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Webtoon artist creates stir for defaming independence fighters

(Yoon Seo-in's Facebook)
(Yoon Seo-in's Facebook)
South Korean webtoon artist Yoon Seo-in was mired in controversy after writing a post that appeared to hail pro-Japanese collaborators and insult Korean independence fighters on his Facebook.

The controversial cartoonist faces a lawsuit from an association of the independence fighters who fought against Japan’s 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula, after describing them as “people who have lived lazily.”

“While descendants of pro-Japanese collaborators lived that fiercely (to buy an expensive house), what had independence fighters been doing?” he asked via Facebook last week. “As a matter of fact, 100 years ago, wouldn’t it be that Japanese collaborators were the ones who had lived fiercely and independence fighters were the ones who lived idly?”

Along with the post, he attached photos of houses in Korea that were respectively owned by a descendant of a pro-Japanese collaborator and an independence fighter.

Enraged by Yoon’s remark, Heritage of Korean Independence, an organization of independence fighters and their descendants, is considering filing suit against Yoon, the group’s chairman Kim Won-woong said.

“We plan to decide whether to file a complaint this week,” he said on a CBS radio news program Monday.

The organization is seeking 1 million won ($906) per member, totaling at least 8.3 billion won in compensation for its 8,300 members.

“This is not Yoon Seo-in’s personal matter. This is a case that triggers soul-searching about how we respond to a person like him as a society,” Kim said.

Amid the controversy, Yoon on Monday issued an apology “for creating misunderstanding,” saying it was not what he meant and that he wanted to point out that there could be wealthy figures among independence fighters and poor among descendants of pro-Japanese figures.

“I fundamentally think that independence fighters at the time mostly lived very fiercely, but it is not logical to define their lives in one word,” he said. “There have been hard-working independence fighters like President Syngman Rhee (South Korea’s first president), but among them were those who had been addicted to alcohol, gambling or stealing.”

The webtoon artist has created a stir on several occasions before. He was issued a fine for slandering a daughter of Baek Nam-gi, the activist farmer who died after being hit by a police water cannon during an anti-government protest. He also drew fury for drawings mocking a victim of child rapist Cho Doo-soon as well as the Sewol ferry tragedy.

By Ock Hyun-ju (laeticia.ock@heraldcorp.com)
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