Tessa Morris-Suzuki, Professor
School of Culture, History and Language
College of Asia and the Pacific
Australian National University
The Korean War of 1950-1953 is described, with monotonous regularity, as the ‘forgotten war’, but in the context of Japan history the war is not really forgotten: rather, its memory has been hermetically sealed in the capsule of a safe and comforting narrative. The Korean War (according to this narrative) was an explosion of violence from which Japan remained almost entirely insulated – a bystander fortuitously reaping the benefits of war procurements. The war accelerated the reverse course in the allied occupation policy towards Japan, favourably influenced the terms of the peace settlement with Japan’s former Pacific War enemies, and (above all) set the nation on the path to high growth.
In Japanese history education and public memory, this image of the Korean War as (to quote Prime Minister Yoshida) a ‘gift from the gods’ remains dominant to the present day. But a growing body of research, both within Japan and internationally, questions this image by revealing evidence of a deeper and more violent dimension of Japan’s involvement in the war. The paper will contribute that research by exploring the stories of Japanese who served in the war zone, both on the South Korean/United Nations side and on the North Korean/Chinese side. Among the former were around 1,200 former naval officers engaged in minesweeping missions; several thousand workers recruited as sailors, ship’s pilots, dock labourers etc. and sent to play supporting roles in UN operations in Korea (including manning the landing vessels for the Incheon Landing); several hundred Japanese Red Cross nurses who tended the wounded at the war front; and some 120 Japanese base workers who accompanied US forces from their bases when they were deployed to Korea. On the Northern side, it is estimated that some 100-200 Japanese who had been “left behind” in Manchuria at the end of the Pacific War joined the Chinese People’s Volunteer Force at the Korean War front, while other Japanese doctors, nurses and support personnel also worked behind the lines in China during the war.
These stories raise interesting questions about the processes of historical remembering and forgetting. Why has the Japanese presence in the battle zone been so comprehensively written out of history? How might a recovery of the history of the Japanese combatants influence our wider perceptions of the history both of Japan and Korea in the 1950s? My paper argues that a rediscovery of the story of the Japanese combatants helps us to re-consider conventional images of the “Cold War order”. Drawing on the recent work of Kwon Heonik and others, I argue the need to “re-remember” the so-called “Cold War” from an East Asian perspective. Such re-remembering involves a recognition that, in the East Asian context (and even for Japan) the Cold War was embedded in hot war. A focus on the Japanese combatants also enables us to rethink conventional geographical images of the “Cold War” as a confrontation between vast chunks of territory colour coded by ideology: the ‘communist bloc’ and the ‘non-communist bloc’. In the story of Japan’s Korean War combatants, we see glimpses of another fluid and ubiquitous “Cold War” which crossed spatial borders, while mobile human beings in turn traversed its dividing lines, sometimes out of intellectual conviction, at other times driven by the simple demands of survival.
Honglei Cao, Ph.D Candidate
The rising of one-man protest is one of the remarkable developments in recent years in South Korea. Unlike the collective protest (or massive social movement) that already has its long history in South Korea, one-man protest is still very much young. In December 2000, Jonghun Yoon, a member of the largest civil organization named as “People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy”, staged the first one-man protest against Samsung Group and the National Tax Agency. Yoon held a picket in front of the National Tax Agency against Samsung Group’s illegal succession of wealth and claimed that the National Tax Agency should immediately act a special investigation on Samsung’s business tax.
The appearance of one-man protest was not at random. It firstly was used as a convenient method for avoiding the hard-to-get approval permit from the police. The Assembly and Demonstration Act in South Korea defines the term “demonstration” as an assembly of a group of persons associated under a common objective parading along in some public places available for free movement. In other words, any protest activity by only one single person doesn’t require any reporting to the police and is not controlled by the Act in location. Therefore, many South Koreans then walked out to the streets and expressed their concerns and interests in various social and political issues, ranging from people evicted from their apartments to teenagers asked for political rights to vote as adults. One-man protest has already become one of the most commonly used means to express their personal appeals in South Korea.
That such protest would rise in South Korea is not a surprise to all; it reflects the dynamic interactions between the individual and the state as well as the resurrections of “individuality” and public realm after the third wave demonstration in 1980s. Why one-man protest rose so fast in short ten years? What people appeal? What kind of influence does it have on South Korean society? In answering these questions, this paper will utilize Hannah Arendt’s preeminent explanations on public realm (public sphere) to analyze the emergence of the one-man protest as well as its influence during the last fourteen years. Of structure and methodology, this paper will firstly examine the development of one-man protests by using some historical data; secondly analyze its reasons of popularity as well as its impact on South Korean society. Finally, this paper concludes that the rising of one-man protest provides us a grand new perspective to inspect the rise of public sphere in modern South Korea.
Vladimir Tikhonov, Professor
Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages
My presentation will focus on the diverse meanings invested into the descriptions of the Korean-Japanese romance by both Korean and Japanese authors in late nineteenth – early twentieth century (pre-colonial period and the epochs of “saber rule” and “cultural policy” in colonial Korea). In the majority of the cases, the descriptions are explicitly politicized. In a number of works by the Japanese authors, romance between a Japanese male and Korean female was an explicit metaphor for the Japanese “guidance” in “leading backward Korea to the civilization”. For example, in a popular novel, The Wind Blowing Yellow Sand (Kōsafuku Kaze, serialized by daily Asahi in 1891-1892) by journalist-turned-writer and a “Korean hand” of Late Meiji Japan, Nakarai Toshui (1860-1926), a son of Meiji loyalist and a Korean woman, Hayashi Masamoto (Lim Chŏngwŏn), marries a Korean woman he falls in love with, and concomitantly heads a “Korean revolution” and achieves a grand “East Asian alliance” against Russian penetration in the course of his Korean adventures. Love between a male Japanese activist and a Korean woman depicted mostly as a passive object of the “rescue” by her Japanese sweetheart, denotes here Japan’s position as Korea’s “savior”.
It has to be noticed that the inferior position of the Korean part in the Korean-Japanese romance descriptions was not limited to the Japanese works only. The first ever Korean literary work to portray a Korean-Japanese marriage was arguably Yi Injik’s (1862-1916) Japanese Beauty Married to a Poor Korean Man (Pinsŏnnang ŭi Ilmiin, serialized by Maeil Sinbo in 1912), where a Korean man has to listen to the complains of his Japanese wife who married him – when he still was a promising young student back in Japan – in hope for a comfortable life in Korea, but ended up living in miserable penury. Apart from being poor, the Korean man is depicted as indolent and prone to empty bragging, surrounded by superstitious good-for-nothings. His suffering wife, interestingly enough, is depicted as speaking only Japanese in the family – Korea was colonized by Japan in 1910, and the colonizers did not feel too pressured to learn the language of the colonized. Some critics argue that Yi Injik’s narrative of an “inferior colonial man” is partly autobiographical (he was married to a Japanese himself), although given Yi’s literary fame and relatively high social position (by 1911, the director of the Confucian academy, Kyŏnghagwŏn, in the Korean colonial capital), the exaggerated “inferiority” of Japanese woman’s Korean husband might have been inspired mostly by a deeply-seating inferiority complex of a colonial intellectual.
This Orientalist/self-Orientalising construction was, however, challenged by the Korean writers of the 1920s. Many of them were educated in Japan; however, harsh colonial realities made them to take a more critical view on the Japanese claims of mission civilisatrice and Japanese’ self-positioning as the colonial herrenvolk. Kim Tong’in (1900-1951), in his description of his obsession with buxom Japanese girl in Tokyo in 1918-1919 (monthly Pyŏlkŏn’gon, February 1930), puts himself into the privileged position of voyeur. While the Japanese girl the crash on whom he develops, rejects him on ethno-racial grounds (as an “inferior Korean”), he is primarily obsessed by her seductively plump body (“a good pig to make some ham of”) – female plumpness being his personal sexual fetish – rather than by her presumed “civilizational” credentials. Interestingly, Kim’s rather physical obsession with the Japanese girl sharply contrasts with his purely platonic love for a girl of mixed Western-Japanese parentage, whom he met as a 15-year old during his first year of study in Tokyo. Red hairs and “Western” looks inspire romantic expectations, while the Japanese sexuality is described in a rather denigrating way. The inferiority complex towards the (imagined, rather than real) “West”, common to both Japanese and Korean intellectuals of the time, becomes a “weapon” of sorts in the discursive struggle against the Japanese presumptions of superiority.
In a word, ‘romance’ became a playing field for the national(ist) sentiments and ambitions, both colonialist and anti-colonial. Japanese authors, following the common Orientalist stereotypes, tended to feminize Korea as such. And even in the writings of the Japanese left-wing authors – Sata Ineko’s (1904-1998) well-known poem Korean Girls (“Chosen no shōjo”, – Roba, May 1928) – Korea depicted as a pitiful woman looks more like an object of (condescending) sympathy than a equally placed comrade in a joint struggle. In the Korean writings, by contrast, Japanese women are sometimes depicted as sexually attractive but less culturally sophisticated, or as seductress/calculating luck-hunters. As such, they threaten the existing patriarchal order in Korea; at the same time, such a portrayal works to subvert the colonialist “superiority” claims.
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