Which Asian country was 'worse:' WWII Japan or modern North Korea?

(I’m not defining what constitutes “worse”; that’s the whole point of this thread.)

AFAIK, World War II Japan was the “worse” country if you were someone not Japanese (i.e., Chinese, Korean), but if you are a modern North Korean facing starvation, brainwashing, etc. then North Korea is the worse of the two for you.

In other words, people in WWII Japan had slightly more food and freedom (at least, for the first half of the war or so) than North Koreans today, but today’s neighbors of North Korea (i.e., South Korea) haven’t had to deal with a major invasion by Pyongyang in several decades.

I think the residents of Nanking could give an answer to that.

North Korea may be a totalitarian hellhole, but at least they are (for now) staying within their own borders and not slaughtering the neighbours.

WWII Japan. No question in my mind. North Korea is a Hell on Earth, many of its people brutalized and tortured in a way that would make a dystopian SciFi author go “Woah, that’s a bit much!”. And yet, still not the treatment meted out by WWII Japan at its worst. You’d need to look at Cambodia, Stalinist Russia, Free Congo State or Europe under Hitler for fair comparisons to WWII Japan. IMO, of course.

Japan. North Korea is smaller than a Chinese province, whereas Japan had the military power to take on China as well as several western nations.

Based solely on human rights, I’d still say Japan. The north Koreans are pure evil, but they seem like they restrict their evil more to people they deem a threat to the regime. Japan was just evil to everyone they met.

Is it better to stab one angel with a pin a million times or stab a million angels one time each?

Japanese war crimes are well documented. North Korea is a closed society, with bits and pieces coming from defectors. Japan was very bad for a relatively short amount of time. North Korea has been bad for decades. I’m not aware of anything Japan did that NK doens’t do in their huge prison camps: human medical experiments, slave labor, rape, collective punishment, infanticide, forced starvation, etc.

What was life as a WWII Japanese citizen like compared to a modern North Korean commoner?

20% better?

10% worse?


Worse from who’s perspective? From the average Japanese citizens perspective it was certainly better than from the average North Koreans perspective. If you are talking about externally, then obviously Japan was worse from the perspective of most of it’s neighbors, including Korea as a whole.

Japan was worse.

Just during WWII, Japan killed between 3 million and 10 million during WWII. The likely number is probably around 6 million. The North Korean number is probably closer to 1 million. Life as a civilian under Japanese rule during WWII was at least as bad as life in North Korea (lets not forget that until about the 1970’s North Korea was arguably in better shape than South Korea and life there wasn’t horrible. Life there didn’t really get bad until the fall of communism and the near evaporation of foreign aid from the USSR and China).

How you could determine this before defining “worse” escapes me.

WWII Japan was like a spree killer, running from place to place and gunning down a dozen people in an afternoon.

North Korea is like a serial killer, murdering a dozen people in its basement over twenty years and hiding the corpses in the crawlspace under the house.

But does North Korea deserve all that much credit for lacking opportunities? North Korea would certainly occupy South Korea if it had a chance. And I feel that if somehow Kim had the power to do so, he’d build an empire across Asia. North Korea is doing as much evil as it can.

The regime in charge of Japan during WWII could have emulated Hitler or Stalin or Mao and killed its own citizens but it chose not to. So while it committed great evil outside its borders it could have been worse.

So I’m picking North Korea.

No? Want to guess at the official citizenship of Koreans leading up to, and during, WWII? Yet Japan had no problem conducting human testing on Koreans in Unit 731, or conscripting Korean labour and working them to death.

Life in NK is probably worse. However my impression is NK seems to more or less reserve their brutality for people they deem a threat to their regime (political opponents, even though that term is very loose there). Japan on the other hand is very brutal with everyone they meet.

Then again NK did kidnap a lot of civilians. And they have threatened to target civilians (and have on multiple occasions).

I guess to me, NK has more predictability to their evil compared to Japan. NK is evil but they seem to target people when their evil helps them survive as a regime. Japan was just evil for pleasure and evil to anyone they felt like.

I don’t think Nemo is saying that Japan wasn’t evil beyond it’s borders. However, keep in mind that we don’t really know all the stuff the North Koreans have done inside their borders wrt things like conducting testing on live humans. I’d be shocked if they haven’t done similar things to their own citizens who are branded criminals because they disagreed with the regime over something. We will probably never know until and unless the regime finally folds, and even then we might not. In addition, during the Korean war the NKs certainly did some heinous things when they occupied parts of South Korea and before they were expelled again. As Nemo said, it’s a matter that North Korea has simply not had the opportunity to do more evil shit beyond it’s own borders to it’s neighbors because they have effectively been contained…if they hadn’t been then it’s a pretty good bet they could have done much more.

Mao also didn’t do a lot of human rights abuse beyond his own borders (leaving aside a few inconvenient things like Tibet), but you could still rank him and the CCP as some of the most heinous violators of human rights even though most of those violations were within their own borders.

Pretty sure Japan regarded Koreans as subjects rather than citizens.

I think MrDibble’s point is that, at the time, Korea was within Japan’s borders. And this wasn’t as a result of recent conquest - the annexation of Korea was completed in 1910.

All Japanese Imperial citizens were subjects of the Emperor.

Are you just nitpicking or do you really not understand the point?

If it’s the latter, I’ll explain it again with more words then should have been necessary: the Japanese government in the WWII era treated the populations in countries it conquered quite brutally. But during this same period, the Japanese government treated the Japanese people rather benignly. There were no reigns of terror or mass killings directed against the Japanese people by their own government. I contrasted this with the North Korean government as well as the circa-WWII-era governments of Germany, China, and the Soviet Union, all of which did oppress their own populations as well as the populations of other countries which fell under their control. So I feel WWII Japan was not as bad as modern North Korea because it showed this restrain towards the people it identified as its own. The modern North Korean government has generally been as evil as its circumstances allowed it to be whereas the Japanese WWII-era government could have been more evil if it had chosen to be.

All of this should have been clear from my earlier post.

Just nitpicking. Or rather, I’m pointing out that “citizen” isn’t a useful grouping to consider - what you mean is that the Japanese didn’t abuse ethnic Japanese, citizenship was never the issue. And can be revoked or made second-class easily enough - by some lights,Jews weren’t German citizens by the time of the Holocaust. So at least for them, you could make the same statement as you do for Koreans.

The question is how would NK have acted if it managed to overrun the whole west Pacific. But it’s pointless to ask. Still Japan. Actually Japanese were most despicable 50 years after world war 2. But after other Asian countries managed to catch up in terms of production and Japan is now just a secondary player, they’ve become more tolerable.

Am I reading this correctly? 1995 Japan was more despicable than 1995 North Korea?