Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Expectations of US intervention and Chun Doo-hwan’s manipulations

The 1980 Kwangju Uprising and the United States

Part 1: Sources and Historical Background
Part 2: Expectations of US intervention and Chun Doo-hwan’s manipulations

The belief that the US had a duty to put an end to the uprising first arose in Kwangju during the military crackdown, while the belief that the US had supported the declaration of Emergency Martial Law on May 17 and the military actions which set off and ended the Kwangju Uprising was first encouraged by the US’s putative allies.

Expectation of US intervention in Kwangju during the Uprising

Linda Lewis, a grad student (and former Peace Corps Volunteer) doing ethnography in Kwangju in May 1980, highlighted the expectation by Kwangju’s citizens that the US would intervene to stop the violence. As she put it,
the lack of some overt American action was taken as evidence that the American Embassy in Seoul did not understand what was happening in Kwangju, and this idea came from the apparent conviction (to my friends clearly obvious, to me naive, even fantastic) that the U.S. government would intervene to stop the violence. As a U.S. citizen, in the early days of the uprising I was continually questioned, not with hostility but with dismay and confusion, about the apparent lack of any American response.
The belief in the ability of the US to intervene to stop the ROK military’s actions in Kwangju was not just limited to those in Kwangju. James Young, then serving as a military attaché at the U.S. Embassy, tried on May 20th to get information on what was happening in Kwangju.
In the afternoon I dropped by unannounced at the office of a Korean Army lieutenant colonel who was a native of Kwangju and had formerly been on the staff of Chun Doo Hwan. This officer took me aside, and we walked outside together to the parking lot, where he told me what was happening in Kwangju. Earlier he had called his home there and had received a firsthand report from his parents. They had said the situation was terrible and that the special warfare soldiers had lost control. His parents had seen several bodies, including one almost on their own doorstep. He told me that the Ministry of National Defense and official ROK military sources were concealing this information from U.S. officials and were downplaying the extent of the problem. He also said there were other riots and violence in the cities of Mokpo and Naju. I had known this officer well for several years and believed him to be trustworthy and truthful. His close association with Chun meant that he was taking a big chance in giving me this information. “Please have your government get this stopped,” he pleaded. 
A belief in the possibility of US intervention was also encouraged by the Yun Sang-won and the more radical faction which took over the citizens’ committee on May 25:
On the morning of May 26, [the new resistance leadership] put up a wall poster announcing that a US aircraft carrier had arrived in South Korean waters. Many citizens expected that the carrier might help them, but Yun Sang-won was well aware that it had not come to assist Gwangju.
Yun went on that day to ask the American Ambassador to intervene, which was ultimately conveyed through an article in the New York Times. According to Bradley Martin, Yun’s friends told him that “Yun had not expected the United States to intervene and save their lives. He had made that last-minute, public request as a gesture to try to boost the morale of fellow prospective martyrs, giving them hope.” Lee Jae Eui, a student activist who took part in the uprising, remembered asking Yun about this on May 23:
I’m not sure the United States will truly help us, but there is no way to avoiding what we say now. If I say ‘no’ in front of people, how could we mobilize the masses? We need to give the people hope, to let them believe that there can be a peaceful outcome to this cruel incident. I am eager to believe that the United States will help us.
Disappointment at the lack of American intervention began to turn more critical before the uprising ended. American missionary Arnold Peterson, who was also in Kwangju, described a confrontation at a rally in front the Provincial Capital on May 24. As an effigy of Chun Doo-hwan was about to be burned, he thought a man in his 50s was criticizing this action.
So, I asked him whether he thought that the people were ready to compromise and complete the negotiations to return life to normal. His response was very angry and very loud. He turned on me and shouted that there was no way there could be compromise with murderers. Justice must be done. Those who had committed these atrocities must be punished. He said that he had seen two of his own children killed this week. He began to blame the United States for not taking an active part on the side of democracy and on behalf of the people of Kwangju. He asked how a democratic nation like America could support murderous dictators like Chun.
This question would be raised repeatedly not only in Korea but in the US following the Kwangju Uprising.

Chun Doo-hwan’s manipulations

As people in Kwangju and elsewhere in Korea were communicating their belief that the US would – or should – take action to end the violence (or, like Yun Sang-won, exploiting this belief), another group was promoting the narrative that the US bore responsibility for the violence in Kwangju: Chun Doo-hwan and the military hardliners. By cutting off phone lines from the city, and through their control of the media, they were able to initially hide, and later distort the truth about what was happening in Kwangju in the rest of the country. In Kwangju, however, they took steps to direct blame at the US. On May 22 the State Department released a statement reading in part “We are deeply concerned by the civil strife in the southern city of Kwangju. We urge all parties involved to exercise maximum restraint and undertake a dialogue in search of a peaceful settlement.” As Ambassador Gleysteen put it,
This equality of treatment in our proposed statement did not sit well with government authorities, but they eventually accepted it. Moreover, I extracted an explicit oral commitment from them that if we issued the statement in Washington, the martial law authorities would undertake to broadcast it throughout Korea and also distribute it in Kwangju through air-dropped leaflets. […]

[However,] in one of the nastiest actions against us during my entire time in Korea, someone in the martial law structure decided not to broadcast or publicize our May 22 statement anywhere in Korea (some Koreans heard the statement from Voice of America or our military networks). Nor were any leaflets dropped in Kwangju. Instead radio and television listeners in Kwangju were told that General Wickham had released troops for use in Kwangju and had encouraged deployment of military forces to maintain public order. Whatever the exact words of the Kwangju broadcast, which we did not hear, it was widely interpreted as evidence that the United States supported the actions of the special forces.
Chun’s manipulation may have extended further than this in regard to Kwangju deployments. According to the 1989 White Paper, some units of the 20th Division had been removed from CFC OPCON (Combined Forces Command Operational Control) after Park Chung-hee’s assassination and other units had been removed on May 16 (when General Wickham was out of the country; CFC Deputy Commander General Baek Sok Chu responded), after which no American input was necessary. On May 20, however, Martial Law authorities notified the US that they were considering use of 20th Division units in Kwangju. As the 20th Division was one of the few regular army units trained in riot control,
U.S. officials in Seoul agreed that use of the specially trained 20th Division -- if negotiations to bring about a peaceful resolution of the crisis failed -- would be preferable to continued deployment of the SWC against the citizens of Kwangju. General Wickham and Ambassador Gleysteen therefore responded to a query from the ROK authorities -- after consulting with their own superiors in Washington -- that they reluctantly accepted that it would be preferable to replace SWC units with elements of the 20th Division.
U.S. officials assumed they were notified about the movement of these units to Kwangju “because following the unnotified movement of units under CFC OPCON on December 12, Gen. Wickham had protested repeatedly and forcefully.” James Young, the U.S. Embassy military attaché, surmised there may have been another reason for this, however:
I believe that it was the preplanned intention of Chun and his followers to involve the United States as much as possible in the events in Kwangju. As a result, the same Korean military authorities who a day or two before were concealing information from us now were eager to share every detail concerning the 20th Divisions movements and operational plans. They went so far as to directly ask the U.S. leaders if they objected to use of the 20th.
To be sure, the forthcoming nature of the military hardliners regarding plans to invade Kwangju stands out in comparison to the (unsurprising) lack of warning about Chun’s 12.12 coup, the half-hour notice the US Embassy received before Chun was appointed to head the KCIA on April 14, and the two-and-a-half-hour’s notice given the Embassy before the expansion of Martial Law on May 17.

On May 23, at a meeting of embassy staff and “a balanced group of legislators ranging from the opposition left to the conservative right,” Gleysteen “reserved judgement on the need for martial law and tough measures to deal with the student demonstrations” in Seoul for the benefit of the conservative lawmakers, but described the arrest of political leaders and closing of the National Assembly as unjustified and an act of “political stupidity.”

While an accurate account of the meeting appeared in the Korea Herald and Korea Times, “including references to my comments about the need for dialogue and compromise in Kwangju as well as for moving on with political development once the crisis was resolved,” a number of Korean-language papers “turned my remarks upside down, asserting that I had expressed understanding or approval of the events of May 17.” Days later, Chun, “speaking to a representative group of newspaper publishers, alleged that the United States was informed in advance about the events of December 12, his appointment to the Korean CIA, and the actions taken on May 17.” In response, Gleysteen drafted a detailed statement correcting Chun's distortions that was conveyed orally to the publishers who had met with Chun.

Donald Sohn has argued that there was little the US could do in Korea about Chun’s control of the media, which censored and significantly distorted American statements. In mid-June the embassy attempted to counter this by mailing a compilation of recent statements by American officials on South Korean political development in English and Korean to 3,000 Koreans and Americans in Korea, including Korean military officers. American officials also complained of Korean distortions in House and Senate Subcommittees, such as when Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke criticized “the deliberate distortion of American policy positions by the leadership of the Republic of Korea in recent months” on August 28, 1980, the day after Chun was elected president.

Chun made good use of an off-the-record interview given by General Wickham to AP reporter Terry Anderson and LA Times reporter Sam Jameson on August 8 in which they asked “one last question”: Would the US support Chun if he consolidated his power and became president? Since he and Gleysteen had concluded in their recent discussions that the US would have little choice but to support him, he said yes, “provided he comes to power legitimately, demonstrates over time a broad base of support from the Korean people, and does not jeopardize security of the situation here.” 

Because this was an “on the ground” view and did not reflect the policies of the State Department, when AP asked the State Department for its view, it disavowed the statements of the unnamed source, resulting in the interview not being published in the US. However, another editor approved the article for overseas distribution and it ended up in Korea. The next day, when Chun was interviewed by NYT reporter Henry Scott-Stokes, Chun, who, one assumes, knew of the previous day’s interview via his control of the DSC and KCIA, stated that Wickham was the source of the unattributed quote, which Scott-Stokes duly reported. This admission, which threatened to derail Wickham’s career, was gleefully trumpeted in the Korean press as evidence of American support. As the Korea Herald put it on August 10,
Citizens of this Republic are increasingly trusting [of] and admire General Chun as the new leader needed for the new age. And we note with a sense of encouragement that a top U.S. military official in Seoul (General Wickham) shares our view about General Chun and asserts that the U.S. would support him if the Korean people elect him the next president. Although Americans have no right to interfere in our internal political affairs, a close accord of opinion is welcome for cooperative relationship between the two allies.
Additionally, when President Carter wrote a letter to Chun Doo-hwan on August 27 on the occasion of him becoming president, he began by assuring Chun of his “desire to maintain the basic economic and security interests of both of our nations” but quickly turned to noting that “recent events in Korea have troubled us greatly” and warned that the conditions under which the submission of a new constitution to a public referendum and the holding of popular elections under that constitution would “be critical in determining the future of your country and its international standing. We regard free political institutions as essential to sustaining a sound relationship between our two countries.” He then went on to discuss the trial of Kim Dae-jung and warned that his “execution, or even a sentence of death, could have serious repercussions.” After describing the roles Ambassador Gleysteen and General Wickham would continue to play, he reiterated, “I urge you to take the earliest possible action to ensure the stability of the government through the development of popularly supported political institutions and greater personal freedom for your citizens.”

This was not how the letter was reported in the Korean media. As the 1989 White Paper described it,
Manipulation of the facts by the Korean media continued through the summer with the misquoting of President Jimmy Carter's strongly worded letter to Chun Doo Hwan upon his election to the Presidency on August 27, 1980. Carter said that political liberalization must resume in Korea, but the controlled media reported it differently. Korean newspaper headlines read: "Carter: Personal Message to President Chun Expresses Support for Korea's New Government" (Donga Ilbo) and "Security Commitment to Korea: The Major U.S. Policy" (Joong-ang Ilbo).
As the aforementioned Donga Ibo article put it, “the long letter by President Carter congratulates President Chun on his election, wishes for the success of President Chun’s government, and hopes for unchanged cooperation and the promotion of friendship between the two countries.”

This image of unconditional American support was cemented by the newly-inaugurated President Reagan inviting Chun to the White House in February 1981 as his second foreign guest. However, as former Ambassador Gleysteen put it in 1986, “there is no question that President-elect Reagan could not have invited Chun without it being understood in advance that Kim [Dae-jung’s death] sentence would be commuted.” This was not known in Korea, however (and Gleysteen’s 1986 article may have been the first time the “implicit trade-off” of Kim’s life for a White House visit was made public).

Chun’s manipulations made it seem to Koreans as if the US was uncritically supporting Chun. As Horace G. Underwood warned the head of the US embassy’s political section, William Clark, “Chun is wrapping himself in the American flag. If the United States doesn't do something about it, it will have ‘hell to pay’ in the future.”

Underwood was proven to be correct. In December 1980, the USIS in Kwangju suffered an arson attack, and in March 1982 student activists set fire to the USIS building in Pusan, demanding that the US “stop treating South Korea like a colony.” A student using the library died in the fire. In May 1985 25 student leaders occupied the library of the USIS in Seoul for three days, “demanding that the US apologize for its role in suppressing the Kwangju Uprising.” In an interview in 1985, journalist Tim Shorrock asked Kim Dae-jung, “Was the United States responsible for the Kwangju Uprising and its bloody suppression?” Kim answered:
You dispatched a Korean division to Kwangju to keep order, but before sending troops, you should have examined which side was keeping order- the Kwangju people or the paratroopers. The Kwangju people kept order, paratroopers broke order. They massacred peaceful demonstrators. They massacred many young men after binding them. Their hands were bound by their sides, but they were killed. They were unable to fight. So you should have criticized the paratroopers’ side, not the Kwangju people’s side. Your attitude was not just, not fair. If America had not sent one division to Kwangju, Chun Doo Hwan would not have succeeded in getting power. If the Americans didn’t support that paratroopers’ massacre, then our people would have risen up for democracy in other cities. We could have succeeded in restoring democracy. Chun was not so strong then; he was not supported by our people. Only America supported him.
Variations of this belief not only persisted, but grew stronger as the 1980s persisted.

The opposing narratives of impending US intervention in, and American responsibility for, the Kwangju Uprising were mobilized by two opposing political forces: the military hardliners who hoped to deflect blame for the deaths they caused during their seizure of power by conjuring an aura of American support, and activists who hoped to mobilize followers for a doomed last stand against those military authorities in the hopes of inspiring future resistance. Among the latter’s supporters would be American human-rights activists, academics and researchers, some of whom, ironically, reproduced the narratives of American responsibility first promoted by Korea’s military authorities – the very people they were struggling against.

Friday, May 18, 2018

The 1980 Kwangju Uprising and the United States

The 1980 Kwangju Uprising and the United States

Part 1: Sources and Historical Background

The question of US complicity in the suppression of – or even in causing - the Kwangju Uprising is one that has been raised for decades. It was first brought up during the uprising by the people of Kwangju themselves who expected the U.S. to intervene on their behalf and were bitterly disappointed when it did not. The narrative of American responsibility was then popularized when Chun Doo-hwan promoted it though his control of the media in order to direct popular anger away from himself. It was ultimately taken up by academics, including democracy and human rights activists, in Korea and the US.

What follows (in several parts) is a listing of sources, an overview of events from the summer of 1979 to the summer of 1980, arguments for and against US responsibility, and an evaluation of these arguments.

Sources

In 1987, Mark Peterson’s chapter “Americans and the Kwangju Incident: Problems in the Writing of History,” in Donald N. Clark, ed, The Kwangju Uprising: Shadows Over the Regime in South Korea, Westview Press, Inc., 1988, presented an interview with former Ambassador Gleysteen and General Wickham in order to address rising anti-Americanism in South Korea related to the Kwangju Uprising.

After the June 1987 democracy protests, in 1988 the National Assembly held an inquiry into the Kwangju Uprising. In response to questions by the National Assembly, the US State Department released a ‘White Paper’ in June 1989 titled “United States Government Statement on the Events in Kwangju, Republic of Korea, in May 1980.”

After American diplomatic and military cables were declassified in the 1990s, a number of academics made use of these sources to examine the question of American responsibility. The cables were first brought to light by journalist Tim Shorrock in a February 27, 1996 Journal of Commerce article titled Ex-Leaders Go On Trial In Seoul, followed by an expanded version published in Sisa Journal in February 1996 titled “The Cherokee Files: New documents reveal U.S. policy making during Kwangju,” followed by an even longer version posted at Kimsoft in 1997 (judging by the Wayback Machine) titled “The U.S. Role in Korea in 1979 and 1980.” Alternate versions, such as one titled “Debacle in Kwangju: Were Washington's cables read as a green light for the 1980 Korean massacre?” can be found here and another, titled “Kwangju Diary: The View From Washington,” was published in the 1999 book Kwangju Diary: Beyond Death, Beyond the Darkness Of The Age, Univ of California Los Angeles, 1999. For those interested in Shorrock’s work, I would suggest the longer version first published at Kimsoft. Most importantly, he has uploaded a number of key documents at his website.

Donald Sohn's 1998 MA Thesis "Chun Doo Hwan’s Manipulation of the Kwangju Popular Uprising," which is based in part on the diplomatic cables, can be found here.

Another article using the diplomatic cables is James Fowler’s “The United States and South Korean Democratization,” published in 1999 in Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 114, No. 2, pp. 265-288. It can be read here.

Finally, in 2006 George Katsiaficas wrote a paper using the diplomatic cables titled “Neoliberalism and the Gwangju Uprising,” which can be read here.

Numerous sources provide insight on American actions in Korea in 1979-1980. Among them are the following by American officials in Seoul:
  • John A. Wickham, Korea on the Brink: A Memoir of Political Intrigue and Military Crisis, Potomac Books, 2000.
  • William Gleysteen, Massive Entanglement, Marginal Influence: Carter and Korea in Crisis, Brookings Institution Press, 2000.
  • James V. Young, Eye on Korea: An Insider Account of Korean-American Relations, Texas A&M University Press, 2003.
There are also accounts by Americans in Kwangju (or Seoul):
  • Martha Huntley, "Should we tell you about this?" Presbyterian Survey, March 1982.
  • Tim Warnberg, "The Kwangju Uprising: An Inside View," Korean Studies, v.11, 1987.
  • Arnold A Peterson, 5.18: The Kwangju Incident, 1990, in 아놀드 A. 피터슨, 5.18 광주사태, 풀빛, 1995.
  • Linda Sue Lewis, Laying Claim to the Memory of May: A Look Back at the 1980 Kwangju Uprising, Hawaii Studies on Korea, 2002.
  • Jean W. Underwood, "An American Missionary’s View," in Gi-Wook Shin and Kyung Moon Hwang, eds, Contentious Kwangju: The May 18 Uprising in Korea's Past and Present, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc, 2003.
  • Peace Corps Volunteer David Dolinger's account of what he saw in Kwangju during the uprising can be found here, while additional comments by him can be found here.
  • Mark Peterson, then the Fullbright director in Seoul, also wrote “The Kwangju Resistance Movement, May, 1980: Some American Perspectives,” which can be found here.
Journalists' accounts of the uprising:
  • James Fenton, All the Wrong Places: Adrift in the Politics of the Pacific Rim, Atlantic Monthly Press, 1988. 
  • Henry Scott-Stokes and Jae Eui Lee, eds, The Kwangju Uprising: Eyewitness Press Accounts of Korea's Tiananmen, M.E. Sharpe, 2000.
  • Donald Kirk and Choe Sang-hun, eds, Korea Witness: 135 Years of War, Crisis and News in the Land of the Morning Calm, Eunhaeng Namu, 2006.
Also worth reading are the following:
  • Ryu Shimin and Jung Sangyong, Memories of May 1980: A Documentary History of the Kwangju Uprising in Korea, trans. by Park Hyejin, Kwangju Minjuhwa-undong Kinyeom-saeophoi, 2004.
  • Choi Jung-woon, The Gwangju Uprising: The Pivotal Democratic Movement Which Changed the History of Modern Korea, trans. by Yu Young-nan, Homa & Sekey Books, 2006.

Historical Background

(Much of what follows is based on James Fowler’s article, with numerous other additions.)

In mid-1979 Park Chung-hee loosened restrictions on dissent and released 180 political prisoners as part of an understanding with Jimmy Carter, who visited Seoul in June and who decided to cancel his plans to withdraw US troops from Korea. This seemed to embolden the opposition, however, and a resulting clampdown – which included suppressing the YH strike at NDP headquarters – was soon followed by the expulsion of NDP leader Kim Young-sam from the national assembly, followed by the mass resignation of NDP members. Student protests in Kim’s hometown of Busan, as well as Masan, in mid-October were joined by workers and grew to the point that the government declared martial law in the Busan area and sent in Special Warfare Command paratroopers to put down the protests, which resulted in a handful of deaths (there were guesses of 3-5 dead at the time; no deaths were confirmed until 2011). It was during an argument over how to deal with the protesters that KCIA director Kim Jae-gyu, who urged moderation, shot and killed Park Chung-hee on October 26, 1979.

The response of the military authorities to the assassination was to declare martial law on the mainland only. Because this was not full martial law, the military did not have the sweeping powers it would have had otherwise. Though the civilian government theoretically maintained its power, it soon became clear that acting president Choi Gyu-ha was not a decisive leader and was not going to take any dramatic steps in the direction of political liberalization. After being elected interim president by the electoral college on December 6, however, he gave some hope to the opposition when he lifted Emergency Measure 9 (EM-9) and released Kim Dae Jung from house arrest.

The martial law commander, Jeong Seung-hwa, seemed to be a moderate but had been in an adjacent building the night of Park Chung-hee’s assassination, which drew the suspicion of many in the military. This included Chun Doo-hwan, the head of Defense Security Command, who was investigating the assassination. Chun was a protégé of Park Chung-hee and leader of Class 11 of the Korean Military Academy, a younger class that cut its teeth in the Vietnam War and that felt passed over for promotion. When rumors arose that Jeong might transfer Chun to the east coast, essentially ending his career, Chun struck. On December 12, 1979, elements of the 9th Division, under the control of Chun’s Class 11 classmate Roh Tae-woo, were removed from the DMZ (without first alerting the US military) and moved on Seoul. Martial law commander Jeong was arrested with violence and Chun’s forces attacked the Ministry of Defense. By the end of the night Defense Minister Rho Jae-hyun had been captured and belated approval for the arrest of Jeong Seung-hwa had been given by the President. Chun was in control of the military, and a purge of the old generation – and of moderates – followed as his Class 11 classmates were put into positions of power.

As James Fowler summarized it,
In spite of these movements by hardliners against reformers in the military, the civilian government continued to pursue liberalization. 1,722 political prisoners were released or had their sentences reduced in December 1979, and in February 1980 the government relaxed press censorship and restored political rights to Kim Dae Jung and hundreds of EM-9 violators. The move briefly appeased radicals, but the probably intentional effect on the moderate opposition was to start up an age-old internecine rivalry between Kim Dae Jung and Kim Young Sam that would hamper their ability to focus on their real opponents.
Liberalization affected students as well. In May 1975, after the fall of South Vietnam, the ROK government had passed EM-9 and reinstated the Student Defense Corps, which dominated life on campus and banned all club activities. These restrictions were lifted in 1980. As American missionary Martha Huntley, who worked on the campus of Jeonnam University, described the students of Kwangju,
In the spring of 1980 they were euphoric. For the first time in eight years they were allowed to have class discussions and to elect student officers; club activities were reinstated, censorship was relaxed, campus autonomy was promised, students and professors who had been imprisoned for years returned to the campus as heroes. There was a renaissance of creativity as students poured out long—pent-up feelings and newborn hopes by writing poetry, drama, songs and speeches. They were not radical, they were responsible. And they thought it was going to last.
On April 14, Chun Doo-hwan appointed himself head of the KCIA while still remaining head of the DSC, therefore controlling both the military and civilian intelligence agencies. Amid rising inflation, a number of labor strikes took place, some of which turned violent. Students began protesting campus military training and other issues related to campus autonomy, but in early May they began to protest martial law and Chun’s ascension to the KCIA just as Martial Law Command was issuing warnings that labor and campus disturbances would no longer be tolerated. In early May students began to call for the end of martial law by May 15. The military hardliners clearly found this threatening: by May 7 Special Warfare Command (SWC) paratroopers were being moved to the Seoul area for possible use in riot suppression. On May 8 Kim Dae Jung joined the students in demanding an end to martial law, and Kim Young Sam and the Catholic Church followed the next day.

On May 12 moderate student leaders, mistaking a cut-off in a radio broadcast on campuses for a signal that a coup was in progress, sent students home. Radical students criticized this as weakness and took over the movement, resulting on May 13 in the first off-campus protests in Seoul in years. The protests culminated on May 15 with protests around the nation, including 100,000 students in the streets of Seoul alone. Though protesters killed a police officer by driving a bus through police lines, the SWC troops present at the edge of the protest were not put to use. The next day student leaders postponed further protests to wait for the government’s response (a response made clear by a raid on their meeting and the arrests of many student leaders). To support the students, Kim Dae-jung and Kim Young-sam made a joint call for the lifting of martial law. Fowler argued that “For hardliners, this final coalition between radicals and unified moderates was the final provocation,” but that likely lay with a different announcement. As American missionary Arnold Peterson explained it, on the afternoon of Saturday, May 17, Kim Jong-pil announced
he had decided to vote for a proposal advanced by the opposition New Democratic Party. This proposal would abolish martial law and return full control of the government to the civilian politicians led by President Choi Kyu-Ha. The opposition New Democratic Party had been advocating such legislative action for many weeks but lacked the votes to pass such a bill in the National Assembly. The National Assembly was due to convene on Tuesday, May 20. Kim Jong-Pil's announcement of his support for the measure meant that the bill would surely and quickly pass. If martial law was in fact abolished the military leaders, who had been, in effect, running the country behind the scenes, would lose all their political influence and authority.
Hours later the military pressured President Choi and the Cabinet to extend martial law to the whole country, giving the military direct control. The national assembly was closed, as were universities, which were promptly occupied by troops. Numerous student leaders and Kim Dae-jung, Kim Young-sam, and Kim Jong-pil were quickly arrested.

While these measures kept Seoul and most cities quiet and ended student protests there, in Kwangju on May 18 students met as planned in front of Jeonnam University where they were attacked by SWC troops sent to the campus the night before. Angered, students moved downtown, but police had trouble controlling the protest. Despite protests by an officer on the scene that the protests were not that serious and SWC troops were not needed downtown, they were ordered into action and proceeded to attack the protesters, and eventually even bystanders, with such brutality, even bayoneting some, that citizens eventually joined the students and the protests continued for days, growing ever more violent. A turning point came on May 20 when a protest by taxi and bus drivers allow the citizens to take control of the streets and put troops on the defensive. Shooting by soldiers at the train station late that night resulted in 20 casualties and citizens burned MBC, KBS, and the tax office. On May 21 troops cut phone lines out of the city and retreated to Provincial Hall and promised to leave but then opened fire on citizens demonstrating there, as well as in front of Joseon University, and later throughout the city as they retreated to the suburbs. Helicopters also fired on people from the air. Protesters seized guns from armories outside of the city and troops retreated to the edges of town and guarded the main roads in and out of town. According to Linda Lewis, the official count of the dead for May 21 was 62 dead, "most (54) killed by gunshot, the majority (66%) in the vicinity of the Provincial Office Building". Many, many more were wounded.

From May 22 the city became what is remembered as "liberated Kwangju." Citizens formed committees to hold discussions with the army. Guns were collected, and the streets were cleaned up. Large rallies were held calling for democracy and the end of martial law. On May 25, students refusing to give up their guns took over the committee and when talks broke down, chose to fight to the end. Between May 22 and May 26 the killing continued on the outskirts of the city. Soldiers fired on cars, trucks and buses leaving or entering Kwangju and other passersby, killing at least 65 civilians and 12 soldiers (the latter in friendly fire incidents). On May 27 the military moved into the city during the pre-dawn hours and attacked the Provincial Office, where the remnants of the citizen's army were stationed, and other locations. The official number killed that day is considered to be 26, though troops quickly carried bodies away.

With the declaration of martial law on May 17 and the final suppression of the Kwangju Uprising, Chun and the military group had unobstructed power. Much as when he purged the military after the 12.12 coup, and the KCIA after his takeover of that organization, Chun presided over purges of the media (firings of journalists and mergers or closures of numerous media companies), social purges (of the sort carried out after Park Chung-hee's coup in 1961; many were sent to the "Samcheong Reeducation Camps"), purges in the banking sector, and elsewhere. In early August, Chun promoted himself to full general and on August 16 Choi Gyu-ha resigned as president. Chun's "coup in stages," begun December 12, finally ended when he was elected president (under the still functioning Yusin constitution) by the Council on Unification, an electoral college, on August 27.

Bibliography of the Kwangju Uprising (in English) - Updated

I've updated my 2006 post titled "Bibliography of the Kwangju Uprising (in English)." With some help from the Wayback Machine the links are now all updated and some new material has been added. Feel free to suggest additions!

Friday, April 27, 2018

Conserving electricity, yeontan poisoning and belief in fan death

Quite a long time ago I posted about "fan death" and how I thought the idea that leaving a fan on in a closed room could have fatal consequences may have evolved from the need to keep a window (and likely the door to your room as well) open when the ondol was on in the winter, due to the use of yeontan (coal briquettes) that emitted poisonous gas that could seep through the floor. A query from a reader prompted me to revisit that post.

In that post I linked to an article on the dangers of yeontan in the February 1968 issue of the Peace Corps newsletter Yobosayo (pages 5 and 7), which called for two sources of ventilation. See here for more about yeontan and here and here for personal recollections of near death experiences.

Here is a July 29, 1973 Korea Times article quantifying the death toll between 1959 and 1973, stating that almost 25,000 people had died from yeontan poisoning.


Here is a July 8, 1973 Korea Times article:


This article suggests a lack of oxygen caused their deaths, which differs somewhat from an August 12, 1969 Donga Ilbo article about fan death titled "Leaving the fan running?" which noted that you can lose your life if the constant heat loss is severe enough, and that you can also have difficulty breathing:

"Heat loss"

This is rather different from the neutral depiction of fans in 1961 by a government spokesperson in a Donga Ilbo article titled "Rainy season and heat":
We also heard a report from Kim Jin-myeon, the forcasting head of the central meteorological observatory, about how the rainy season happens every year.

When we feel hot it is more dependent on our body temperature than the air temperature at that time. It is easy to feel the difference in heat due to the wind blowing or not blowing, or using a fan or not using a fan even though the air temperature is the same. Ultimately, even if it is the same temperature, it feels more sweltering when it is very humid.
Handheld fans were gradually replaced by electric fans throughout the 1960s and 1970s:

Korea Times, July 8, 1962. 

Korea Times, July 19, 1970.

Here are some advertisements for electric fans from this time:

 Sunday Seoul, July 11, 1971.

 Sunday Seoul, June 25, 1972.

Another theory behind fan death is that the concept was encouraged by the government to urge people to turn off their fans to conserve electricity. This is plausible. While scanning the Korea Times from 1959-1976 last summer (and let me tell you how overjoyed I was to see this the other day), I was surprised by how many droughts Korea suffered. They occurred in 1962, 1965, 1967, 1968, 1970, and 1972. They not only made it impossible for Korea to grow all of its own food (necessitating use of precious foreign currency reserves to import it), they also affected Korea's power output due to its reliance in the 1960s on hydroelectric power.

Korea Times, June 26, 1962. 

Korea Times, June 23, 1967.

To be sure, fans with an "automatic time controller (timer)" on them had appeared in Korea by 1967, as this article points out...

Evaluation of summer selling, blade-sprouting fans

...while this 1970 article makes clear - since a 14 inch fan with a timer cost over 16,000 won at a time when a bowl of jajangmyeon was 100 won - that they weren't cheap.

There may be something to the theory that the belief in fan death is linked to the promotion of limiting fan use to conserve electricity in the late 1960s and 1970s. It's also possible the idea caught on due to the prevalence of yeontan poisoning and the practices associated with preventing it.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Giving a lecture for the RAS next Tuesday on “The Rise and Fall of Youth Culture in 1970s South Korea"



Next Tuesday, March 27, I’ll be giving a presentation for the Royal Asiatic Society: Korea Branch titled “The Rise and Fall of Youth Culture in 1970s South Korea: Wholesome modernization, crackdowns on long hair and marijuana, and the ROK-US alliance.” I researched and wrote on this topic while doing my MA at the University of Washington, but the research I did in January and February in Korea - mostly using weekly magazines like Sunday Seoul from 1968-1970 - offered many surprises, and I’ll be working in photos and articles from those magazines. More information on the presentation is here. As well, an article I wrote in the Korea Times yesterday on how marijuana laws affected Korean youth culture at this time can be found here.


 

"Psychedelic Carnival": Fashion show, March 1970. 

The Devils at the Playboy Cup competition, July 1970. 

The Key Boys and Trippers dancing at an MBC music showcase in the woods, July 1971. 

Revealing outfits: Sunday Seoul, July and August 1970.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Appearing in the Korea Times...

I've had two articles published in the Korea Times (or on its site) in the past few days. The first is a post about the Mikuk Sikdang eatery and the meaning behind its name, while the other is the first of a new column (still working on a title) focusing on (mostly) post Korean War history and foreign-Korean encounters (helped out by my access to the Korea Times archives). Many thanks to Jon Dunbar for making this happen.

Today's column deals with the history of James Wade's 1964-74 Korea Times column "Scouting the City," and can be found here. I've written about James Wade before and posted several excerpts of his writing here.

Here are a few sentences I cut out due to space restrictions:
According to Stickler, to get material for this entertainment column, a sidekick "would approach nightclub managers with the pitch that in return for two free dinners and a show a great deal of valuable publicity would be gained” - which surprisingly usually worked. Some nightclubs included “striptease dances performed by nubile Western girls imported for the purpose," and one of them, Babette Blake, was immortalized as the oft-appearing character LaLa Legume.

[...]

One of the largest targets “Uncle Alfie” took on, however, was the US. Army. Some criticisms were based on his own observations, such as when he described in 1966 how the US Army could "stick out a little chicken-wire playpen for its dinky beach enclave” at Haeundae Beach in Busan “to prevent contamination by the natives." The reason for this, a GI asserted ("more honest than most"), was "Just so the army can assert its privilege."
One section I knew I wouldn’t have room to insert was regarding a review by Wade in which he criticized the “repulsive callousness” of the “cardboard” main character of C.D.B. Bryan’s Harper Prize Novel “P.S. Wilkinson,” which was set partly in a “godforsaken place” – early 1960s Korea. Though a character shouts “This is the foulest, goddamndest country I’ve ever seen!”, it was a place made bearable by the “Availability of women.” (This was a portrayal of Korea that came up again and again.)

As for the Goldfinger reference, the part of the "white race" Koreans wanted "to submit...to the grossest indignities" was white women. Add that to the "striptease dances performed by nubile Western girls imported for the purpose" and you get some rather interesting tensions.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

The search for Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium

While not quite as cool as participating in the Olympic torch relay (a tradition going back to 1936), I visited a friend in Wonju Monday and we drove off to go look at Olympics sites, with some success.

Leaving the freeway, we took the scenic route. It's always nice to get out of the city and into the countryside.



After more than an hour of driving, we arrived in Pyeongchang. There were Olympics 2018 flags, an Olympic market...


...a display counting down the days until the Olympics open...


...Pyeongchang Water at the convenience store...


and nothing else. Pyeongchang doesn't seem to have anything to do with Olympics. You might think, "Wait, what? That's - -"



My, what a large broccoli sign you have! (To clarify, it was 20-30 meters behind the bus stop.) I'd like to think a competing supermarket has a slightly smaller broccoli sign, and every day the owner of this store pauses, looks up at this sign, and cracks a very satisfied smile.

Once we realized there were no Olympics in the town they're named after, we decided to resort to Google. It turns out the opening and closing ceremonies are to be held at Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium in Daegwalleong...60 kilometers away. So off we drove to Daegwalleong. The route to the stadium on the regional highway was rather unclear since there was only the occasional small sign above one of the lanes marking it as an "Olympic bus lane" to clue in drivers that they were headed in the right direction. Perhaps there are clearer signs on the freeway, but even after passing the toll booths and heading into Daegwalleong, there were no signs marking the route to the stadium. While not on the level of essentially denying foreign Olmypic visitors access to the KTX during Seollal (the 1988 Olympics also took place during Chuseok), or the difficulties to be found in securing accommodation (or the faceplant ads like these bring on), it's still a bit perplexing that there are no signs. On the other hand, it won't be surprising if they get put up at the last minute.

After asking directions we eventually found the stadium. Here's a Daum Map image of the town with the stadium at the bottom left:


A large town it is not.


We passed by an avenue of flags and headed toward the stadium.


The road wound up around the stadium and we passed two entrances with security guards, but at the end of the road was a parking lot with tents and people (workers and people rehearsing the ceremonies, including a few foreign-looking faces) walking around. Here workers were about to lift the Olympic rings into place.


As it turned out, we seemed to have timed it well, and by walking around like we knew where we were going, we were able to approach the stadium...


...enter it and climb the stairs...


...and take in the sight.


Admittedly, were were pretty thrilled we'd managed to get in. Some part of the either the opening or closing ceremony was being rehearsed.


The four towers surrounding the stadium support the ring suspended above the main stage. The stands also sport a light show facilitated by this array of LEDs - almost one for every seat.


One wonders how many zip ties will be needed rein in all of those cables.

If you were wondering why the stadium had no roof, or what in the world a small town will do with the stadium in the future, the answer became clear as soon as we walked up the steps: it will be torn down once the Olympics end.


While there is a concrete base, the rest of the stadium seems to be made of bolted-together steel beams and poles. It's not meant to be permanent.



After watching the rehearsals for a bit we walked out. On the way out I realized the tall structure the crane is tending to below is very similar in shape to the torches being used in the torch relay. I imagine it will host the Olympic flame.


Upon leaving we drove past the river bed and I noticed a large mound of snow. There wasn't a lot of snow in the area, and it seems the solution was to have three snow making machines on hand to provide the snow and construction equipment available to move it around. I'm not sure if there are any other events in the area; perhaps the snow... is just for show?


The freeway tunnels have Olympic rings which make for a rather "2001 stargate sequence" experience.


If it had been earlier (and if I'd realized how close Gangneung was) we might have tried our luck attempting to see the skating facilities. Instead we headed home.


Monday, December 11, 2017

Foreign netizens turn on Suwon restaurant for 'blackface' caricature

[Update: I originally posted this entry based on my reading of Korea Expose's article and my noticing of the Dooly connection. Moments after posting it I read a post by a friend on Facebook who highlighted the harassment the owner of the restaurant was receiving. Not wanting to contribute to that in any way, I've altered the original post (which Google tells me was seen by 8 people) to draw attention to the way this was framed on Facebook.]

Korea Exposé has reported on a Suwon restaurant named Kkamdis Jjimdak (or "blackies jjimdak"), which, according to the owner, is the last-remaining branch of a franchise. A review of the restaurant in Korean can be found here. Attention was first drawn to the restaurant after photos of the menu, featuring the mascot below, were recently posted on Facebook.


The Facebook post in "Restaurant Buzz Seoul" reads as follows:
Ummmm...can anyone explain to me why a restaurant like this is allowed to exist? Isn't this incredibly racist? If you'd like to complain this is the number for the restaurant. [Phone number posted.] No one is asking them to close down the restaurant just remove the racist name and label. Thanks.
The photos were also uploaded at the Facebook group "Suwon Newbies" by the same person, and the post there reads as follows:
This is absolutely not acceptable! This is supposed to be a depiction of a black person for their logo. This just opened near suwon station! If you go out exit 7 and follow the road you will see it across the street. If you're in the area please go inside and let them know that this is not okay. I have recently done so. Even if the people don't know better someone should educate them. I am not one to "try and change the country" but this is unacceptable!!!!

'깜디' is a short version of  '깜뚱이' which is a derogatory word for African Americans.
So many exclamation marks!!!! Along with phone numbers, directions to the restaurant, and marching orders, which appear to have been followed, according to a friend on Facebook who contacted the store's owner, who commented on the response by the Facebook-organized netizens:
The owner of the restaurant was really scared. He said "I don't know what to do. I am so embarrassed." He said he had received a lot of threats via Facebook messenger and phone, so he deleted his Facebook account to block the disparaging comments. A reporter contacted him to get his story. He also said he didn't create the design. He just received the mural from the headquarters and applied it to his restaurant. He didn't expect that this design stir up controversy. The only thing I could do was to let him know the unfavorable post of his restaurant being unloaded in Suwon newbies. It takes a lot of time for the person who is not fluent in English, to understand what is going on in English speaking communities and compose an official apology in English.
It begs the question that has been asked since the Dog Poop Girl: When does the response to a perceived offense become worse than the original offense? The restaurant is now featured on an American website as well. (If only Korean restaurants could be more like American restaurants, right?) Responses included assertions that Koreans should know better by now, and that all the owner needs to do is change the sign. In response to the first assertion, I doubt that discussion of representations of black people seen as racist by non-Koreans has really spilled over very far beyond English-language discussions online. That this comes up frequently in these forums likely says more about their foreign users than about the degree to which it is an issue in Korean-language public discourse. As for the second assertion, a glance at the restaurant in that previously mentioned review makes it clear that not only the sign, but the tables, menus, posters, and more would need to be changed - not an easy thing for an independent business owner. Perhaps the people who are so concerned by the image could donate money to help him change the sign they find so offensive.

That the owner said the character was supposed to look like the cartoon character Dooly is interesting. Dooly, of course, is green, has no bone in his hair, and wears no loincloth. This isn't the first time Dooly has been cited as the origin of a blackface-style image, however, as I noted in this post on the history of blackface in Korea. In January 2012 an MBC show featured comedians in black face, an act that was described in an apology by the production team as a parody of Maikol, (Micheal), a character from Dooly based on Michael Jackson.


That in turn highlighted the problem with Maikol, though he was not the only one, as we can see from the characters in this Dooly clip:


The appearance of such stereotypes on a children's show suggests at least one reason why such caricatures are not considered offensive to some people in Korea, especially since they have been embedded not just in entertainment but also in dictionaries and textbooks.

While campaigns against the government or television networks to stop such practices are understandable, turning internet users against an independent business seems a bit over the top, particularly when the person who first posted this said he had already talked to the owner.

While the owner of the Kkamdis Jjimdak store was apologetic, the owner of the franchise, while disavowing any racist intentions, was less so:
"If I launched a dish called 'White Jjimdak,' all white people would throw a fit," he said over the phone. "People shouldn’t scrutinize every little thing. Foreigners who complained have an inferiority complex."
An unhelpful comment (and one reminding me of the MBC staffer's response of "why are all these foreigners making a fuss over it? Maybe because they have a guilty conscience" in response to anger over an MBC show about interracial couples in 2012), but it seems to me to be the flip side of "I am not one to 'try and change the country' but this is unacceptable!"

As for Korea Exposé citing a Hankyoreh article about a similar incident involving a restaurant, I can't think of the Hankyoreh in this context without calling to mind what is, for my money, the most racist depiction of an African I've seen in a public forum in Korea - particularly because of its 'progressive' source and because it was so unnecessary - this cartoon published by the Hankyoreh in the aftermath of Roh Moo-hyun's impeachment in March 2004, which looks at the reaction of foreign bloggers to the impeachment:


"...?" indeed. He looks about as primitive as some of those raging against peninsular racism seem to think Koreans are.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Colonial-era collaboration and the controversy surrounding Helen Kim's statue

An article titled "Controversy continues over 'treacherous' 1st Ewha President" appeared in the Korea Times a few days ago. It reports on Ewha University students who put up a sign Monday near a statue of the university's first president, Kim Hwal-ran, or Helen Kim, to draw attention to her "treacherous," "pro-Japanese" statements "under the Japanese occupation."
The students said a continued failure to remove the statue represents the shameful history the country is in the process of eradicating.

“Pro-Japanese activities are a crime that in no way can be justified under any circumstances. Many figures including Kim who committed such acts are still revered on the campuses of many universities,” they said.

Kim’s controversial remarks included, “We are now able to welcome the overwhelming joy of the long-awaited conscription. We, the women, should send our husbands and sons to the battlefield with a graceful smile.” She justified her words as "necessary in order to keep Ewha open under harsh colonial policies.”
Personally, I don't think a sign including some of a public figure's less laudable acts to give a more balanced picture is a bad thing. I doubt "balance" is what these fundamentalist students are aiming for, however. Rather than celebrating a woman who "spent 40 years at Ewha as an educator," who was "the first Korean woman to earn a Ph.D.," and the founder of the Korea Times, the students want the statue removed and one of Yu Gwan-sun put up instead. Personally, I'm surprised there isn't a statue of Yu at Ewha University (there is one at Jangchungdong Park). At the same time, despite her courage, it seems to me it's her martyrdom - her "innocent victim" status, of the sort that motivated the 2002 candlelight protests - that has been memorialized above her accomplishments. She seems more remembered for her death than her life, and replacing Helen Kim's statue with one of her would be like tearing down Horace Underwood's statue (for the third time) at Yonsei and replacing it with one of Lee Han-yeol. (Admittedly this isn't the best comparison; Lee's death, despite his presence at the protest, was more of a tragic accident; Yu organized and took part in protests, and continued to protest in prison, knowing full well the fate that likely lay in store for her.)

To give an idea of what the sign the students erected looks like, it's not the placard or banner I was expecting (from here):



There's nothing wrong with highlighting the less-than-patriotic statements of public figures, but it seems to me what Helen Kim wrote or said was not all that uncommon at the time. It really should say above that her statements were made during the Pacific War. Saying "under the Japanese occupation" creates the impression she did this for years, and not under the extraordinary conditions of total war and "imperialization" of Koreans in the Japanese Empire in the early 1940s. While there are certainly people who deserve the label "pro-Japanese" (Yi Wan-yeong, for example), others fall into a much grayer area, particularly those who made statements during the war.

Though combat never reached the peninsula (other than a few bombings), the Pacific War was still a time of suffering and difficult choices for Koreans, particularly for those drafted / coerced into the Imperial Army, labor battalions, or into becoming comfort women. Korean intellectuals and artists faced challenges throughout the colonial period, what with being educated most often in Japan but finding little chance for employment in Korea (see Chae Man-sik's story 'Ready-Made Life,' for example). During the Pacific War, however, they faced two options: to make statements or art supporting the war effort, or to not work. Some, like author Yi Tae-jun, retired to the countryside for the duration of the war (as detailed in his story 'Before and After Liberation' which is translated in On the Eve of the Uprising and other stories from colonial Korea). For most people, however, foregoing an income was not an option.

To what degree intellectuals actually supported the war effort can be hard to tell. To be sure, some people were rather genuine supporters of Japan. That younger people would have supported Japan wouldn't be too surprising, considering that generation grew up under Japanese rule. Once the war started, some who were more critical of Western imperialism may have been happy to see Japan "liberating" Asia. As described in Mark Caprio's book Japanese Assimilation Policies in Colonial Korea, 1910-1945, for example, Yun Chiho responded to the "electrifying news" of Pearl Harbor by writing in his diary, "A new Day has indeed dawned on the Old World! This is a real war of races—the Yellow against the White." For the first six months of the Pacific War, Japan was winning (and did its best to hide its subsequent losses), so it wouldn't be surprising that some would have seen Japan as the right horse to back.

To highlight their defeat at the hands of the Japanese Army, 1,000 British and Australian Prisoners of War captured in Singapore were shipped to Korea, marched through the streets of Busan, Incheon, and Seoul in late September 1942, and interned in POW camps in the latter two cities. Some POWs were ordered to labour in front of Koreans to emphasize how defeated they were. From accounts by these POWs, however, it's clear that many Koreans were sympathetic to them and did things like give them food. Even Korean POW guards shared information with them, wanted to learn English from them, or even, in one case at the end of the war, offered to give them their guns to break out of the prison camp.

British and Australian POWs marching through Pusan

Upon the arrival of the POWs in Korea, the Maeil Sinbo, the Korean-language mouthpiece of the Government General, published numerous articles about the POWs over two days. On the second day, September 26, 1942, there appeared numerous testimonials by intellectuals (some Korean, others perhaps Japanese, though since by that point most Koreans had Japanese names, it can be hard to tell). Here is one I translated:
Thinking again about the crimes of the British and Americans
Shirehara Rakujun

After the Great East Asian War our grateful citizens will always be moved by seeing in photos and newspaper articles the military exploits of the invincible imperial army, but today as we saw the POWs directly with our own eyes this deep feeling grew further and we were thankful for the efforts of the imperial army.

Now as we strive to make greater efforts to impress upon those people the spirit and power of the empire, we deeply feel that we are in the glorious position of victorious imperial subjects and will ever more firmly resolve to win.

Looking from the position of a religious person, I think again about the British and Americans when they came in the past with an overly proud attitude of arrogance, of only pretending to believe in Christianity, and also masking this.

Now they have surrendered before the righteous imperial army and the day when they must keenly feel the sins of the past has come.

Now when we face the POWs we will fulfill our duty with a solemn bearing as imperial subjects and meanwhile we will not become careless and carried away by the feeling of victory but will further strive to achieve our goal in the Great East Asian War
The Korean name of Shirehara Rakujun was Baek Nak-jun, better known as George Paik, friend of missionaries and, up to 1939, a teacher at, and then dean of, Chosen Christian College. According to this book, Paik spent much of the war under house arrest, so one assumes he wrote the above column under duress. He went on to organize Seoul National University after liberation, became president of Yonhui College and oversaw its merger with Severence Medical College in 1957 into Yonsei University, and served as Minister of Education from 1950 to 1952.

What Baek wrote (or what is attributed to him) is typical of that kind of writing that was in the Maeil Sinbo when the POWs arrived. It seemed as if the Japanese believed that by repeating mantras like "we felt ever more moved to have become imperial subjects and felt more keenly the deep desire to support the war to its end," Koreans would actually believe it. I thought Jun Uchida put it quite eloquently in her book Brokers of Empire when she spoke of "the veneer of submission that the majority of Koreans were forced to maintain under total war."

Where should Baek be placed on the scale of collaborators and nation builders? And what of Helen Kim, whose statue has so raised the ire of certain Ewha students? It's not an easy question, and is one needing careful examination of evidence, consideration of the pressure put on intellectuals and prominent Koreans in the 1940s, and the weighing of their actions before and after their statements. As Koen De Ceuster's "The Nation Exorcised: The Historiography of Collaboration in South Korea" and Don Baker's "Memory Wars and Prospects for Reconciliation in South Korea" make clear, however, the question of whether someone is guilty of collaboration is beholden to serving current political needs more than anything else.

The truth that many do not want to admit is that most intellectuals at that time made statements or created works supporting the war; it was what they had to do to continue working. Likewise, most people were forced to recite oaths of loyalty to the Japanese Empire, bow at Shinto Shrines, or to compromise in other ways. The Shinto Shrine issue proved incredibly divisive for Korean Christians, particularly when some foreign missionaries thought they should simply obey and tell themselves they were simply "looking at their shoes" when they bowed. Some did not compromise, of course, and actively stood up to Japan, facing prison or death for their efforts, but by the 1940s most of those actively resisting Japan did so outside of the country. The problem with admitting this is that it seems to allow for only exiles, or those serving prison terms at the time, to have any kind of legitimacy. That certainly seems to have been the way Kim Ku felt, as related by Mark Gayn in his book Japan Diary, about his visit to Korea in 1946:
I recalled the story of a press conference at which Kim Koo, the irreconcilable enemy of Japan and of Korean collaborators. was asked what he would do with the latter. With characteristic bluntness, Kim Koo said:

"Practically everyone in Korea is a collaborator. They all ought to be in jail."

A young adviser doubling in brass as an interpreter did not even blink. "Mr. Kim Koo says," he translated, "that it's problem to be studied carefully." [Page 433-34]
And studied carefully it has been, with a Biographical Dictionary of Collaborators (친일인명사전) listing over 4,300 people having been published in 2009 by the Institute for Research in Collaborationist Activities (민족문제연구소). In 2004, the Institute for Research in Collaborationist Activities published Colonial Korea and War Art (식민지 조선과 전쟁미술), which spent 30 pages listing Korean artists who made art "glorifying the war." It charged that these artists
beautified and supported the Japanese Empire’s foreign war of aggression, and it was a time of extreme, treasonous acts like urging [Koreans] to go as far giving their lives for the emperor and the construction of Greater East Asia. Therefore the pro-Japanese activities of a good many Korean artists which got into full swing after the [start of the] Sino-Japanese War were not just anti-national / traitorous acts, but, in regard to driving a good number of Koreans to become cannon fodder in the war of aggression, compelling their deaths, they were also war crimes. The pro-Japanese art of that time deserves to be ruled as anti-national and anti-human criminal activity. [Page 179]
Needless to say, declaring the activities of artists to be "war crimes" pulls off the neat trick of making Kim Ku's "Practically everyone in Korea is a collaborator. They all ought to be in jail" seem moderate in comparison. Kim was right to some degree, in that everyone living in Korea had to make some kind of accommodation with the Japanese, regardless of how they felt. But admitting to such complexity does not seem to make for a useful national memory of the colonial period, so it's easier to draw a line and single out a small number of "traitors" who committed the sin of not resisting Japanese rule like the rest of the nation. As Don Baker pointed out, the argument between left and right in South Korea has not been over whether to allow for more or less nuance, but where to draw the line, with the left wanting Park Chung-hee and other elites connected to authoritarian rule and jaebeols included, and the right resisting this.

With the kind of Manichean discourse quoted above, rife with terms like "anti-national," "anti-human" and "war crime," being seen as not out of the ordinary in South Korea, it's not surprising that Ewha students would want to tear down the statue of a woman who devoted 40 years of her life to their university for her "traitorous" act of making comments supporting the Pacific War, whether it was a common-enough act among intellectuals at the time or not. Returning to the Ewha protest, here is a photo of the banner the students displayed (from here):


The text in red reads "I say goodbye Hwal-ran, okay" in English, but written in Hangeul. Ignoring the rudeness of using her first name, I couldn't help take note of the English in use on the sign. This actually dovetails into a thought experiment that came to mind some time ago in regard to the question of collaboration. Namely, what would happen if North Korea took over the South and and had to deal with a population that included many, many people who had links to the Korean race's eternal enemy, the United States? Would being able to speak English be cause for suspicion? (One assumes many English loan words would be excised from the language, as South Korea's Yusin government announced it would do in 1976.) Defectors have already spoken of the North Korean military's plan to set up camps to exterminate "half breeds," but what of people who had, say, studied in the US? They might say they were just trying to improve their lot in life, that it didn't mean they had any great love for the US, but if the North Koreans used the fundamentalist logic of the Institute for Research in Collaborationist Activities, they'd be sent off to camps - or worse - with little debate. While the excuses they might make for their "collaboration" with the US - a nation that some even now declare is "occupying" Korea - might suffice to justify themselves in their own eyes, it seems such latitude is not to be extended to people faced with difficult choices more than 70 years ago. 

All things considered, the issue of collaboration is a complex one, and is part of a debate which is still very much unfinished in Korea - as I believe much related to the colonial era will continue to be, as long as the country is divided. So it might be worthy of a bit more gravity than party hats and the equivalent of shouting "Na na na na, hey hey hey, goodbye."