Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Debunking the Korean Talmud Story

Some days ago, Ynet ran a story of an interview with the Korean ambassador to Israel, who claimed the Talmud was required reading for every Korean student:

“We were curious how come the Jews are so successful academically and have a much higher percentage of Nobel Prize winners in all fields… what is their secret?… one of your secrets is studying Talmud,” continued ambassador Young-Sam-Ma. There might be now more (translated) Talmud volumes in South Korean homes than in Israel!
“We tried to understand why the Jews are such geniuses and we concluded that (it is because) they study Talmud,” explained South Korea’s ambassador to Israel.  


This story was picked up by just about every proud Jewish website. However if anyone thought a little, the story makes no sense! even using an explained talmud (i.e Artscroll) the Talmud is hard reading for adults - never mind schoolchildren. Furthermore large parts are so dependant on some other Jewish Knoweldge, that you really couldn't understand anything.
 A quick google search for "talumd" and "Korea", brought me to a catholic forum. In 2005 a poster named "Brogan" wrote the following posts:

I've taken a job in Korea. This is a decission that I now regret becuase I stupidly misred sspx's website and thought that they offered mass every sunday. Its actually only once a month.
Anyways, I just found out that all the little kids have to read the Talmud in elementary school. I couldnt believe this. There arnt even any jews in Korea. I think I'm going to look into whether or not foods here have koser lables on them. This is just rediculis. I truely doubt that even .00001% of the population here is Jewish.
 He followed it up with a few other posts:

So I asked some of my students today and am now even more weirded out than before. One class told me that they all had to read it in elementary school. When I asked them what class they all acted really confused. They didnt understand what I was asking them. Then I asked the next class about it. They told me that it was not part of thier school curiculem yet every single one of them had read it as a child. When I asked them if they had read the Koran both classes burst into laughter. "Of course not thats the Muslim book".
They didnt get it when I was trying to explain to them that the Talmud was a Jewish book. They just kept saying "in Korea it is just a good book." One student told me that he loves the Talmud becuase it is the "light of Knowledge". Mind you, these kids barely speak english yet he said that exact phrase. I dont know what to make of it.
So what I'vwe learned so far is that All of them read it as children and love it yet dont know that it is Jewish. All of them read it during elementary school yet I dont think it was required in any class. But I tell you what they way they acted was more fanatical then american kids about Harry Potter. I mean they LOVED the Talmud.
Something else I found weird was after the first class told me that they had all read it I started talking to them about the Jews. All they knew about the Jews was that they were killed by Hitler. I asked them "who killed more people, Hitler or Stalin?" They all shouted "Hitler Hitler!" The strangest thing about this is that they knew that millions of Korean settelers had been killed by Stalin yet had no idea about the other 60 million or so that he killed.
How strange. The second class didnt have any answer asto why they read it. "its a really goooood book". ""before I read the talmud I used to think that he was ugly" (pointing to another student...everyone laughs). Now I know the truth. "The Talmud is the light of knowledge".
I'm going to find out still more about this. I want an answer asto whether or not its required, becuase if its not why have EVERY SINGLE ONE of them read it in elementary school?
Btw I told them that it was anti-Christian and said to kill Christians. I think this is true but umm...does it specifically say to kill Christians?
 Let us leave aside the strong anti-semitic vibes (that are going to get worse as you read the original thread), Brogan continued his search into the Korean Talmud love affair:
Quote from: francis
I googled korea + talmud and found this
...
UPDATE: OK just taught my final class of the day and got the full scoop. It's been hard up till now because everyone (except this last class) can barely speak any english (including my co-workers at the school), and I can speak no Korean. Anyways the Myongshimpogan is something altogether different from the Talmud. These students had never heard it called the "korean talmud". They said that the Korean Times must have said that because the actual Talmud is so familiar to people. These students confirmed that they all had read the actual Jewish Talmud. They said it had stories about a Queen and a "Lappi". I guess a "Lappi" is a professor. Anyways they all told me that it was just good stories. Something about how the queen hated the Lappi because he was ugly but then he had people put wine into gold vases and the gold of the containers ruined the taste of the wine. (i.e. its what on the inside that matters). They must have been referencing the exact same story that another student talked about yesterday (except he could barely speak english so he said "before I read Talmud I thought him ugly").
Anyways this class couldn't tell me the name in english of the class that they all read the Talmud in but they could explain to me what they do in the class. They said its just a class where you read literature and then you write about what you have read in the class. I asked them what other books you read in that class and do you know what the first thing they answered?Huh?Huh?Huh?  THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK!!!!!!!! All the other books were Korean and they didnt know any english title for them.

This is tooo creepy.  
And one more:
I did the same thing last night so I asked another teacher today at the school to try and get the bottom of this. I asked her if there  was some Korean book called the Talmud or if it was Jewish. She said "Yes it is Hebrew but it is not bad like the one you read. They have Talmuds for elementary, middle, and high school... Even Christians in Korea LOVE the talmud." I'm still very confused. I mean the students have all told me that its just stories, ect. Could this teacher have been wrong about it being jewish?


So basically we have an answer. The Koreans are calling a book of collections of Talmudic stories "The Talmud". I can only guess that the Korean ambassador thinks that the Talmud is a collection of moral stories.


 [Update: I wrote this post last night, but decided to wait and edit it in the morning. It seems Elders of Zion has beaten me to the conclusion using a google translate method that showed that books on the talmud in korean were story collections]

* Further Update: Please see this exchange of Emails with "ask a Korean" blog, that removes all doubt. 




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