|Five out of the top 10 best-selling books in the fields of politics and society are written by conservative authors or those who are highly critical of the liberal Moon Jae-in government. / Korea Times|
By Kang Hyun-kyung
Conservative thinkers and right-wingers have dominated the nation's largest bookstore Kyobo Books' weekly best-sellers list.
Five out of the top 10 best-selling books in the fields of politics and society are written by conservative authors or those who are highly critical of the liberal Moon Jae-in government.
"Anti-Japan Tribalism" co-authored by Lee Young-hoon, a professor emeritus at Seoul National University, and five other authors topped the list, followed by the Korean translation of "The Road to Serfdom," and independent lawmaker Lee Un-ju's "What I am Fighting For."
Former MBC journalist Kim Sei-eui's "Republic of Korea Seized by Leftists" and libertarian economist Gong Byeong-ho's "Leftist Thinking: Why People Are Drawn to It" also made it into the top 10 list.
"The Road to Serfdom," written by Austrian British economist Friedrich Hayek in the early 1940s, warns of the danger of government control of economic decision-making through central planning. Several conservative YouTubers included the book as one of the "must-read" books for readers and viewers who subscribed to their channels.
Retired professor Lee, the lead author of "Anti-Japan Tribalism," is highly critical of the Moon government's foreign policy toward Japan. He claimed educators and historians are mainly responsible for the spread of anti-Japan sentiment, blaming them for misleading the public with "flawed" history education.
The book has been at the top of the best-sellers list since July amid the South Korea-Japan trade dispute.
"Anti-Japan Tribalism" has pit Lee against supporters of the Moon Jae-in government.
The book delves into lesser-known "uncomfortable truths" from the Korean perspective.
Lee and his co-authors dispute Koreans' long-held views about several key issues regarding Korea-Japan relations, such as wartime sex slavery and slave labor.
The authors claim that not all "comfort women" were sex slaves. During the 1910-45 Japanese occupation of Korea, the book argues, Japan introduced licensed prostitution and comfort stations were the wartime version of licensed prostitution for soldiers.
The book said the ratio of Korean girls, who were coerced by the Japanese police or government officers and taken to comfort stations against their will and forced to provide sexual services for Japanese soldiers, was relatively small, and the majority of the girls were taken there as the result of fraudulent job contracts offered by Koreans or were victims of human trafficking who were handed over by their parents, relatives or other acquaintances. The book hints that the comfort women issue has become a diplomatic thorn between South Korea and Japan because the activists keep trying to press the issue.
The book also denies wartime slave labor, claiming it was voluntary labor migration and Joseon people worked for Japanese companies to earn an income.
"Anti-Japan Tribalism" has been contentious and prompted a heated pros and cons debate after Justice Minister-nominee Cho Kuk publicly criticized the author in a Facebook post last week.
Cho, who has been at the forefront of the anti-Japan campaign through his social media posts, called the book "disgusting," claiming professor Lee and those who agree with him or his book deserve to be called "Japan sympathizers" and colluders.
Cho lamented that South Korea is too democratic to allow free circulation of such a book.
Professor Lee fired back at Cho for his "groundless criticism," claiming what Cho did is no more than propaganda to steer public opinion in favor of the Moon government.
"I wonder if he really read the book before making such scathing comments," Lee said in a media interview. As a scholar, Lee went on to say, Cho was supposed to look into the book first to check if it is based on facts before presenting his views about it.
Rep. Lee Un-ju's "What I am Fighting For" made it into the top three on the list. The lawyer-turned-politician is highly critical of the Moon Jae-in government. She claimed President Moon and his allies ― particularly the so-called "86 Generation" politicians ― are responsible for the nation heading in the wrong direction.
The 86 Generation refers to those who were born in the 1960s and went to university in the 1980s. Former presidential chief of staff Im Jong-seok and several ranking politicians in the ruling party are part of the 86 Generation.
Rep. Lee describes herself as a warrior fighting for freedom and democracy. She criticizes the Moon government's signature economic policy of income-led economic growth and other major policy directions, including energy policy and raising the minimum wage, calling the Moon government "a populist regime" that will lead South Korea down the path of Venezuela if not stopped. The lawmaker called for conservatives to be born again to fight back against the unbridled liberal government.
In his book "Republic of Korea Seized by Leftists," former MBC journalist Kim Sei-ui also accused the Moon government of misleading the nation and allegedly trying to control the media to get them to report in favor of the liberal government. He accused the Moon government of playing the "anti-America" card to solidify its support.