In a reminder of the bitter legacy of Japanese colonial rule over South Korea, a scholar has provoked outrage after describing the Japanese occupation as a 'blessing' for the peninsula. His opinions, contained in a magazine article, come amid rising tension between Seoul and Tokyo over a set of contested islands in the Sea of Japan, that Seoul refers to as the East Sea. Hahn Sung-joe, a professor at Korea University, one of the country's top schools, praised Japan's 1910-35 occupation in Seiron, a monthly magazine published by the Japanese Sankei newspaper. 'We should feel grateful for the Japanese occupation of Korea, instead of criticising it,' Professor Hahn wrote. 'It was rather a blessing for Korea.' Professor Hahn argued that the early 20th century was characterised by fierce competition among world powers for influence in Asia and that if Japan had not occupied Korea, Russia would have done so. 'If it were Russia, the Korean Peninsula would have been communised. Korean people would have been dispersed under Stalin's policies,' he said. 'Therefore, I think Japan's colonial rule rather reinforced Koreans' awareness and nationalism.' The 74-year-old professor's views, which are practically taboo in South Korea, were expanded in subsequent interviews with the Korean media, unleashing anger across the political spectrum. 'The assertion that Korea would have been annexed one way or the other is a sophism that Japanese right-wingers have been peddling for a long time,' said South Korea's right-wing Chosun newspaper. 'From a senior scholar of political science with a career spanning nearly 40 years, it is incomprehensible.'