Landownership Under Colonial Rule: Korea's Japanese Experience, 1900-1935
By Edwin H. Gragert. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. 1994. ix, 207pp.
(Figures.) US$44.00, cloth. ISBN 8248-1497-5.
Gragert seeks [in "Landownership Under Colonial Rule: Korea's Japanese Experience,
1900-1935"] to do for the rural economy. Gragert has a grassroots focus, involving
a microscopic examination of land ownership records in five highly productive
agricultural villages. He asks whether the economic deprivation and suffering
of the countryside in colonial Korea was produced from the outset by an officially
sanctioned confiscation or plunder of Korean agricultural land by Japanese individuals
and corporations under a fig leaf of legal forms, as is often alleged, or developed later
as a gradual consequence of the introduction of modern legal instruments of credit,
purchase and sale into Korean's rural economy and its planned integration into
the overall economy of Japan.
Truth Commission Should Be Truthful
By Michael Breen
At my father’s funeral in England some time ago, I fell into conversation with his closest friend. They had worked together in a local bank. After some words of condolence, he asked if I was still living in Korea. ``Yes, I am,’’ I said. By that time, I had been in Seoul for 18 years. It was more familiar to me than England. ``What do you think of the Koreans?’’ he asked. I waxed lyrical about the Irish of the East. After a minute, I knew I had lost my audience. ``Maybe they have changed from my time,’’ he said.
Then he told me his story. He had met his Koreans in the 1940s, when he was a prisoner of war under the Japanese. Like thousands of other young British and allied soldiers in World War II, he had been captured in Southeast Asia. The Japanese were unspeakably cruel to those they defeated. I worked in London once with a man who had, as a POW, witnessed guards executing a lineup of Australians with a bayonet up the rectum. Many of the Japanese guards in those camps were from Korea, which, you will know, was part of Japan then.
In fact, my father’s friend told me, the Koreans were the worst. ``Horrible people,’’ he said. I’ve never had the heart to tell my Korean friends this story because it is hurtful. But also because I know they would have no idea what this man might be talking about. But they should. The government of President Roh Moo-hyun is trying to clear up the pain from this period and needs serious help with its moral compass. Take, for example, the outrageous reversal this week by a Korean government panel of the rulings by allied tribunals after World War II on Korean war criminals.
The Truth Commission on Forced Mobilization under the Japanese Imperialism (sic) announced on Monday that 83 of the 148 Koreans convicted of war crimes were victims of Japan and should not be blamed. A ruling on three more is pending, and families have requested a review of the 23 Koreans who were executed. I accept that war crimes tribunals are biased. The victor catches the losers in his net. And that net had holes. Just as some got away _ like the monsters of Unit 731 in China, who did gruesome medical experiments on prisoners but were let go by the Americans in exchange for their biological warfare research findings _ so perhaps some were unjustly accused.
But not all were found guilty. War tribunals in Japan tried 25 Class A criminals (for ``crimes against peace,’’ ie, starting a war) and 300,000 in the Class B (war crimes) and Class C (crimes against humanity) categories. Around 5,600 were prosecuted in numerous trials elsewhere in Asia, and 4,400 were convicted. Of these, around 1,000 were executed, including the 23 Koreans. The 83 Koreans in question were Class B and Class C war criminals who received sentences from one and half years to life.
They were not tried as soldiers or POW camp guards who had done their jobs. They were tried for over-zealousness, for decisions and actions over and above the call of duty. They were the thugs, the brutes, the monsters, the most horrible of the ``horrible people’’ my father’s friend knew. By what authority does the Truth Commission have to remove their individual responsibility with its class act defense of nationality? Such skewed morality led to the crimes against the lowest class _ ``prisoners’’ _ in the first place. People who committed crimes against humanity are not innocent by virtue of being Korean any more than Japanese who brutalized Koreans are innocent by virtue of being Japanese.
If the Truth Commission wants to get its moral bearings straight and live up to its name, it should examine the broader assumptions with which it is approaching its mission to resolve the pain of the past. In doing so, it should recognize that the idea that Koreans were all unhappy citizens of imperialism bar a few collaborators is a myth. Koreans were Japanese citizens, and it did not occur to many to support the allies against their own country. Ask anyone who lived in that period, and they will tell you that the political correctness of the post-colonial generation is distorted.
They will also tell you that from 1937-42, Koreans in the Japanese army were volunteers _ who included King Kojong’s son, an army general _ and that large-scale forced conscription only started in 1944. The Commission should know that those rounding up comfort women were Koreans and those torturing people in police stations were mostly Koreans. Koreans, in other words, were more ``horrible’’ to Koreans in many cases than the Japanese were. The solution to this dilemma is to accept the notion of individual responsibility. I asked my father’s friend why he thought the Koreans camp guards were so nasty. ``When the camp commander was angry about something, he’d berate his officers,’’ he explained. ``The officers would take their frustration out on the Japanese privates, and they would take theirs out on the Korean privates. The Koreans would then take their anger out on the only people beneath them _ that was us.’’
So, Truth Commissioners, who’s the victim, my father’s friend or the camp guard? Ultimately, we can say with distance that both were. But there is a process to get there. First, the criminal must acknowledge his crimes, and only then can he be forgiven. The Truth Commission has no right to intervene in this process and forgive Korean war criminals. That is for their victims to do. How many of their stories has the Commission examined?
As it goes about addressing issues from the Japanese period, modern Korea owes it to the primary victims _ in this case, the prisoners brutalized by those convicted war criminals _ to tread with sensitivity on their graves.
Japanese war criminals seek redress
This article appeared in IHT/Asahi on May 20, 2005.
by YUTAKA SHUICHI May 22, 2005
Introduction: The largest number of "Japanese" executed in the B and C Class war tribunals that followed
the Tokyo trials after World War II were actually Koreans and Taiwanese, many of them low ranking guards or police in POW camps.
But he soon learned his loyalty was for naught.
Many ethnic Koreans were executed to take responsibility for war crimes committed as "Japanese citizens."
Those who did survive, like Lee, lost their Japanese citizenship-and claims for compensation or livelihood assistance-after Japan signed the San Francisco Treaty in 1951.
"My time is running out," said Lee, now 80. "I really need to see a compensation bill come into being this year."
Lee is chairman of Doshinkai, a group that has been trying to win compensation for former Korean war criminals for 50 years.
With the San Francisco peace treaty taking effect in 1952, Japan became an independent country. Lee and others from the Korean Peninsula lost their Japanese citizenship.
They were now Koreans ineligible for coverage under a relief bill that offered livelihood assistance and compensation to former Japanese military members and civilian employees.
"They called us Japanese when they wanted to, and told us we were foreigners after things went wrong," Lee said. "(In the Japanese government's eyes) we could be any nationality."
1949 Korean government announced "Declaration of Japanese nationality secession" to GHQ Japan.
JUSTICE LONG OVERDUE FOR KOREAN "COMFORT WOMEN"
MAY 2005 (IPS) - Surviving Korean "comfort women", forced to serve as sex slaves to Japanese military officers during WWII, have waited over half a century for an apology from the Japanese government, and with mounting international pressure, they just may get one, writes Elisa Gahng, a senior at the University of California at Berkeley and intern with the Women of Colour Resource Centre in Oakland, California.
In this article, Gahng writes that these women, now aged 65 to 80, were among 200,000 young women kidnapped from Korea's poorest regions. In three years, the average comfort woman was raped 7,500 times and some by as many as 30 military officers a day.