan's brutal colonization of the Korean peninsula, and knows that Japan's conservative leaders and opinion makers are unrepentant. That colors his image of Japan the country with some darker strokes. "They still have this fantasy about their militaristic past," says Jung. "They don't think they did anything wrong." But Jung doesn't see any contradiction in his position. "Feelings for a country and appreciating a work of art made there are two different things. It is only right to enjoy a work of art as it is."
Jung Soo Bong, 76, is Jung's grandmother. As a young woman, she lived in Seoul during the Japanese occupation. She doesn't like to talk about it much. Besides, she says, "everybody went through it." But probe a little and the bitter feelings aren't too far below the surface. Right after she got married at the age of 21, the Japanese came and press-ganged her husband into the military. She was separated from him for over a year and didn't see him again until after Japan's defeat in 1945. "I try not to harbor bitter feelings toward Japan because it is all past history," she says. "But it is true my feelings toward Japan are not pleasant."
She hasn't talked about her experiences with her grandson, but she would if he asked. She just wishes her grandson didn't like Japanese culture so much.