This year is a very important year for me. It is not only the 60th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean war but it's also 100th anniversary of that time when Japan annexed my house. Overall, I have thought about the past a lot during these past few months. Strange, I rarely do that in a serious way. Whenever I truly think about everything that has happened in this modern age, it feels like my heart and soul are being ripped apart and it becomes difficult to breath. The wounds on my body may have healed but the wounds of my spirit remain even today.
"Older brother! Older brother!"
China turned around and sighed as he saw the teenage boy run towards him. Korea never changed. For how long had he known Korea by now? Let's see, the current dynasty is the Qing dynasty, before that was the Ming dynasty, before that the Yuan dynasty, Tang dynasty, Sui dynasty, Han dynasty… China shook his head as he was reminded of his own age. He had seen so many dynasties rise and fall, had seen so many new nations be born, grow up, flourish and perish. Truth to be told, he was very worried about nations perishing right now.
"Older brother! Why do you look so down?" Korea shouted happily and hugged China.
"Nothing, it's just something that comes with age, aru" China said, sighed and then smiled slightly.
Yes, Korea was one of the nations that China was really worried about right now.
Korea had had an unusually long dynasty (Korea himself called it the Joseon dynasty) that had lasted more than 500 years already. Normally, that would be a good thing since it was always a painful process to experience the fall of a dynasty. But, China glanced at the boy, Korea was obviously not doing well and had not been doing well for quite a while. The Joseon dynasty had been on its way down a downwards spiral for a long time now.
"Korea… I think we should talk about Japan" China said and firmly pushed Korea away.
"Japan? I don't want to talk about Japan. Let's talk about me instead" Korea said stubbornly.
"That is also fine. That is, Japan has grown so quickly lately and is already an adult" China started.
"Lalalala, I can't hear you unless you talk about me!" Korea interrupted while covering his ears with his hands.
"Why, have you no manners?" China said but then sighed.
Korea just continued but in truth also felt worried. His older brother had seemed so tired lately.
It must be those damn Europeans fault, just suddenly appearing outside his brother's house and demanding him to share it with them. His other siblings had all gone different ways.
Vietnam was under France's control, Hong Kong under England's. Taiwan had managed to break free from both Holland and Spain but lately seemed to be nervous about something that she refused to share with others. And Japan… that stupid Japan…
Korea frowned. After years of just hiding away in his house, Japan had suddenly decided to start copying the Westerners. How low could one fall? To think that his own house was so close to the lodgings of such an idiot. Well, no matter what people said about Japan's skills, Japan had never been someone that Korea could seriously respect. Japanese culture was just a copy of Korean culture anyway.
"Older brother, I am going home for today. See you!" Korea then said nonchalantly and then just started to walk back.
China followed him with his eyes. China so hoped that he was wrong about Japan but his intuition was usually very good. Japan definitely had his eyes on both Korea and Taiwan. A flaring anger suddenly washed over China. Of course he realized that Japan's goal was to conquer his house eventually, nothing new with that. But to go through his siblings like this. Especially Korea… that naïve boy who had been isolated just as Japan, if not more, from the clasps of foreign nations.
"Brother, what do you mean?" Korea said but just stared blankly ahead as China grabbed his arm with a hand covered in band aids.
"You are on your own now" China mumbled without looking up. His entire body was covered with wounds.
"What, all of the sudden… Older brother, did Japan hit your head so bad during the war?" Korea started with a small smile.
"You are independent now!" China then shouted and sank down to his knees as if that one shout had robbed him of the last of his energy.
A long silence followed and China then finally raised his head a bit to look at Korea. The boy was almost as bruised and wounded as himself. Whenever he had a conflict with Japan, why did they have to fight over at Korea's place? China eyes then widened as he finally saw Korea's face.
"K-Korea…" China started.
"Independent, eh? Well, I am a great nation after all. Now I am an empire just like you, brother. We are equals and I am waaaay above Japan! Ah, how about you address me as older brother now?" Korea said and smiled happily.
China lowered his head again. Korea… Korea was going to die. Japan was going to absorb him and there was nothing China could do about it.
Later the same day…
"Korea, what is this?" Queen Min exclaimed and looked upset.
The room was a complete mess. Furniture was turned over, paintings were ripped apart, calligraphy paper and brushes scattered all over the floor.
"Ah, your highness" Korea said and scratched his head suddenly looking guilty.
"You silly boy. Creating a mess like this. You must learn to restrain yourself better" Queen Min said in a scolding tone.
"I know, I know. I just have so much energy, you know" Korea said and smiled foolishly.
"...Don't worry. Me and my husband will not lead you to ruin" Queen Min then suddenly said in a serious tone.
"What? I never thought-" Korea started.
"Believe in us. Believe in yourself. I will modernize this country and make it strong enough to stand up against Japan" Queen Min finished and then simply turned around and left the room.
Korea watched the elegant shape of his queen leave. Or his empress rather. Empress Min truly was a strong woman, not at all that frail as one would believe at first! Korea suddenly felt cheerful again and almost forgot how he had completely trashed the room just moments earlier in a fit of rage and despair.
Half a year later. October 8th 1895.
Korea couldn't stop crying and just held the body of Empress Min and screamed.
"Myeongseong! Myeongseong! Don't die! We were going to make Korea the grandest empire in the world, weren't we!" Korea said and shook the lifeless body he held in his arms.
Empress Min had already passed away. On her chest was a still expanding bloodied spot.
"Hand over the Queen"
That familiar military uniform. They were all over the palace these days. Japanese soldiers…
"No, never! Go away you murderers! And she is Empress Min! Empress of the Great Korean Empire!" Korea shouted and hugged Empress Min's body even harder.
Finally, some of the men suddenly grabbed him from behind and pulled him back by force.
Another man walked up to the body of Empress Min and suddenly started pouring some kind of liquid over it.
"Oi! What are you doing, you damn bastards! She is the Empress! Even though she is dead, her body is still sacred, you know!" Korea said furiously and fought with all his might to break free.
The next action would never leave Korea's memory no matter how much he would wish that he hadn't seen it. When he closed his eyes, he could still so clearly see how that soldier dropped a single lit match and how the flames engulfed his Empress. The sight of the flames consuming her skin and hair combined with the smell of burnt flesh made his stomach turn and caused him to throw up repeatedly.
"Korea-san, are you listening?" Japan gave Korea a somewhat concerned look while handing over the pen to him.
"…" Korea met Japan's eyes with a hateful stare and Japan dropped the pen and took a step back.
"Korea-san! This is an agreement between our bosses. I swear that I will do my best to protect you from any harm so will you please sign this contract?" Japan said in a slightly upset tone before forcing himself to calm down and going back to his normal blank face expression.
"…" Korea turned his face away and refused to look at Japan.
"I did not want to do this but my boss ordered me to in case you would not cooperate" Japan sighed and then lifted the seal from Korea's side of the table and dipped it in the red ink.
"I am not happy about this myself but you must understand that your better interests should be with me now" Japan continued and then put the seal down on the contract under Korea's part.
"I will never recognize you. You are just trying to steal my house" Korea suddenly said with a bitter tone.
Korea didn't have the time to be surprised as Japan's fist hit his face. He momentarily lost his balance but managed to regain it and prevent himself from falling to the ground (and prevent himself from losing what remained of his honour).
"I…" Japan started and a shadow of regret passed in his eyes. Then it disappeared.
"I am your only Oniisama now. You must learn to respect me and be disciplined. You cannot act like a child forever or I will have to discipline you even harder" Japan continued and then just took the contract and left.
Korea fell down to his knees as soon as the door closed behind Japan. This couldn't be. How could this happen? He was the nation and the obvious owner of his own house, yet, yet he was somehow starting to lose everything. His Emperor hadn't been as lively ever since the death of Empress Min ten years ago and almost seemed like a living doll these days. The nobles were starting to whisper among themselves that siding with Japan would be the only way to make Korea successful. Not a word from China…
Korea felt tears welling up in his eyes. No, not here, not now. Even though he normally cried whenever he felt like crying, he didn't want to cry in this humiliated state. Besides, no one was there to comfort him anymore. He was all by himself while the world was falling apart around him. Korea felt something warm and wet trail down his cheeks. The place where Japan had punched him burned as his tears trailed over it.
"What did you say?" Korea just blinked.
"Korea-san, me and my boss want you to move to my house" Japan repeated.
"Move to your house? Hahaha, that joke isn't very funny even for your boring sense of humor" Korea laughed almost hysterically.
"Stop laughing. I am being serious" Japan said with a bit strained tone.
Korea immediately stopped as if someone had hit him.
"My researchers have came to the conclusion of that we are closer related than we first thought. Our origin is probably exactly the same although I am the older one" Japan started.
"Liar! I am older than you! Besides, it was older brother who made us to who we are today anyway! You can't deny that older brother-" Korea swallowed his words as Japan had grabbed the collar of his hanbok.
"Please stop mentioning China-san. We are different from China-san since we do not bow down to the Western nations" Japan said and stared sharply at Korea.
"Y-Yes. Don't ruin my clothes…" Korea said carefully and Japan finally removed his hands.
"Anyhow, I am surprised that you have not been informed of that your house will belong to me. I hope that you realize that it would be more convenient for you to come and live in my main house now" Japan said with an emotionless tone and gave Korea a somewhat degrading look.
Korea didn't dare to say anything else. If he were to open his mouth again, he would just lose it and attack Japan. But even he knew that he couldn't win without a weapon while Japan was armed with both his sword and a gun. Korea bit his lip so hard that he could feel the copper like taste of his own blood. This shouldn't be anything new. After all, there was so much that he didn't seem to know about these days.
Another surprise waited outside and Korea felt his jaw drop a level.
"Really, look at you" Taiwan said and crossed her arms.
"Taiwan? What are you doing here?" Korea said and blinked surprised.
"It is nothing to be surprised over, is it? We are both part of Japan-dage's family now" Taiwan said with a slight smile.
"…" Korea didn't say anything.
"…I can understand that it is difficult for you to accept it but Japan-dage is really trying his best, you know! If you just try to cooperate a bit with him, he will help you make your house as modern and beautiful as his own. Japan-dage is really caring!" Taiwan said and her smile grew while having an admiring look in her eyes.
"Don't you miss your other "dage"?" Korea asked and Taiwan's smile was immediately wiped away.
"Shh, don't mention that guy. Japan-dage would be troubled and sad if he had heard you! And no, I don't miss him at all" Taiwan said with a firm face expression.
"What are you saying! Do you like being with that stupid Japan that much!" Korea exclaimed and Taiwan jumped and looked around.
"Stop it, you idiot! Do you have any idea at all how it felt to just be those Western nations' colony? China-dage couldn't do anything for me! Japan-dage helps me out a lot and listens to all my complaints! It's just you who are being narrow minded and refuses to cooperate! All of Asia could be liberated and happy under Dage's vision!" Taiwan shouted back at Korea and then left with angry steps.
Korea followed her with his eyes. Japan's vision? Yes, some of his intellectuals had talked about it. A united Asia free from Western imperialism. Korea hadn't thought that much about it himself but it wasn't a bad idea. Korea had been relatively safe compared to most of his other siblings, but he had felt the stare of that scary Russia. Russia had increased his lands more and more in Asia until finally reaching the coast north of Korea's house. Russia had always had an interest in China but later on he had also started to smile and wave to Korea from a distance. It somehow gave Korea the creeps and he had honestly been happy when Japan managed to beat Russia in the Russo-Japanese war. Of course, that had on the other hand meant that Japan had been able to secure parts of Manchuria and that Korea was surrounded by Japan.
Well, maybe he would just follow Japan for a while and see what he was planning. He would come over to Japan's house for a sleepover every now and then but he would never give up his own house. No matter what Japan said about owning his house, Korea would always be Korea. His people were proud and would never give into Japan's ways and his nation would survive forever through them.