Sunday, March 16, 2008

Rhie Won-bok: Representative of Global Antisemitism

The U.S. State Department has cited Monnara author Rhie Won-bok as Korea's representative to the world in the anti-semitism department in it's report, Contemporary Global Antisemitism. The document includes Rhie's 'wall of Jews' illustration along with the following:
South Korean Comic Book Echoed Jewish Conspiracy Theories
In March 2007, a South Korean publisher agreed to pull a best-selling children’s book from stores after an international outcry about the anti-Semitic nature of many of the cartoons. The controversial book, written by a South Korean university professor, was one in a series designed to teach youngsters about other countries in comic book format. The series, “Distant Countries and Neighboring Countries,” sold more than 10 million Korean-language copies. The book on the United States recycles various Jewish conspiracy theories, such as Jewish control of the media, Jews profiting from war, and Jews causing the September 11, 2001 World Trade Center attacks. For example, one comic strip shows a newspaper, a magazine, a television, and a radio and is captioned, “In a word, American public debate belongs to the Jews, and it’s no exaggeration to say that [U.S. media] are the voices of the Jews.”
Another strip shows a man climbing a hill and then facing a brick wall inscribed with a Star of David and a STOP sign. The caption reads, “The final obstacle [to success] is always a fortress called Jews.” The author later acknowledged his mistake and pledged to write, “in a more responsible way.”
Note that yesterday marked the one year anniversary of Rhie Won-bok and Gimm-Young Publishing's promise to pull the book and change subsequent versions, neither of which have actually happened. I was dismayed to find this winter that the book is for sale in a book store in Manhattan's Koreatown and I have no doubt that it is sold there to this day.

Friday, March 16, 2007

More on the shelving

ABC News reports
Rhie said he would consider how to change the book and would undertake an "all-out revision."

"I'm sorry to see things like a frog in a well," Rhie said Thursday, referring to a traditional Korean saying that a frog in a well is unaware of the larger world outside. "In the future, I will write books in a more responsible way."

What is it with this guy and the stupid frog in the well? What is the obsession? He drew that same damn picture of the cowboy in the well so many times, and he's still harping on it. Find a new simile, Rhie!

Rhie describes his 2002 visit to Disney's California Adventure as "like five thousand frogs of every stripe secreted away in the depths of wells of every possible description, like a well made of frogs inhabited by yet another frog, all the while unaware of his own well's inferiority to other wells, like a frog-and-well based version of the Matrix."

Here's my translation of the article in the Hankook Ilbo.
Jew disparaging "Monnara..." pulled, contents to be revised by mutual agreement.
Jewish group visits Gimm-Young Publishing

On March 15th following protests by Jewish Americans saying parts of the comic "Monnara Iunnara: America" [sic] disparage Jews, representatives of the Jewish human rights group The Simon Wiesenthal Center visited Gimm-Young Publishing, which pubished the book. Vice president of the group Abraham Cooper and others metGimm-Young president Eunju Park and author, DeokSeong Women's University professor Rhie Won-bok at the comany's offices in Gahoe-dong, Seoul this morning and agreed to withdraw Monnara Iunnara: America from the market and to publish a Korean version of the book "Dismantling the Big Lie, which digs up the plots against Jews that are out there.
Professor Rhie said he "would take into consideration the Jewish group's explanation about the problem passages, remove or alter them and then put it out again."
Last month American Jews demanded the book be corrected, pointing out the passages that said "Jews are the great power moving America" (p242, 247) and "Koreans in America can succeed but run into the barrier called the Jew" (p220).

Here's MBN TV's brief report on the story, most notable I think for the most negative or at least questioning take on Monnara that I've yet seen in the Korean media by the anchorwoman introducing the story. Could the media's slant on the story be turning from the original "this is a waste of time" stance that the earlier stories took?

Anchor: There are likely few people who don't know of the
educational comic "Monnara Iunnara". The series sold over 10 million copies
domestically, but following the indication by a Jewish group that there are
problems with the content, The decision has been made to pull the book with the

Reporter: An Yeong-Ju reporting. Representatives from the
international Jewish human rights group the Simon Wiesenthal Center have visited
Korea. They are here to urge the revision of the 10-million selling educational
comic "Monnara Iunnara" that they say contains parts that disparage the Jews.
The problem part is in the volume on America that says "The Jews move America".
Simon Wiesenthal and the publisher's side have agreed to stop printing and pull
all the copies of the volume on America currently being sold and to revise the

Yonhap TV reports that the Wiesenthal Center invited a group representing Gimm-Young to Los Angeles to see Jews and Koreans living together first-hand. President Eunju Park was quoted as saying "We will examine the parts of the book to be revised and the invitation positively and will give a concrete answer soon". They also report that after the meeting at Gimm Young Wiesenthal reps met with U.S. Ambassador Alexander Vershbow to discuss their opinions on the incident and had a meeting with international reporters at the Hyatt.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Volume 10 to be withdrawn from stores

Hang onto your copy of Monnara Iunnara Volume 10: The Americans, it's about to become a collector's item. The book is being taken out of print, according to Canada's CBC. Rabbi Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center is quoted as saying
The net effect of what he's done here is a disaster and he just doesn't get it. I hope he will someday, but in the meantime this book's got to go.
Apparently Rhie defended himself to the very end, perhaps thinking, as many of the older Koreans I have spoken to do, that the attention that this has gotten confirms their suspicions about grand Jewish conspiracies.
Gimm Young Publishing has agreed to stop producing the book and fully review the series. They will also be publishing a book about the insidious spread of antisemitism.
Rabbi Cooper compared the comics to the Nazi-era magazine Der Stuermer.

Yonhap News has articles about the visit and the decision to discontinue the book. I'll translate them in due time unless someone beats be to the punch. They seem at first glance to be heavy on the demands from Cooper and light on reactions from the publisher and the author. The book that Gimm Young agreed to print is called Dismantling the Big Lie, apparently published by The Wiesenthal Center.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Era of Unlimited Service Competition (A Bank for Gays Opens)

Here's a black and white Rhie Won-bok comic which I believe comes from a newspaper. I found it here. It was placed on the website as some kind of proof of Rhie's racism, but it's highly incorrect to present it as such.

The Era of Unlimited Service Competition: A Bank for Gays Opens

1. This is a time when the marketing war among banks to attract new customers is heating up - we've already discussed in this cartoon series the bank in the Netherlands attracting young people in middle and high school.
2. In March 1999 in America the world's first bank for gays, G&L Bank opened its doors.
3. But it's not a real bank, just an online bank, and there are plans to open a real bank in 2002.
4. Steve Dunlop, who revealed himself to be a homo [sic] is the man from Pensacola, Florida, who came up with the idea for the bank.
5. Just as blacks seek black banks and Jews frequent banks managed by Jews, the gays are the same and the market is now ripe for it.
6. Just because G*Ls [gays and lesbians] are homosexual they experience difficulties borrowing money in banks.
7. Even when they handle their finances jointly like a married couple they face many hardships,
8. So this online bank was created so that G*Ls could freely and conveniently use a bank without such difficulties.
9. This idea came out of Dunlop's own difficulties in dealing with banks.

Wiesenthal Center Press Conference

I received this in my inbox today. Too late notice for me to go, I'm afraid, but if anyone is in the area check it out. Naturally I will be following the outcome of Rabbi Cooper's visit closely.

PRESS ADVISORY March 14, 2007


WHEN: Thursday, March 15, 2007 at 4:30 PM

WHERE: GRAND HYATT SEOUL, 747 7 Hannam Dong Yongsan Ku, Seoul 140-738

On Thursday, March 15, 2007 at 4:30 PM at the Grand Hyatt Seoul, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, will give a briefing about a volume of the popular Monnara Iunnara (Distant Countries and Neighboring Countries) series that recycles Jewish conspiracy theories that “echo classic Nazi canards” The briefing follows a meeting earlier with Eu-ju Park, the CEO OF Gimm-Young Publishers, who released the series. In a letter last month, Rabbi Cooper urged Ms. Park to “carefully review the slanders in this book that historically have led to antisemitic violence and genocide.” and instead “consider providing facts about the Jewish people, our religion and values to young Koreans.”

On a related note, Rabbi Cooper yesterday condemned a student group in Taiwan that promotes the ideals of Adolf Hitler. The group is seeking NGO status in the international community.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center is one of the largest international Jewish human rights organizations with over 400,000 member families in the United States. It is an NGO at international agencies including the United Nations, UNESCO, the OSCE, and the Council of Europe.
Rabbi Cooper can be reached via e-mail at or at the Grand Hyatt Seoul, 82-2-797-1234. For additional information, please contact the Center's Public Relations Department, 310-553-9036 or

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Volume 11: American History, pages 248-251 (America must create enemies without end)

I thought the last pages of volume ten, about America's myopic ignorance, were anti-American enough, but volume eleven's final sentence is easily as bad. Rhie claims that America's great energy stems from America's refusal to lose ever, and that, seeing the exmple of the decadent Roman Empire, America must stay competitive by constantly creating 'competitors and enemies', i.e. China, Japan, and Terror! Read on if you dare.
In the end the Americans, who left their homelands and traveled 10,000 miles away to a strange land and fought through innumerable ordeals armed only with the pioneering spirit, brought down the Soviet Union and became the world's only superpower. But looking at the example of the Roman Empire, having no healthy competition leads to decline. America is keeping its eyes on a gradually rising China and getting ready. China, land of great culture and great population; in the future it is obvious that it will become an economic powerhouse and a frightening competitor for America. But America has battles to fight before it can tackle China. More than anything it must close the growing gap between rich and poor. One out of ten Americans live in persistent poverty. America must seriously solve the internal disputes among the races as well as its disputes with the rest of the world.
More than anything in order to do this, if America doesn't learn cultural humility America will never be the world's leading nation. When America understands the world's cultures and gains the cultural humility to recognize and respect them America will be able to truly become the world's watchman.
(Graphic shows a cowboy gawking at a turbaned man)
Cowboy: East Asian culture is 'mysterious'.
Turbaned man: That means 'irrational'. You need to
throw away that prejudice, we're all the same!
We're all the same. I am sure glad that we Americans could learn this beautiful lesson from the likes of you. We're all the same, with minor differences, like Japanese people's buck-teeth and black people's huge pink lips, right Professor Rhie?
But since young America has barely been in existence for 200 years, and even though it's a pluralistic nation that looks like a museum of the races, The problem is that Americans can't understand anything that's not American, and they don't even want to or try to understand. America is the birthplace of globalization, and yet America is the least globalized nation in the world. Unlike Europeans, Americans can't understand the notion of 'coexistence' properly, that coexistence is not merely living together, and that you must respect and understand your neighbors, having the friendship to not discriminate against them. But it is said that America is only comfortable with ruling and leading (dominance).
Because neighboring Canada's population doesn't even pass one ninth of America's, and since most of its population lives within 100 km of the American border it's as if it's dependent on the U.S.
(Graphic shows an American looking over the border at a Canadian, standing in a corridor defined as 100km from the U.S. border)
American (thinking): America's 51st state?
Canadian: [Beyond 100km from the U.S. border] it's too cold and there aren't any jobs.
Since in the south Mexico can barely come close to America economically and militarily America has always reigned over Mexico like a big brother. It's not just America; when you become a leading nation you can do no different.
(Graphic shows a cowboy and a samurai)
Samurai: The more the rice plant ripens the lower it bows its head [i.e. The greater the individual, the more humble they are]
Cowboy: When corn ripens it stands up straight as an arrow!
We could say that they are in the grips of an obsession with being the world's greatest and strongest in every challenge and test, and that they must never be surpassed as the world's strongest. That's why they endlessly make competitors and enemies. (Graphic shows a racer shouting "Who challenges me? Whether China or Japan, and if not Terror . . .") To fight and win they must never stop moving. This energy is America's biggest prime mover, and they must constantly move quickly and busily making problems and fighting wars in order to make sure they never
extinguish this great productive
engine. (이 에너지는 미국 발전의 가장 큰 원동력인 만큼 이를 생산하는 거대한 엔진을 꺼뜨리지 않기 위하여 미국은 끊임없이 문제를 만들고 전쟁을 하여 바쁘게, 빠르게 움직일 수밖에 없지.)
That's the American secret. Never stop fighting wars, or we'll lose our edge. The thing that I really love about this book is the level of projection that goes on in Rhie's mind. Everywhere he looks, he sees Korea. I mean, Korea's been at war for the last how many years, and it's certainly helped their economy, eh? He's like a rabbit who reads a book about the Hundred Years War and declares the underlying cause to obviously be carrots.
If there had been no great frontier in the West of America it's possible that America would have been forever consumed by internal strife and troubles.
(Graphic shows explosions of hostility coming out of a well)
I've discussed the well before. This is Rhie's favorite symbol for ignorant America, The frog in a well. The frog in the well doesn't realize there's a whole wide world outside his well, and instead brags proudly about its greatness. again, this is a term that some people tend to use in reference to Korea.

But America's energy went into spreading westward without problem, and it's now spreading limitlessly to the rest of the world. Other ethnic nations that were blocked on all four sides and whose energy had no place to spread out expended their energy in factional infighting and disputes and stand in contrast to America. John F. Kennedy said "The United States has to move very fast to even stand still." America will keep on moving just as he said. If that great body stands still, it will be torn down by fat and the diseases of old age. To produce its overflowing energy, America must create enemies without end.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Volume 11: American History, pages 245-247

Up until now I'd ignored the other volume of the series that I have, but tonight I flipped through it and again found that the last chapter expresses most of Rhie Won-bok's opinions. Here are some of the last few pages of Monnara Iunnara Volume 11: American History, Chapter 8: The Lonely World's Only Superpower: Today's America, from the New Frontier to the Iraq War. Fascinating stuff, for sure. The book has 251 pages, so I'll do the last four in my next post.

The presidential election of 2000, at the dawn of the 21st century, ended in victory for Bush. Al Gore, the candidate for the opposition Democratic Party outpaced Bush, but because of the 'indirect election' system Bush and the Republican party came back to victory.

Incidentally, I think that these pictures by GRAPHIC DESIGN PROFESSOR Rhie Won-bok may be the worst caricatures I have ever seen
As opposed to his father, President Bush is extreme and became outspoken about American hegemony through his stubbornly conservative policies. Bush's extreme rightism, super-stubborn diplomacy and American superiority [complex] wounded the pride of the many countries angry about their losses due to America's prime concern, globalization.
(Graphic shows an angry Italian, Mexican (likely due to NAFTA) and Arab)
Arab: Hamburger, cola, jeans, Hollywood. Is that all you think culture is?
Because of a lack of understanding of many cultures, America clashed with the Muslim world and had the effect of strengthening hostile powers with their high-pressure diplomacy. In particular, America, feeling the effects of the financial world and the media in control of the Jews took sides with Israel and made the Arab powers into enemies.

In particular, America, feeling the effects of the financial world and the media in control of the Jews took sides with Israel and made the Arab powers into enemies.

On September 11, 2001 America suffered an attack. Terrorists took over passenger planes and suicide attacked the World Trade Center in New York, the heart of America, and Headquarters of the Defense Department, the Pentagon. Thousands of innocent lives were lost in this first notice that America has many enemies and the beginning of a war unlike any America had seen before, the War on Terror. Bush immediately declared war on terror, and to catch the man behind the scenes of the terror, Osama Bin Laden.

And it's at this point that Rhie does something I don't get, which is placing an asterix next to the Korean spelling of 'Osama Bin Laden' and footnoting it with the English spelling 'Osama Bin Laden' . Why? I just don't know. [Update: He does this most of the time, and for some reason I didn't notice until now. I think the reason is that he often does it beneath an actual photo of the person, whereas in this case the asterix is below another completely unrecognizable caricature that is too chubby and fat nosed to bear even a passing resemblance to Bin Laden.]
The war in Afghanistan began on the pretext that Osama Bin Laden was hiding there. And the richest and greatest military power in the world wound up going to war with the world's poorest country.

"The war in Afghanistan began on the pretext that Osama Bin Laden was hiding there. And the richest and greatest military power in the world wound up going to war with the world's poorest country."

In this war they chased out the anti-U.S. government, but they didn't find Bin Laden and they turned their eyes and the barrels of their guns to Iraq and its leader Saddam Hussein which they fingered as a terrorism-supporting state.

America started the Iraq War to eliminate Hussein. Naturally Iraq eventually submitted to the powerful U.S., and Hussein was captured, and Iraq was liberated from dictatorship. But the WMDs that were the reason America went to war in the first place were never found, and America asked many nations to contribute troops and make a "war of everyone", but domestic criticism and other factors placed the Bush administration in dire straits. So the transfer of power to the citizens was dropped and already a serious dispute between the Iraqi people has begun, and the Iraq war still hasn't ended, with endless suicide bombings and attacks on Americans and American soldiers. Quite the contrary, we don't know that the real war isn't just starting.