Koreans' Purpose in Remembering the Past

Regarding the Jan. 27 article, "A Hall of History Forgives Nothing," I would like to point out misunderstandings and distortions.

First, the author writes that "the language of the explanatory placards sounds more like propaganda than history." We exhibit objects in Independence Hall only after specialists have collected background materials, analyzed them, and justified their inclusion.

Second, the article says the hall loses its objectivity as "there is no mention of Koreans who collaborated with the Japanese." Independence Hall was not built to denigrate Japanese colonialism, but to uphold the spirit of Korean patriots who struggled against some of the most inhuman colonial warlords in the annals of imperialism. The hall was built to remind Koreans of their ancestors' sacrifice and the need to contribute to peace by refusing to become targets of another foreign aggression.

It would not be proper to exhibit materials of pro-Japanese collaborators' activities. With voluntary funds, the hall was built after national consensus was reached to construct it and on what kind of materials were to be exhibited. Incidentally, there is not a single memorial hall in Japan that shows inhuman acts perpetrated by the Japanese.

Third, the argument that Japanese colonial rule contributed to Korea's modernization incenses all Koreans. While a Japanese professor is quoted claiming that many Western scholars back up the theory, many scholars also refute it. The Japanese laid railways and paved roads not for Korea's benefit but for the expediency of colonial rule.

Fourth, the hall symbolizes the spirit of noble sacrifice for independence. It is not exhibiting materials to incite hatred among young people against past enemies.

Park Geol Sun

Chonan, South Korea

Chief of Education & Public Relations

The Independence Hall of Korea

Symbols in the Turkish flag

The explanation of the Turkish flag's origin in "A Salute to Flags," Feb. 4, is totally unacceptable. One passage says that "Turkey's flag combines Christian and pagan symbols."

What pitiful travesty and unfair falsification of the flag of a venerable nation of Turks. Their ancestors carried the crescent and star emblems, in one form or another, from 300 BC to our times.

The article also declares "this combination [crescent and star] is now associated with Islam," forgetting that more than 940 years ago Turks conquered Baghdad. In 1517 Mecca surrendered to the Turkish Sultan Selim I, ending the succession of Arab empires. Christendom has fought Turks ever since, robbing them of virtually all, including their dignity, history, and identity.

Mahmut Esat Ozan

Miami Lakes, Fla.

Food and geography

In the Jan. 30 article, "A Steak, Please, but Hold the Bells and Whistles," the writer states that za'atar is a "peculiar Israeli spice mixture." In fact, it is a traditional food found in Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan, consisting of thyme (za'atar in Arabic), sesame seeds, sumac, and salt. It is sprinkled on bread and other dishes and is delicious.

It is no more Israeli than curry is British or couscous is French!

Nancy Gallagher

Thousand Oaks, Calif.

Chechen distinctiveness

The article, "After 5,000 Years, a Nation?" Jan. 24, confuses the political identity of the Chechen people. The Chechens have been a distinct nation for more than 5,000 years and never have been recognized as an independent state (Ichkeria). The central point of the recently concluded war is that Chechens are distinct and wish to be treated as such. They virtually won their war and earned the right to an independent state. You ought to make a distinction between "nations" that are ancient political entities and "states" which are modern entities sometimes ruled by nations. The Chechens clearly have an identity that is enduring and rich with history.

Rudolph C. Ryser

Guerneville, Calif.

Letters should be mailed to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, faxed to 617-450-2317, or e-mailed (200 words maximum) to oped@csps.com

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