Adam asked this on Friday, and of course, I’m running behind as usual these days:
A friday five question: Talking with a friend at work, the subject of conspiracy theories came up. It’s a favorite of mine, as the mental contortions most conspiracy theorists come up with are truly a sight to behold. Here’s what I want to know: What are your top five conspiracies, real or imagined. As a special bonus, can you find a common thread to link them all together, kind of a Grand Unified Conspiracy Theory?
Well, I just got off a bus on which I read a great deal of Philip K. Dick’s VALIS, and if you’ve read that book, you have some idea about just how whacked-out conspiracies can actually be.
Well, I have read some much about the standard Western conspiracy theories that I got sick of them, went off of them, started to find them predictable. But I’ve run across new ones in Korea, and I’ll enumerate a few of the ones I really like here.
- The Japanese brought chili peppers to Korea… hoping to weaken the nation militarily. I severely doubt this. Not because I doubt the depravity of the Japanese nation before, say, 1950: if skimming through The Rape of Nanking wasn’t enough to convince me, running across this book about Japan’s history of germ warfare research this weekend surely leaves little doubt. But I really, really doubt that this is how chili peppers got to Korea.
- Korea’s name used to be spelled with a C, but when the Japanese took over, they changed the spelling so that Korea would come after Japan in the English alphabet. Even some supposedly-educated people believe this. So, apparently, do some ignorant do-gooders. Okay, so why the hell would the Japanese care what order the two countries had in what was not only a foreign, but at that time was considered a barbarian language? The actual truthwhich you can learn if you look at historical records, or even search the web for more information, is that this is a load of hooey.
The name of the Hermit Kingdom was derived from the Goryeo Dynasty, and was sometimes spelled Corea and sometimes Korea in various Romanizations. Unlike how the naive believers in this story claim, there was, before the beginning of the twentieth century, no standardized spelling for the word in English, and both C and K were used. The West happened to settle on the Germanic spelling of “Korea” instead of the Latinate “Corea”, and I suspect it was America that settled upon it first, with the rest of the English-speaking world following in tow. (I could be wrong.)
- America, which had “betrayed” Korea in the past (for example bargaining with Russia and China over regional issues, and not being totally honest with Korean officials about how disregarded Korea was by the major powers in these discussions, until after the fact), had some involvement in the assassination of the dictator Park Jung Hee.
As if America needed to be involved. And, if America had been, as if his death were something bad for the country. Sure, it’s traumatic to have a leader assassinated, but this man was a dictator who took over by coup, who ruled with an iron fist and draconian policies, a man who was willing to do anything to stay in power. He was rotten, and the only reason younger Koreans idolize him now is because his economic successes are often discussed while the fact he was a brutal, officious, illegal dictator who lied continually to the country and embodied the worst possible form of Confucianism imaginablethe vicious patriarchal figure.
No, Park was killed by one of his own, for very real and well-known crimes. He was killed by a Korean nationalist, and a man I consider, at least in the capacity of that one action of ending the nearly two-decades-long dictatorship, a hero. Not because of Park’s extensive connections to Japan, but because he was a monster.
- China is going to be the next world power, and when that happens, Koreans will not have to study English, but instead study Chinese.
That’s possible, of courseafter all, look at the little half-island where English came frombut the thing that gets me is the certainty with which young people tell me this. It seems to me they’re overestimating the stability of China, the future China has, and the course of the next few decades of economics. China makes sense as a successor to America, and when America falls I expect China to step up and be the Great Hegemon. But the West is going to have to be a right shambles before that actually really happens. While science-fictionally I can speculate it could happen twenty years from now, or at least begin, in real life at least a century or two will be needed, and someone’s going to have to do something about the ranks of poor in China, who are a veritable army, if an underequipped one.
- There were two Korean girls who were killed during the 2002 World Cup. They were run over by tanks that were built by morons. You see, the tanks were designed so that the poor fellows driving them couldn’t see the whole road in front of them. As a convoy of tanks went down a country road, they struck two young girls walking by the roadside. The girls were killed, and the accident was discovered at the time. The tanks proceeded on to the base, and the drivers were, by some reports, visibly shaken at the knowledge of what had happened.
Of course, because the nation was caught up in orgasmic paroxysms of soccer-induced frenzy, this was not news.
Not until the official inquiry commenced. That’s when the American military let off these bloodthirsty, racist, evil American soldiers who ran over those girls on purpose.
At least, that’s what websites all over the net claimed happened. They had doctored photos “proving” the tanks had rolled over the girls multiple times; they had diatribes about how America’s soldiers had to leave Korea immediately; the candlelight vigils; the protests in Seoul and nationwide.
All of this, for the death of two girls apparently which mattered so little that they weren’t even substantially covered on the news at the time of their unfortunate deaths. Because of soccer games. What was worth weeks of protests, graphic posters of the corpses of the two children, NGO activity, and ongoing news coverage, none of that was worth reporting beyond a brief notice, at the time when it happened. Because of a few soccer games.
In fact, according to what I heard at the time, unprecedented numbers of Koreans were permitted to attend the inquiry proceedings, and testimony suggested it really was an accident, though perhaps one with preventable causes, though not preventable by the soldiers themselves. Actually, so does common sense: if a soldier were a bloodthirsty freak, would he actually murder two children in full view of a convoy of fellow tanks pilots? Soldiers aren’t known for their brains, but we should at least assume they’re not outright morons or animals.
The fact that the accusations were so easily believable, though, doesn’t surprise me. Rednecks (of any nation) will believe just about anything.
To tie this all together: well, it’s all Japan’s fault. That would be the unifying Korean conspiracy theory. Japan is the root of all evil. Japan’s partnership with America made America evil, which made the soldiers kill the girls and made America help a Korean official murder a much-loved evil dictator. Japan brought the hot peppers and changed Corea to Korea because the Japanese knew it would make America look down on Korea. Actually, that’s why Japan fought in the war: it was all a ploy to make themselves look tougher and cooler than Korea, and it succeeded in winning America’s respect. Finally, as we all know, there is no such thing as China: it’s all a Japanimation conspiracy. All the footage of Chinese ministers and protests and all that? It’s all filmed in Tokyo, and the dumb whities are too stupid to know the difference.
If I had a runner-up, it’d be the flamingly gay artist in one of my classes saying in the most effeminate, lispy tone possible, “No gay in Korea.” There’s gotta be a conspiracy in there somewhere.
I’ll try update this with links when I get a chance. Now, sleeeeeep.