I started to concentrate on how the Jews come to terms with their traumatic experiences. To understand why and how the Jews are fighting against forgetting, and to learn from it is the main reason why I teach the Holocaust to my students.
Professor Ho-Keun Choi was among the first in South Korea to teach and write about the Holocaust. As a graduate student in Germany, Choi began to view Holocaust education as a way for South Koreans to deal with the tragedies of the Korean War and Japanese rule. Choi has been instrumental in the development of several memorial sites in Korea. And he hopes that his work—on these sites and in the classroom—will help Koreans preserve the past and also navigate future international relationships.
Welcome to Voices on Antisemitism, a podcast series from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum made possible by generous support from the Elizabeth and Oliver Stanton Foundation. I'm Aleisa Fishman. Every month, we invite a guest to reflect about the many ways that antisemitism and hatred influence our world today. From Seoul, South Korea, here's Ho-Keun Choi.
The Holocaust was only a marginal issue in the 1980s in South Korea. The term Holocaust was strange for normal Koreans. Until I started to write my dissertation in Germany in 1995, I could not find exactly the meaning of Holocaust. Participating in many conferences in Germany, I could listen to various voices on the Holocaust. And then I came to the idea: I could learn from Holocaust history how to come to terms with the mass murders of civilians in Korea, and our burdensome past.
I am engaged in three projects for building memorial museums: for peace, for human rights, and for democracy. One of the three is the National Democracy Park. The Park is dedicated to 113 victims who lost their lives under the dictatorship in the 1970s and 1980s. And it will be open next year. And we plan a museum not only for honoring the victims, but also for showing concretely how we can make a peaceful society. We lay great emphasis on tolerance, understanding of others, making action according to conscience, and participation in public affairs. It is important because the Korean society now is in transformation into a multicultural one. In this sense, there are many things to learn from Holocaust history.
We have experienced traumatic instances, under the Japanese rule, during the Korean War, and under dictatorships. And democracy in [South] Korea is now well institutionalized, but, in many senses, it has weaknesses. And in the context of North Korea, North Korea's human rights situation is taken into consideration. For example, the Yodok concentration camp and the poor human rights conditions represented by an increasing number of refugees remind us of Nazi Germany before the "Final Solution." The National Human Rights Commission of Korea recently changed its passive stance on North Korean human rights issues. Such a change will amplify the practical implications of Holocaust education.
The Holocaust shows clearly what kind of tragedy can occur when sovereignty comes before human rights. So, not forgetting and remembering has influence on making the future of our own society. And that's the main reason why we research and teach the Holocaust, in Korea.
Voices on Antisemitism is a podcast series of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Join us every month to hear a new perspective on the continuing threat of antisemitism in our world today. We would appreciate your feedback on this series. Please visit our Web site, www.ushmm.org.