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Korean war criminals cleared

A Korean government commission cleared 83 of 148 Koreans convicted by the Allies of war crimes during World War II.

The commission ruled that the Koreans, who were categorized as Class B and Class C war criminals, were in fact victims of Japanese imperialism.

Of the 148 Koreans convicted of war crimes, some 23 would eventually be executed.

Excluded from redemption were high-ranking officers and MPs suspected of voluntarily collaborating with the Japanese; Some 86 names were looked at overall; a judgment on the other three will follow investigations by local government bodies.

The commission ruled—now get this—that the Korean war criminals, who “unavoidably” became POW camp guards to avoid the Japanese draft (read: they volunteered as POW guards to avoid fighting at the front), were saddled by the Japanese with responsibility for the abuse of Allied POWs, and hence had to suffer the “double pain” of forced mobilization AND becoming a war criminal.

It gets better—the head of the commission said analysis of military prosecutor records, recently obtained from British state archives, on 15 Korean POW camp guards “confirmed” that they were convicted of war crimes “without clear evidence.”

See, the Japanese rightists are correct—the Tokyo Trials were unfair!

Some 37 percent of Allied prisoners in Japanese POW camps perished. Compare this with 4 percent for Western prisoners in Nazi German POW camps (the mortality rate for Soviet prisoners in Nazi camps, on the other hand, was 60 percent) and, for shits and giggles, the 43-percent mortality rate for U.S. POWs during the Korean War.

A sympathetic look at the Korean Class B and C war criminals can be found at this website:

Do you know…
That there were some Korean youths who were prosecuted
as Japanese soldier in war crimes tribunals,
And that because they are foreigners,
they have not received any apology
or compensation from the Japanese government?

Silly me, and here I was thinking that at least 23 of those war criminals were properly compensated… when they were executed.

UPDATE: Read that Japanese site linked above. Read stuff like this:

For the past forty years, the ex-Korean BC class war criminals have insisted that the Japanese government is responsible for the burden that they were forced to carry.

It ignored each time.

When they realized that there was no way to change the government, they decided to bring the case to the court.

Although they knew that they could not win, they could not let their suffering be forgotten.

Makes you want to cry, doesn’t it?

UPDATE 2: You can say that again:

The notion that some pissant ROK commission can pardon war criminals judged by proper authorities at the time a half century later is just another example of how Korea still isn’t ready for international prime time. The former Allied governments may not loudly second the complaints of veterans that are sure to come – I’ve sent this along to my uncles so that they can make a point of it – but it will not go unnoticed among opinion leaders and policy makers.

One can only hope. And by the way, Sperwer put it best—this is revolting. And on several levels, not the least of which is that for all the bitching the current administration does about Japan failing to take responsibility for its past, Seoul obviously isn’t in a rush to take responsibility for its.

It should also be noted this was a small piece that almost flew under the radar. If this were a Japanese government committee clearing Japanese war criminals of culpability, it would have been splashed on the front page of every newspaper in Korea.

About the author: Just the administrator of this humble blog.

  • dogbertt

    Just when you think the hypocrisy and victimization complex truly can’t get any worse, the bar gets lowered. Incredible.

  • michael

    How does a gov’t commission “clear” people of war crimes? Wouldn’t this be a judicial issue?

    Now the Japanese gov’t can use this as a precedent to absolve all their war criminals ;)

  • http://www.koreasojourner.blog-city.com/ usinkorea

    That is a real hoot.

    But I have to chide dogbertt.

    The bar was set way down in minus territory —- set down after they had to dig and dig and dig and dig and dig and dig (add a few more of these) — then place the bar well below the surface of the earth —— when they decided to officially not condemn North Korea for human rights abuses — but would officially criticize the US for the war in Iraq and detainees in Cuba.

    (dogbertt’s quote works if you consider a resetting of the bar the most recent offical message from the human rights commissions new leader being a strong condemnation of the North. I’m waiting for the vote in the UN to see if it really follows through).

    Anyway, what I originally wanted to say was — how I can’t wait to see how they will one day handle the war crimes of Koreans on Koreans during the Korean War.

    Nogunri has been the main effort but there have been others on re-evaluating the war crimes of GIs, but I haven’t heard about detailed explanations of the Koeran-on-Korean actions.

    Recently, I saw where some Koreans who blew up or burnt down some buildings in the name of “democracy” (whether “people’s democracy” or actual “democracy” was unclear) — and happened to burn some people up in the process — were cleared of charges against them and re-termed democracy freedom fighters officially.

    But I haven’t seen them go gung-ho into placing the negative redesigned labels on fellow Koreans of all ranks. I’m still waiting for Park Chung Hee to be officially labelled an enemy of the people. And I’m waiting for the officers and ncos and police and others who committed bad acts against other Koreans to be hunted down (postumously) and called traitors to the people as well.

  • michael

    US–I can’t see Korea going back over the Korean War like that. The Park Geun-hye generation doesn’t have any strong motivation to do so that I can see, and if Roh & Co. start to dig up the past it will backfire on the individuals doing the digging just like the “colonial collaborator” witchhunt a couple years ago.

  • seouldout

    Despicable.

    The Japanese command believed that the Korean guards would mind a Korean general and picked Lt. Gen. Hong Sa-Ik (hanged in ’48) to supervise the POW camps. Source: Kim Young-Sik, Ph.D., “A Brief History of the US-Korea Relations Prior to 1945″

    Has any evidence of Koreans assisting Allied POWs ever surfaced?

  • http://rjkoehler.com Robert Koehler

    Lt. Gen. Hong Sa-Ik was one of the ones the commission chose NOT to recognize as a victim.

  • seouldout

    Understood. These “victims of Japanese imperialism” who “were saddled by the Japanese with responsibility for the abuse of Allied POWs” served under an ethnic Korean. But much more convenient to attribute Koreans’ beastly behavior to the Japanese. “I was just following orders,” is accepted in 2006.

  • http://rjkoehler.com Robert Koehler

    Actually, they argue not just that they were “following orders,” but that they were brainwashed by imperial Japanese propaganda. As opposed to, lets say, Japanese Japanese war or Nazi concentration camp guards, who apparently weren’t subject to shrill propaganda, it would seem (sarcasm off).

    Frankly, if they were arguing something along the line that they didn’t mean to starve and otherwise mistreat POWs, but the war was difficult, Japanese supply lines were destroyed and even Japanese troops in the field were often starving, I’d give it a listen. But that’s not what they are saying—they are saying they did really bad things, but rather than accept their own responsibility, they are trying to pass it off on to the Japanese (who, granted, were ultimately responsible, but that doesn’t absolve the guards of their personal guilt and responsibility) AND depict themselves as victims.  Which, to speak bluntly, I find shameless.

    And, if I might go a step further, the fact that a government committee has decided to play along exposes the government’s push to correct past history for what it really is, i.e., not something to reveal historical truth, but rather a ploy to replace the old bullshit with fresh bullshit.

  • montclaire

    My understanding was that the Japanese didn’t trust Koreans enough to use them in the front lines, so that most of them did end up in secondary roles like POW camp guards.
    BTW, in the collection of letters entitled From a Ruined Empire it is made clear that in ’45 the Chinese were more eager to see the Koreans rounded up and sent back than the Japanese; the Koreans were more brutal.
    And let’s not even get into how Koreans treat their own people, which is much worse (see NK gulags).

  • jsg

    Hi Seouldout,

    This is from Wartime, the military history magazine published by the Australian War Memorial (Issue 32, Fourth Quarter, 2005, “An Unfamiliar Face of the Enemy” by Rosilind Hearder):

    “Allied prisoners had their most frequent contact with camp guards. Many of those were conscripted Japanese soldiers, although most were actually Korean. When former prisoners of war speak of Japanese cruelty, many then note, ” . . . but the Koreans were the worst.” Prisoner-of-war doctors explained the Koreans’ particularly vicious behaviour toward prisoners of war as a trickle-down effect; the Koreans were themselves treated little better than slaves and took out their anger on those they could — the prisoners. Despite their sadistic reputation, some Korean guards were sympathetic to prisoners of war. It may have been that as colonial subjects of Japan, they despised the Japanese as much as prisoners of war did, creating a tenuous bond. Their country had been brutalized by Japan for centuries.”

    The article then goes on to point out a few cases of kindness by Korean guards: “[Dr] Pavillard recalled another Korean guard at Kinsayok camp, Thailand, who secretly warned Allied officers when camp searches were about to take place.” There is also this example of a Korean guard who, in exchange for English lessons [!], “. . . smuggled medication to them periodically and protected them from other captors.”

    So, Seouldout, in answer to your question, it seems there were some Korean guards who tried to ameliorate the suffering of Allied prisoners, but the majority had a bad reputation.

    -Jeff

  • dogbertt

    Funny that even then and in those circumstances, English lessons were a form of currency.

  • jsg

    That struck me also, dogbertt.

  • seoulmilk

    white people can tell asians apart? wow.

  • jsg

    seoulmilk,

    Most of the Australian, British, and American prisoners who survived were under Japanese care for years. The camp guards were the “rough edge” at which the prisoners experienced the Japanese Empire. They interacted with their guards on a day in, day out basis and they knew who they were dealing with.

    There is actually a fairly large literature dealing with this stuff if you’re interested.

    I hasten to add that the article I quoted above meant to point out the exceptional occasions where Korean guards were kind to their captives. Also, the structure under which these abuses took place was the creation of the Japanese and it is with them, IMHO, that most of the responsibility for the abuse of Allied PWs lies. Still, each guard was free to exercise his authority as he saw fit. Whether that authority was expressed as an effort to ease the suffering of helpless men or intensify it through gratuitous cruelty had most to do with the moral bearings of the individuals involved.

  • montclaire

    This is of course how they look at their own S.Korean history. Those soldiers who killed kids in Gwangju were victims of Yankee imperialism because a Korean never does truly bad things unless forced to do so by a non-Korean.

  • http://www.koreasojourner.blog-city.com/ usinkorea

    Read the novel The Bridge Over the River Kwai that the movie was based on.

  • http://rjkoehler.com Robert Koehler

    Read the novel The Bridge Over the River Kwai that the movie was based on.

    Or “King Rat”

  • seouldout

    Jeff,

    Thanks for that. I hadn’t come across anything that mentioned individual kindliness on their part. Years ago, and before coming here, I met an Aussie vet in Thailand who mentioned that the Korean guards were the worst. Korean brutality is pretty well known within the circles of interest. Seems similar to those non-Germans who collaborated w/ the Nazis, particularly eastern Europeans such as the Ukrainians & Croats, and earned notorious reputations.

    I’m curious to see the reaction to the exoneration of the 86. The reactions of Allied veterans groups will be quite strong. But how the respective governments react will be telling.

  • http://www.occidentalism.org shakuhachi

    Japan had to accept the verdict of the trials as a condition of independence from the occupation authorities. That means that Japan has accepted the verdict of the Tokyo trials regardless of the individual merits of each case. If ‘brainwashing’ is an excuse for war crimes, then I wonder if the Korean commission will accept that there were brainwashed Japanese as well.

  • Hugh

    The Hangooks are the men That Will not be Blamed for nothing. They are down on waygooks and shan’t stop ripping them till they do get buckled.

  • seouldout

    With Memorial/Remembrance Day having just been observed the timing of the commission’s ruling doubles the cock up.

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  • michael

    “This is of course how they look at their own S.Korean history. Those soldiers who killed kids in Gwangju were victims of Yankee imperialism because a Korean never does truly bad things unless forced to do so by a non-Korean.”

    Montclaire nails it again. That’s why I think all inquiries into Korean War atrocities will begin and end with the U.S. and not what Koreans might have done to Koreans.

  • jsg

    seouldout,

    It’s a pleasure. Unfortunately, the article does not seem to be available on the Internet.

    I’m not sure about the comparison, though, of the Japanese/Korean relationship and the German/Croatian one. Were there any Croatian guards in German concentration camps? Croatia, although a part of Yugoslavia prior to the German conquest in April 1941, was thereafter more an independent state allied to the Nazis than a subject territory.

    There is, of course, the infamous Jasenovac camp, but that was maintained by the Croatian Ustasha government themselves for the internment (and murder) of mainly Serbian prisoners. Certainly there was a lot of gratuitous cruelty and savagery in that place.

    My father was an ethnic Croatian (first generation American). I know I’ve always been a little leery of doing research on family history for fear of turning up a great uncle or something who was a guard at Jasenovac. Every Croat of conscience should hang his head at the sound of the word.

  • http://www.sperwerslog.com Sperwer

    This is just revolting – literally – it makes me sick. I have relatives who had the misfortune of being POWS in both Europe and the Pacific during WWII. Those in Europe had a rough ride, but generally managed to get through it then and afterwards; the one exception was a flier who got subjected to Nazi medical experiments. Those in the Pacific, including a couple at the Thai camps, had it much worse even than the latter and their suffering was directly caused by Korean soldiers. Their answer to the argument that the Koreans were just passing along the same treatment they got is that it doesn’t wash because the Japanese trooper was treated just the same and, in their experience, didn’t pass along the favor. The notion that some pissant ROK commission can pardon war criminals judged by proper authorities at the time a half century later is just another example of how Korea still isn’t ready for international prime time. The former Allied governments may not loudly second the complaints of veterans that are sure to come – I’ve sent this along to my uncles so that they can make a point of it – but it will not go unnoticed among opinion leaders and policy makers.

  • pawikirogi

    would the koreans have been there if they had a choice?

    ‘some 37% perished in japanese camps.’ marmot

    you need to get over this. that’s in the past. like nogunri, people do evil things during times of war. it’s the past, get over it. sound familiar? you’ve got the right to croc tears when it’s your own. you have rights. but then you’ll turn around and tell a korean to shut his mouth about japanese brutality because ‘it’s in the past’ and ‘i admire the japanese, they had to colonize’. follow your own advice and get over it, marmot. it’s in the past.

    gee, have you notice almost all the koreans are gone from this place? perhaps, they’re tired of the daily lynching of koreans that goes on here day in and day out.

    ‘truth be told, you cannot live without the korean.’ pawi the sage

  • pawikirogi

    wait a minute, you tell koreans that yasukuni and the jpm who pays honor to war criminals is an internal affair of japan but then you’re going to cry about koreans absolving some minor war criminals? man! koreans ain’t never going to get a break here. pathetic.

  • http://rjkoehler.com Robert Koehler

    The only thing that’s pathetic is that you’ve failed to see what’s happened here, pawikirogi. And I’m glad you find the starvation, abuse and murder of Allied POWs during WWII to be a “minor” war crime. But then again, pawi, those POWs were often American, British, Australian and Dutch (read: white). Well, at least we can guess where your projection about Iraqi POWs (“you expats don’t care about brown people!”) and war casualties comes from.

    And let me add, pawi, that Korea is the one that started this “history war” and turned historical perception into an international issue. So if you think Yasukuni is fair game, then you can bet your bottom that a government commission clearing war criminal convicted by an international tribunal is open to criticism.

  • montclaire

    Those Koreans would not have had to endure the double pain of mobilization AND becoming war criminals if there had been no inmates in those POW camps on whom the Japanese could force the Koreans to commit un-Korean acts. The US and Japan were therefore accomplices in causing the Korean guards boundless pain and “han”, for which reason none other than President Bush himself must…
    But I’ll let Pawigirogi dictate the terms.

  • http://jalanasia-afrika.blogspot.com/ aaronm

    An insidious example of ‘Han’ at work, the subjective viewing of the actions of other Koreans as something to be treated altogether differently. By this line of reasoning, the governments of the many Eastern European states who contributed to the ranks of collaborators would also have grounds to absolve those co-ethnics who participated in war crimes. Its also a fair indication that Korea lacks ‘rule of law’, but rather operates under ‘rule BY law’. Buyer beware.

    PS, I’m curious to know what the RSL (Returned Soldiers League) in Australia would have to say about this.

  • http://jalanasia-afrika.blogspot.com/ aaronm

    PPS, I just fired off an email to the aforementioned group who tend to take a dim view of this kind of thing. I’m hoping they will take it further.

  • Maekchu

    I anyone really surprised? It fits the intrinsic thinking of Koreans that they can never do anything wrong; they are always the victims. Behind every bad Korean action, there is foreigner responsible. I seem to remember countrywide protests for the 2 girls who were killed in an accident involving a US tank but no outrage and little repercussions toward the Korean who killed over 100 people in the Daegu subway fire. Can you imagine if a derranged Miguk or Canadian had started that fire? It’s a double standard society.

  • montclaire

    And what about Kim Hyunhee, aka Mayumi, who blew up a plane with 115 Koreans on it in 1987, and soon pranced out of prison? No one cared about that either, except the families of the victims. She was such a pure Korean, you see, being a virgin and all that.
    So in 1988 Roh Tae Woo was already preaching Nordpolitik and saying “It’s time to consider the North Koreans our partners.” (This goes to show the lefties aren’t the only ones with a screw loose.)
    Koreans. Can. Do. No. Wrong. That’s all there is to it.

  • http://www.yeolchae.wordpress.com yeolchae

    The Hankoryeh explains that a lot of the research on these people was done using info from the British National Archives.

    It would be interesting to know what exact information was behind the decision to exhonerate these men.

    Perhaps they are taking advantage of the fact that the Japanese war crime tribunal is now seen as something of a sham trial.

  • http://rjkoehler.com Robert Koehler

    Perhaps they are taking advantage of the fact that the Japanese war crime tribunal is now seen as something of a sham trial.

    Perhaps, but I strongly doubt it since the major beef against the Japanese PM visiting Yasukuni is that the shrine houses memorial tablets of Class A war criminals convicted at said sham tribunal. But certainly, the fact that they are taking issue with the manner in which their boys were convicted might lead one to begin asking questions about how other people were convicted, too. Granted, people people have been casting doubt at the Japanese war crime tribunals for quite some time, but I don’t think the Korean government committee that came up with this decision intended to undermine the legitimacy of the tribunal, even if that’s the logical conclusion one might draw from their reasoning.

  • http://www.koreasojourner.blog-city.com/ usinkorea

    I think we have to also look at this in the greater context of what is going on in Korean society today – or a part of it.

    In the future, say ten to twenty years from now, they are going to look at the Roh presidency and things like this commission as a natural progression of Korean society’s evolution since the 1970s.

    What I mean is, there was a Chosun Daily editorial the other day that mentioned, as I remember it, recently a list of people were pardonned and given kudos of some sort from being convicted during the authoritarian period. They were cleared of anti-state charges and relabelled freedom and democracy advocates. The Chosun said some of the people were convicted of firebombing or blowing up some buildings in which people died.

    Korean society isn’t alone in stuff like this — some journalists and profs in the US have warm thoughts about some of the activists in the 1960s and 1970s who used bombs and violence to fight against the Vietnam War and institutionalized racism. — But those voices are in very much in the minority in the US.

    In Korea, there is a much stronger tendancy these days to boomerang from the past and not just pardon people in the past of their crimes – but to champion them in the opposite direction.

    So, everyone in Cheju Island during the massacre was just a peaceful villager or just a freedom fighter who wanted the kind of democracy South Korea has today – rather than the North Korean variety. The same with Kwangju 1980. And so on.

    And this flip-flop in Korean thinking has been building since the civil rights movement and democracy movement started gaining ground in the early 1970s when Park Chung Hee changed the constitution.

    There is more at work here than simply Koreans liking to blame everyone else for their problems or refusing to admit wrongs.

  • pawikirogi

    your response was weak and pathetic. you’re a hypocrite plain and simple. if koreans need to shut up about the japa pm paying homage to class a war criminals, then you need to shut up about this because one, it’s an internal affair of korea, and two, it’s in the past. that’s the argument you make when koreans say anything about the shrine. follow your own advice.

    ‘brown people…’

    you can’t see what i’m doing here? i am asking you to practice what you preach. doing that is as easy as all the endless advice you have for k folk. and, btw, it isn’t nice when someone is flippant about your people’s sufferring, no? try to think about that, hypocrite.

  • slim

    nulji/pawi. you’re missing the point by quite a wide mark here: The hypocrisy lies in a Korea quick to remind Japan of its very real atrocities of the wartime area absolving many of the KOREANS WHO TOOK PART IN THOSE ATROCITIES.

  • pawikirogi

    i’m not missing the point at all. i’m asking the marmot to practice what he preaches day in and day out. i see marmot with the croc tears with his 37% boo-hoo, but then he tells koreans to shut up about yasukuni.

  • slim

    I don’t recall the Marmot ever telling Koreans to shut up about Yasukuni (in fact, he tends to tell Westerners to quit whining about Japan’s past or acting as if European colonialists had nothing to be ashamed of). But even if he were, that’s really not the issue here, which is (and I’ll type slowly for easy comprehension): Korea, quick to remind Japan of its atrocities of the wartime area, is absolving many of the KOREANS WHO TOOK PART IN THOSE ATROCITIES and were duly convicted for their crimes (and declaring them victims!). There’s really no way to portray this decision as anything but hypocritical.

  • seouldout

    …research on these people was done using info from the British National Archives.

    Which is located at the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews.

    But seriously, if a thorough job were to be done all the national archives would have been researched. Public testimony by surviving POWs and historians of repute would have been given. And the commission would have included international members. Or else you have the inmates running the asylum.

    Did anyone hear of this commission before the ruling was announced? Oh by the way, we set up a commission and we’ve cleared over 50%. And if this flies without an outcry we’ll clear the remainder next week. A sham.

    Perhaps the war criminal trial was a sham, but I recall others, such as Alex Gibney’s The Pacific Century, stating that the trials were wrapped up pretty quickly due to the politics of the times, i.e. ascending communism, and thus many were not brought to justice.

    Hopefully the outcome of this will be an outcry loud enough to capture the public’s attention, and many will learn that Korea was not only a victim, as has been the spin, but also a collaborating perpetrator.

  • http://rjkoehler.com Robert Koehler

    i see marmot with the croc tears with his 37% boo-hoo

    Well, at least we know now how deep those “we Americans” feelings run.

    You’re obviously a smart guy. If you want to argue that I’m being inconsistent, go right ahead. But you might want to do so in ways that don’t give Dogbertt ammunition.

    And since you brought up Yasukuni, Pawi, as far as I know, the Japanese government has not convened a special committee that absolved its war criminals of guilt. Korea, on the other hand, just did. If you can’t see how that’s infinitely worse than anything the Japanese government has done to this point—including visits to the Yasukuni Shrine and OK’ing controversial textbooks to be used in less than 1 percent of Japanese schools—than you really need to screw your head on tighter. And yes, the Korean government is all the more deserving of criticism since it, not Tokyo, is the one that declared “diplomatic war” partially over historical issues, and it is—along with China—one of the standard-bearers of the whole “The Dirty Japs Are Avoiding Responsibility for Their Past” Campaign. You want hypocrites, Pawi, start with Cheong Wa Dae. Then look at yourself.

  • austin

    I have personally emailed every state president of the RSL (Returned Services League) In Australia, and the Minister of Veterans affairs.

    Dear Sir

    My name is George P. I am an Australian Citizen, currently working in South Korea.
    I am writing to you about a matter that I find highly disturbing.
    The matter concerns Korean war criminals who served under the Japanese.
    Many of these war criminals were prison guards who brutalised Australian and British prisoners of war.
    Despite the fact that Australian and British servicemen and women sacrificed to protect the citizens of the Republic of South Korea. The South Korean government declares that 83 of the 148 convicted war criminals were not in fact criminals.
    To add further insult to injury, these people then declare that these 83 war criminals were themsleves victims.
    I refer you to the published report in the Korea Herald.

    http://www.koreaherald.co.kr/SITE/data/html_dir/2006/11/13/200611130043.asp

    There have been many accounts by our POW’s who have in fact stated that of the prison guards it was usually the Koreans who were the most brutal.

    I wish to point out that I am in no way anti Korean as my wife is in fact Korean.

    As an Australian who has visited the Korean war cemeteray and seen the graves of Australians cut down in their prime, I find this act highly offensive.

    I am bringing this to you attention as I hope that the RSL can do something about this insult to our servicepersonnel and our country.

    Yours sincerely

    George P

    Haeundae, Busan
    South Korea

  • michael

    Austin, you might want to copy the article for your e-mail since the link will expire in a few days.

  • michael

    And it’s sad that the best counterargument about this comes from Pawi, who debates like a 9-year-old. Most of the Korean people in my office can do better, except that a whole lot of them would agree with Marmot :)

  • dogbertt

    nulji cried,

    gee, have you notice almost all the koreans are gone from this place? perhaps, they’re tired of the daily lynching of koreans that goes on here day in and day out.

    That’s OK, little fella … there are plenty of “safe spaces for minorities” on the Internet where you can go cry on each others’s shoulders while raging at The Man. Just follow bluejives if you don’t know where they are.

    nulji stoned said,

    ‘truth be told, you cannot live without the korean.’ pawi the sage

    Don’t flatter yourself.

  • lirelou

    On an esoteric point. Does anyone know what name LTG Hong Sa-ik went under while serving in the Japanese Imperial Army? We have it on good authority that ALL Koreans were required to change their names to Japanese names, though there is some evidence that such was not the case. In any event, I would would have expected a Korean in japanese service to do so.

  • Zonath

    little repercussions toward the Korean who killed over 100 people in the Daegu subway fire

    That’s going a little far. I would hardly call a sentence of life in prison ‘little repercussions’ (although I do believe South Korea still has hard labor as a punishment, so maybe he got off light…) Heck, the operators of the two trains in the subway fire got a few years in prison each for criminal negligence, as well. So what’s the double standard in that case?

  • relayer77

    I’m sending this post to my senators and congressmen, and I encourage everyone else reading this to do the same. This is an outrage.

  • tomojiro

    “On an esoteric point. Does anyone know what name LTG Hong Sa- ik went under while serving in the Japanese Imperial Army? We have it on good authority that ALL Koreans were required to change their names to Japanese names, though there is some evidence that such was not the case. ”

    He didn’t change his name. He served as 洪思翊(Ko Shi-yoku in japanese pronounciation). There were many koreans who served in the Imperial Japanese Army retaining their Korean name.

    If you go to Kagoshima in Japan to the memorial of the Kamikaze pilots you can also find several Korean name there. Several years ago I saw a domuntary show about a Korean Kamikaze pilot who before his last flight visited the local house lady and sung “Alliran” with her.

  • montclaire

    Tomojiro -
    Fascinating info there. So what exactly was the deal with this so-called forced name changing? Was it really optional after all? And where can a reader get the straight truth about the colonial era?

  • relayer77

    Here’s a follow up for American readers; you can get the email address for your senator here:

    http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

    Let there be consequences!

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  • seouldout

    Montclaire,

    Much that the Koreans have tried to spin as evidence as Japanese brutality is balderdash. The “changing of names” was the Japanese pronunciation of Chinese characters, which both the Japanese and Koreans use. Strikes me the extent that their names were changed is how Koreans change my surname as the Korean language is too limited to spell and pronounce it as it is. (Is this evidence of Korean brutality? Of course not.) The abolishment of the Korean language? Vernacular newspapers existed until the late 30s / early 40s. Korean-language movies were filmed and Korean-language songs were recorded.

    Did the Japanese use force, even brutal force, to suppress rebellion/freedom fighting? Yep. Torture? Yes. Was it on the scale inflicted on the Jews or Gypsies (Roma, if you prefer)? Nope. The Belgians were far more brutal in the Congo. The South African Boers were forced into concentration camps. Indians in North and South American didn’t fare too well, to put it mildly. Yet the Koreans will compare their plight to those who suffered worse, if not insist they suffered more. Witness the Korean outrage to Dr. Lankov’s recent article that concluded that the past few hundred years prior to WWII was a time of relative peace; much more so than found elsewhere. (Who’d argue with that?!) Korea keeps a one-sided scorecard.

    Can the reader get the straight truth? Don’t know, but as the Korean public erupts with threats and attacks upon those Koreans who stray from the script, there’s not much benefit for a Korean academic to do so.

    But this can go on for only so long. Years ago it was a Korean hope that its languange, culture and history be widely known. And it’s becoming so. They must have assumed we’d all be as hoodwinked as they are.

    Korea has cornered itself with wild hyperbole.

  • Paul H.

    Interesting discussion.

    Is there (has there been) any memoirs in Korean, for Koreans, about those Koreans who served with Japanese forces in WWII, in whatever capacity? Or have they kept silent due to a more or less unwritten & unspoken consensus in postwar ROK society?

    I suppose maybe there wasn’t time for remembering, due to the stresses on the ROK for the first 4 decades or so of its existence. Still, their story deserves to be told, if for no other reason that it’s always better to know the truth, or at least to hear the other side of it.

    Is there even one such memoir in existence, Korean-language speakers? If nothing published, are there maybe any ROK grad students going around doing oral histories for their unpublished theses?

    Maybe one or two could find time for something like this, in between attendance at anti-US demonstrations…

    On another note: In 1989 (?) when Hirohito died, I was in the middle of teaching WWII military class to ROTC cadets. I was really struck at the time by reading a paragraph or so (probably in Time or Newsweek) about the reaction of the WWII Australian veterans groups, especially former POWs, who (if I remember correctly) were outraged by the Australian government’s intent to officially attend the funeral. As far as such groups’ ability to weigh in now on this particular issue, I’m sure that their numbers are ever more rapidly diminishing daily now, just as the ranks of US WWII vets are.

    No comparable US vet groups had a similar reaction at the time, at least that I detected. I’m sure this reflected the different WWII experiences of the two groups, not to mention that the proximity of the threat was a lot closer for Australia.

  • http://www.sperwerslog.com Sperwer

    There was a film/tv movie/serial a few years ago that dealt with the issue of Koreans drafted into the Japanese war effort. Of the two male characters I recall, one was assigned to the Japanese unit that conducted “medical” experiments on Chinese in Manchuria; the other I believe ended up in the Battle of Saipan. One of the female leads was a comfort woman with whom one of the males had some relationship. As you might expect, it was a real Hanfest; you’d come away thinking that the pyschic wounds to the guy helping infect Chinese with anthrax and handing up the scalpel were more onerous and terribly “burdensome” as our hosts like to say than getting anthrax and then being subjected to live vivisection.

    Having reread the KH piece, I was also struck by the report that the exonerated ones had it so tough because if they had not cooperated they would have been drafted into service. This can only mean that they volunteered – undoubtedly in hopes of a better billet than just waiting to be conscripted would have produced. I have no doubt that if these people had any consciences at all they would have been wracked by guilt about this. But the notion that somehow such presumed pyschic burden somehow excuses their active complicity – not their involuntary service at the point of a bayonet — is stupefying in its moral infantilism.

  • http://www.occidentalism.org shakuhachi

    On an esoteric point. Does anyone know what name LTG Hong Sa-ik went under while serving in the Japanese Imperial Army? We have it on good authority that ALL Koreans were required to change their names to Japanese names, though there is some evidence that such was not the case. In any event, I would would have expected a Korean in japanese service to do so.

    The name change was voluntary. They could choose to register a Japanese name, register their existing Korean name, or not register a name at all, in which case their existing Korean name would be retained. It was a little more nuanced, however. If the head of the household registered a family name, be it Japanese or Korean, then every single member of the household would also automatically be assigned that name for consistency. Even if one changed the family name to a Japanese one, the original Korean name was not lost. That name was also recorded.

  • gbevers

    We have it on good authority that ALL Koreans were required to change their names to Japanese names, though there is some evidence that such was not the case. In any event,…

    I do not know which authority is being referred to, but there is no KOREAN authority that I trust when it comes to issues related to Korea’s colonial period. Koreans have too much to hide in regard to that period and seem willing to do and say almost anything to hide it.

    How could Korea hide the fact that she was a friend and ally to Japan before and during World War II? By denying it, hiding or destroying all records suggesting it, rewriting her history concerning it, and brainwashing her people to believe they were victims rather than willing participants in it. How in the world could Korea ever expect to get away with such a lie? With the help and support of the US and her allies, of course.

    Even before the end of World War II, the US and her allies were considering ways to divide and break up the Japanese empire. The way they seemed to have settled on doing it was to essentially offer Korea and Taiwan immunity for their roles in the war by giving them the opportunity to claim they were victims rather than allies. With the choice of being labeled a defeated Japanese ally or a poor Japanese victim, Koreans obviously chose the victim label and have been running with it ever since. Therefore, the US is largely to blame for Korea’s current “victim complex,” as I suspect the complex was not as serious before World War II as it was after.

    Though there is little doubt that Japanese soldiers committed atrocities in World War II, there is also little doubt that American, Chinese, and Soviet Union soldiers also committed atrocities against the Japanese. The fact that only Japan and her allies were punished shows an obvious double standard.

    Many of the POWs held by Japan died from starvation and disease, not because the Japanese refused to feed and treat them, but because they had no food or medicine to do so. As for American and allied soldiers, many did not even bother taking Japanese prisoners.

    This past summer my dad told me a story he had heard many years ago from a hometown friend who had fought in the Pacific War. His friend told him that three, or maybe it was five, Japanese had surrendered to him. When he brought them back to his camp expecting to hear praises from his superior, he heard instead that if he kept them as prisoners, he would have to personally guard them and feed them from his own rations. The US soldier got the message and took the Japanese soldiers out into a nearby field and shot them.

    The reason few Japanese soldiers were taken prisoner during World War II was not just because many fought to the death, but also because it was considered too much trouble by many US and Allied soldiers to take them prisoners. At least, the Japanese seemed to have made an effort.

    It pisses me off that Korea has unilaterally cleared her war criminals of their crimes, but what really pisses me off is that she did it after having made such a fuss about the visits of Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi to Yasukuni Shrine. As far as I know, Koizumi has never denied the crimes of Japanese war criminals. He has said that his visits to the Yasukuni Shrine were simply to pray for the dead and for peace. Korea’s act of pardoning the crimes of most of her war criminals is another example of blatant Korean hypocrisy.

  • MrChips

    “Though there is little doubt that Japanese soldiers committed atrocities in World War II, there is also little doubt that American, Chinese, and Soviet Union soldiers also committed atrocities against the Japanese. The fact that only Japan and her allies were punished shows an obvious double standard.”

    From one who has staked his claim in the blogging world as the jury of Korean historiography when it comes to colonial issues, that statement glares with a disdain for truth. I suppose that there is little doubt that Jews committed atrocities against Nazis as well…or so your reasoning goes. Your story about the Japanese POWs who were shot has been told and retold and I’ve heard at least 5 different versions of it with wildy varying numbers. US POWs in Nazi camps lived roughly in the same conditions that German guards lived in; many POWs came back to the US and acknowledged that fact. Think the Japanese did the same? No, medicine, no food?? Bullshit! Think the guards were dying at the rate of 37% You’re right to harp about the allegations against Yasukuni; no one has the right to tell the Japanese what their national religion must or must not entail or question what individual Japanese opinions are concerning those enshrined at the memorial.

    …but, you’re not right because you’re interested in the truth as shown by your impulsive attempts to exonerate any Japanese actions by instead inventing American, Chinese, and Soviet crimes and highlighting Korean propensities to distort their history. None of that, sir, can alter what the Japanese did in STARTING the war in the pacific and carrying it out so enthusiastically, enthusiasm including the horrific treatment of POWs. Or perhaps you think the Japanese had a right to treat allied POWs, in that way? Perhaps you think their medical experiments on the Chinese were for a good cause? I wonder…

  • hoju_saram

    Gotta second Mr Chips with regard to the “obvious double standard”. History is written by the winners, but I doubt very much that the Japanese treated their POWs better than the allies. I remember seeing an Australian vet interviewed having survived the Thai-Burma railway where 1 in 3 soldiers died (20,000 allied servicemen) and they asked him if he had forgiven the Japanese. He paused for a long time and then said, “It’s been fifty years, but I think I have.” The death toll of asians was close to 100,000. The interview with this guy, who was a very softly spoken old guy and who was weeping at one point has resonated with me ever since. I took a camp of Korean students to Australia last year and although the kids were only 12-13 and had never met an “Ibon Saram” they refused to eat their lunch with the Japanese students. I explained this story to them but they were unmoved.

    Of course, the Koreans have suffered much more than any other country at Japanese hands (despite what gbevers says – an ally before and during WW11????). But in saying all that, there’s no excuse for pardoning war criminals let alone labelling them as victims.

    No other news source has picked this story up. I’d suggest a letter to the Korean Herald if anyone has the time or inclination.

  • gbevers

    Mr. Chips,

    If the story about Japanese POWs has been told as often as you claim it has, then there is a good possibility that there is some truth to it. As for there being different versions, that could be explained by their being more than one incident. The version my dad heard was from a man who lived around Hedley, Texas, who told the story soon after he returned from the Pacific.

    The Germans had good reason to treat American and British POWs fairly well because the American and British had German POWs. There was mutual benefit. However, if American and Allied POWs were not taking Japanese prisoners, then what benefit would there be for Japan to treat American and Allied POWs well?

    I will not bother asking your other stupid questions.

  • dogbertt

    If the story about Japanese POWs has been told as often as you claim it has, then there is a good possibility that there is some truth to it.

    Then you would agree that Dokdo properly belongs to Korea, right?

  • http://www.occidentalism.org shakuhachi

    Of course, the Koreans have suffered much more than any other country at Japanese hands (despite what gbevers says – an ally before and during WW11????). But in saying all that, there’s no excuse for pardoning war criminals let alone labelling them as victims.

    Koreans suffered more that any other country at Japanese hands? I would say Korea ‘suffered’ the least of any country at Japanese hands.

  • montclaire

    Korea suffered more than China did? Ever hear of a place called Nanjing?

  • sky

    “Basque’s statistics, arguments, and documentation were subjected to careful and detailed study by a conference of historians (including Germans) organized by Stephen Ambrose, the director of the Eisenhower Center at the University of New Orleans. Papers from the conference have been published6 and show that Basque misread, misinterpreted, or ignored the relevant documents and that his mortality statistics are simply impossible. However, the papers do show that some of the camps, particularly the transit camps that became known as the Rheinwiesenlager,7 were initially lethal, with thousands of German POWs dying, and that these deaths were the responsibility of the American government. While the final toll of the American transit camps was far from that alleged by Bacque, it still could have reached 56,000 dead (lines 232 and 233). Detailed statistical studies by the German Maschke Commission set up to determine the fate of German POWs arrived at a figure of 4,537 dead for the most deadly Rheinwiesenlager camps (line 229). Other estimates in this range are also available (lines 228, 230 to 231). As a result of all this, I ignore Bacque’s estimates and consolidate the others as shown (line 237
    http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/SOD.CHAP13.HTM

  • hoju_saram

    montclaire, fair point, i’ve read “The Rape of Nanking” which was breath-taking in its brutality. You’re right, China did suffer more than anyone else at the hands of the Japanese as far as WW2 is concerned (at least insofar as the war period is concerned – you might have a debate on your hands if you want to talk about the fifty years before hand).

    As for shakuhachi’s comment of “suffering” the least, way off the mark. I’ve always had the firm opinion that Koreans are the most implicit in the suffering of Koreans over the last century, but Japan comes a close second. You obviously don’t fully grasp what Japan did to Korea. Unlike most countries who copped it during war-time, Korea was under the heel of the Japanese from 1905 until 1945. You might argue that this period brought them into the modern world, but it was only a minority of Koreans who benefited from Japanese rule. The majority were forcefully mobilized (about 1.4 million sent to Japan to work in mines, construction, labor) not to mention the (up to) 200,000 comfort women. About 40% of the adult population of Koreans were dislocated during this period, and many of them died at Japanese hands when the war was closing down. Then there was the forced assimilation (naisen ittai in Japanese) dealing with the absorbtion of korean culture into “one body” (read: Japanese). Japan was very good at pitting Koreans against Koreans during this time and this is why the subject is so painful even today. You can blame Koreans all day for collaberating (and with often good reason) but the whole thing was very much by Japanese design.

  • montclaire

    Well, the point made further above is that the assimilation wasn’t all that forced after all.
    40% were dislocated? Forcibly? Or do you mean moved to Seoul? (In which case you have had much more “dislocation” since the Japanese left). “Many died at Japanese hands” – how many exactly and how? I’m interested in what sources you use.
    Japan was good at pitting Koreans against Koreans? Do Koreans don’t need outside “pitting” to form factions against each other?

  • montclaire

    But I definitely think the Taiwanese got off more lightly than the Koreans did.

  • hoju_saram

    Of course it was forced. I can’t imagine Koreans of fifty years ago were too much different to Koreans today. Do you suppose they would all be merrily seeking to join in the “way of the musabi” out of respect for Hirohito? It is debated whether they were forced to take on Japanese names but the books I’ve read claim so, and also claim that they were forced to speak Japanese and worship at Shinto shrines (I believe there are many shinto shrines still in korea from the colonial period).

    By dislocated I mean used as human capital – shifted around as the japanese saw fit, to Manchuria, to Japan and elsewhere. I think in the early years many did it of their own accord, but towards the war they were mobilized by force, drafted and conscripted in the name of “patriotism” – ie for the love of japan. A lot of Koreans died in the mines alot died building bunkers in the japan (killed to keep the details of them secret), many even died in Hiroshima and nagasaki

    Max Hastings the Korean War touches briefly on all this but the best book is by Bruce Cummings, Korea’s Place in the Sun.

    As for pitting koreans against koreans, I agree they are very good at it themselves, but it was japanese policy to place koreans in unpopular positions to deflect blame from themselves. Blame both the collaberators and the japanese for this i suppose, but blame the japanse the most because it was deliberate, cruel and self-serving and korea had a right to determine its own future, even if it had to overthrow the yangban class itself and have its own bloody civil war. thats the way i see it anyway.

  • jsg

    “The reason few Japanese soldiers were taken prisoner during World War II was not just because many fought to the death, but also because it was considered too much trouble by many US and Allied soldiers to take them prisoners. At least, the Japanese seemed to have made an effort.”

    I suppose one way of looking at it is by examining the circumstances under which prisoners were taken in the Pacific Theater. Most of the Allied prisoners who fell into Japanese hands were the result of the decisions of Allied commanders ordering their troops to lay down their arms at the end of major defeats, especially in the early war period at Singapore and in the Philippines. In western military tradition this was an honorable, if undesirable, thing to do when continued resistance was deemed futile by the commanders on the scene. Under such circumstances, the Japanese had little option but to accept the surrenders or engage in the wholesale slaughter of Allied troops.

    In Japanese tradition, however, the decision to surrender one’s command was not available because of Bushido. I can’t think of a single instance of a Japanese officer who at any level surrendered his command during the whole of World War II (I’d be happy to be proven wrong if someone could provide evidence). In late war scenarios, Japanese soldiers were expected to fight and win or fight and die honorably. The able defended until they were killed or launched desperate charges. The wounded typically committed suicide to avoid capture. Those too weak had their comrades do it for them. A few prisoners were taken during the island hopping campaigns, but such examples were exceptional. Indeed, if the Japanese had been more willing to surrender, it would have lowered the butcher’s bill for the Allies and it would have been in their interests to encourage it.

    The only other way of becoming a prisoner would be by requesting or offering battlefield quarter. Without having resources here to confirm it and without going into any great depth to explain it, I’m guessing that this was extremely rare on both sides (and perhaps nearly non-existent from the Japanese side).

    I don’t mean to deny that there was a quality of racism (from both sides) in the Pacific theater and that little mercy was exhibited. However, to suggest that the Japanese were more willing to accept prisoners than the Allies seems to stretch reality a bit too much.

  • montclaire

    Sure, I agree with the last paragraph. No one’s claiming the Koreans deserve most of the blame for their colonization, but rather arguing that the hyperbolic Korean view of the period (which Cumings, who is never a critical one when it comes to nationalist Korean sources, swallows hook-line-and-sinker) needs a rigorous re-evaluation. Just look at how the Koreans now combine virulent anti-Americanism with a fascination for all things American, and a denigration of everything (starting with university degrees) that does not come from the USA. Was it really so different back then?

  • michael

    By coincidence, there’s a story today about Japan’s wartime forced labor:
    http://www.iht.com/articles/2006/11/14/news/japan.php

  • jsg

    I did a little checking on numbers of captured Japanese during the Pacific War. Here are a few examples:

    Tarawa: 17 (3,583 KIA)
    Saipan: 921 (24,000 KIA)
    Iwo Jima: 1,084 (18,000 KIA)
    Okinawa: ca. 7,000 (100,000 KIA)

    I think the numbers that gave themselves up is still quite small considering the numbers involved. At least you can’t say I’m not self correcting.

  • cmc

    My grandparents are Korean and they have Korean names. They did not benefit one bit from colonization. In fact they suffered by it, but that’s another story. They were forced to take up Japanese names as well as several other Korean citizens. So there goes the bs from shakuhachi telling everyone that the name change was voluntary. For you readers here, next time don’t trust a Japanese person on matters of history.

    And I can see why all the other Koreans have left this place. So much inaccurate information, so much exaggeration and so much whiny folks who hold a grudge towards Koreans because Korea is not the perfect dreamland they hoped it would be. I am in no way supporting what the war criminals did, but some of you are just exaggerating. About this article let me set some facts straight

    -Koreans could not hold high positions, in every case they obeyed orders from the Japanese. Disobey and you suffer the consequences.
    -Most of those Koreans worked in minor positions and had little if any control of what was going on.
    -Many were forced to take those jobs.
    -The people in charge and most of the Japanese guards and positions were occupied by the Japanese.

    Its not surprising that some of the names were cleared. Although murder and torture is wrong, its perfectly understandable that “some”(not all) were cleared of charges. Comparing what the Japanese did on their murderous rampage which ended up taking over 30 million lives to what a few dozen Koreans under Japanese control did is unfair. Mind you most of the people in charge of those Koreans and most of the guards were Japanese. You cant call Korean people hypocrites or whine about it because its just a piss poor example.

  • montclaire

    cmc, just explain how common people in Korean were all allegedly forced to take Japanese names, and yet one could be a pilot in the Japanese military and still retain a Korean name? Doesn’t that make you wonder just a little bit?

  • http://rjkoehler.com Robert Koehler

    -Koreans could not hold high positions, in every case they obeyed orders from the Japanese. Disobey and you suffer the consequences.

    I’m not military, but last time I checked, Lt. General is a pretty high position. And yes, if you disobeyed, you suffered the consequences. Unfortunately, that line of argumentation has done little for the guards at Nazi camps, regardless of whether they were German or not.

    Most of those Koreans worked in minor positions and had little if any control of what was going on.

    Uh, no. Yes, most were in “minor positions,” as were most Japanese—not every Japanese was a general or admiral, after all. Regardless, that does not absolve them of the responsibility for abusing what little control they did have, in this case, over the lives of their prisoners.

    Many were forced to take those jobs.

    Yes, many were. Many were not, as made clear in most articles (including those in Korean) written about the subject. And at any rate, the fact that they were drafted into the position rather than volunteers makes little difference.

    The people in charge and most of the Japanese guards and positions were occupied by the Japanese.

    Again, this is irrelevant. The fact that the bosses of Ukrainian, Lithuanian or Croatian camp guards were more often then not Germans has not absolved those guards of their guilt. Yes, the primary responsibility lies with the Japanese who built the system, but at the same time, but that does NOT—I repeat NOT—give those who served the system a Get Out of Jail Free card.

    Comparing what the Japanese did on their murderous rampage which ended up taking over 30 million lives to what a few dozen Koreans under Japanese control did is unfair.

    It is unfair, and as far as I know (granted, I don’t read the comments carefully), nobody has. What they have compared, however, are visits to the Yasukuni Shrine—which as ill-advised as it may be does not equal an official pardoning of the guilt of the war criminals memorialized there—and an official decision by the Korean government to absolve 83 of 148 convicted war criminals of their guilt.

    You cant call Korean people hypocrites or whine about it because its just a piss poor example.

    I’m afraid it’s not a piss-poor example. It’s a rather striking example that indicates that while Japan has a long way to go before it can reach German levels of historical accountability, Korea has a long way to go in terms of recognizing and taking responsibility for its own.

    For you readers here, next time don’t trust a Japanese person on matters of history.

    The same can be said of a lot of nationalities, including Korea and my own.

  • Wedge

    So these wankers are absolving these sadistic camp guards of their crimes. What’s to get worked up about? We won that war. It’s done. The sadists know they are sadists. Let’s show them by doing something real like removing our troops, not whingeing about it.

  • Two Cents

    cmc,
    This was an image posted at NAVER by a KOREAN as proof that his/her grandparents did not choose to have a Japanese name.
    http://toron.pepper.jp/jp/20cf/touchi/soushi.html

    Seems his/her grandparents chose to use their clan name “Lee” as the family name, like Lt. General Hong Sa-ik.

    The amendment to the civil law allowing Koreans to take on Japanese names is commonly referred to as 創氏改名. 創氏 means creating a family name (not necessarily Japanese-style), and this was compulsory. 改名 means changing the first name, and this was voluntary. To register a Japanese-style family name, all you had to do was submit the papers to the village ward (面事務所), unlike in Taiwan where you had to prove to the officials that you were fluent in Japanese and had adopted a Japanese lifestyle to be allowed a Japanese name. If you felt odd about having a combination of a Japanese-style family name and a Korean-style first name, you could also change the first name by obtaining permission from the regional legal affairs bureau, and submitting the written proof of permission to the village ward. However, changing the first name was charged 1/2 yen per head, and so only 10% of the Koreans chose (or could afford) to do so. If the Japanese government intended to completely Japanize the Korean names, it would not have charged anything for the first-name change. In the example above, you see that the head of the family did not submit anything, and so the stamp with the name and date written in, “氏ノ届出ヲ為サザルニ因リ昭和拾五年八月拾壱日李ヲ氏トシタルニ付更生ス (Since no applications have been submitted, Lee has been registered as the family name on August 11, 1940.),” appear on the register. The fact that a stamp was prepared probably means that this was no exceptional case, but that there were plenty of cases like this.

    This advertisement calling out to Koreans “Deadline approaching! Do not to miss this opportunity!” was posted in Daegu in 1940, taken from a book published in 2004 by a Korean organization, Institute for Research in Collaborationist Activities. [The Japanese title is 植民地朝鮮と戦争美術 (Colonial Korea and War-time Art).]
    http://toron.pepper.jp/jp/20cf/touchi/soushichi.html

    What this ad basically says is that:
    (1) No application will be accepted after Aug. 10.
    (2) If you fail to apply for a family name, then your [Korean-style] clan name will automatically become your new family name.
    (3) Do not confuse 氏(family name) with 姓(clan name). A family name is the title of the family, whereas the traditional clan name is the title of the paternal blood clan.
    (4) Do not worry, both your clan name and 本貫 (region of clan) will remain on your register.
    (5) It seems that some believe that the entire clan must share a common family name. That is not so.
    (6) Don’t think too deeply. Simple names usually work quite well.
    (7) Deadline approaching. If you have any questions, contact your local ward or legal affairs bureau immediately.

    How this ad can be proof of forced name changing is beyond me. But why should you believe me? I’m Japanese.

  • Paul H.

    Ref: the numbers of Japanese POW’s taken in various Pacific battles, listed in post #71.

    Some of these may have been Korean. I think recall a line or two in some Pacific war histories (don’t have them handy now unfortunately) about how some or maybe all of the 17 Japanese “prisoners” taken at Tarawa were in fact characterized as Korean “laborers”. This may have occurred in other Pacific battles too; are there any published historical sources in Korean taking a comprehensive view of how Koreans were inducted/volunteered into Japanese military, how they were organized (separate “ethnic” battalions, mixed in w/ Japanese in combined units (I would guess not based on what I read here, but who knows), what their duties were, etc etc?

    Tarawa was defended by “special naval infantry” (Japanese Marines); the battle was extremely bloody for the American Marines, because of numerous American screw-ups (it was the first large-scale “opposed at the beach” invasion, the earlier Guadalcanal operation was characterized by an initial unopposed landing). Also of course the Japanese mounted an energetic defense, their heavy fortifications were invulnerable to all naval gunfire except (practically) a direct hit from a 16 inch battleship gun.

    The battle was shortened by the decision of the Japanese commander to mount a “banzai” charge, I think it was the second night (had they done it the first night they might have been able to completely overrun the two slender USMC beachheads). After it failed the remaining Japanese all committed suicide, many by using their toes to squeeze their rifle triggers to shoot themselves in the head.

    Presumably nobody remembered to “supervise” the Koreans to make sure they implemented “bushido” properly. If my memory of the “17″ is correct, somewhere in the US military archives there may survive transcripts of the POW interviews of these guys; it would make a good research subject for some Korean researcher, ideally one who can take an “objective” view of the matter (ie these guys have an interesting story to tell, and their “truth” deserves to be recorded as they saw it at the time. No matter whether they are judged to be “good” “bad”, or “just trying to get by the best they could” (probably what most of us would have done had we been born Korean in that era, and found ourselves in similar circumstances).

    From this American’s perspective, any “crime” now consists in deliberately covering up or altering what actually happened. Which is why there is the justified outrage here at what this commission evidently done.

    Will any fair-minded Koreans come forward to object, and to seek out the “real story” of what actually occurred? I hope you guys who speak/read Korean will watch and report.

  • seouldout

    cmc –

    My grandparents are Korean and they have Korean names. They did not benefit one bit from colonization. In fact they suffered by it, but that’s another story. They were forced to take up Japanese names as well as several other Korean citizens.

    Having read what Two Cents posted (nice job, BTW) it seems your grandfolks were supporters, if not collaborators. If you don’t think so send their names to the Institute for Research in Collaborationist Activities.

  • jsg

    Hello Paul H,

    Thanks for posting a response to my message.

    Some of the data for my post #71 came from the Wikipedia article on The Battle of Tarawa. According to the article the seventeen survivors (from Betio Island) of the battle were Japanese combatants. The article also mentions that there were 1,169 Korean laborers killed and 129 “freed.”

    Interestingly, the numbers on the casualty list in the article do not add up (if you add the KIAs and the survivors it does not equal the original compliment on the island). I’m not sure what this means. It might support gbevers’s claim that there were a lot of summary executions. It might also indicated that many of the Japanese dead were not recovered or recorded. Then again, it might just indicate that the numbers are disputed (at least one other web site indicates there were only 4,700 on the island, which is fewer than Wikipedia indicates as being killed) or simply incorrect.

    I second your desire for someone to write about the role of Koreans in the war. Issues of ethnic sensitivity aside, it would be a fascinating research topic.

  • montclaire

    Fascinating post, Two Cents.

  • montclaire

    No doubt should Kim Jong Il choose to reunify Corea, everyone will be lamenting how they were forced to send their children to English hagwons, how everyone was forced to wear jeans, how stars had to change their names to Eric and Brian, how millions were dislocated to Los Angeles…

  • tomojiro

    “No doubt should Kim Jong Il choose to reunify Corea, everyone will be lamenting how they were forced to send their children to English hagwons, how everyone was forced to wear jeans, how stars had to change their names to Eric and Brian, how millions were dislocated to Los Angeles… ”

    Exactly.

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  • lirelou

    A hat removal and deep bow to Tomojiro, Shakuhachi, jsg, two cents, and Paul for their replies. gbevers. I find many of your posts both interesting and educational. However, being a bit closer to the Pacific war veterans than yourself (both as a kid, and after I enlisted in 1962), I must say that my impression of the “fight to the death” syndrome, and the fear it engendered, was real. Indeed, it was the ratio of casualties coming out of the Pacific War (six times higher than those in Europe, ratio-wise, for the size of the forces engaged) is what prompted Roosevelt to agree to rearm the French to the extent of an entire amphibious corps for use against Japan, and to offer the Soviets a role in the occupation of Korea. A recent history on the subject is “Touched by Fire”. As for the Australian attitude towards the Japanese, this was based upon the fact that for the first few years of the Pacific War, the majority of MacArthur’s “troops” were in fact Australian. They carried the burden of the war until the U.S. Army, Navy, and Marines had built up the juggernauit to take and occupy Japan, thereafter sidelining the Australians to Papua and New Guinea (with the sole exception of a signals intelligence unit, which MacArthur took to the Philippines). Thus, the majority of casualties in 42 and 43 were Aussie, as the heaviest fighting was theirs. (Recommend: Signaller Johnson’s Secret War, by Peter Pinney, Univ of Queensland press, for a grunt’s eye view of the war, if you can read Aussie.)

    As a bit of trivia on Aussie anti-jap “racism”, which did exist at certain levels, as racism exists in all societies. Suffice it to say that one of Australia’s Victoria Cross winners from Vietnam, Rayenne “Simo” Simpson, who was a WWII, Korean, Malayan, and Borneo campaign veteran before he ever went to Vietnam, found no trouble at all in marrying a Japanese woman while stationed in Japan prior to the Korean War. Australia also had a regimental sergeant major (read: God) in the Korean War named “Wing Kee”.

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  • tokki

    Good point, how much clout does this Truth Commission have when it comes to a judicial reckoning on the actions of these men? One would hope none at all. If you need any more insight into the victimhood complex at work in the Truth Commission’s findings, go no further than Pawi’s rantings. How, exactly, is this “an internal” Korean matter, when the victims were all foreign? For the record, I don’t believe Koreans are knowingly racist. But you can bet London to a brick that if the Australian/British/US government had exhonerated their own citizens of such crimes against Korean nationals, the peninsula would seethe with outrage/trading boycott calls/online attacks on web pages of offending nation.

  • Zonath

    Good point, how much clout does this Truth Commission have when it comes to a judicial reckoning on the actions of these men? One would hope none at all.

    Little or none would be my guess. After all, these people were not convicted in a Korean court, so it doesn’t seem like a South Korean government commission could unilaterally overturn any convictions. Of course, even if the actions of this ‘truth commission’ have little or no actual legal effect, it could have quite a bit of influence as propaganda and historical revisionism.

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  • Mike

    Americans always seem to be getting away with War Crimes but always condem others. WHY IS THIS? American Culture is all about avoiding Responsibitility and blaming others. Seeming righteous but dirty schemeing individuals with plots for power. NO GUN RI is perfect example of not accepting the blame. US military guys rape or molest Japanese girls…thats also kept quiet. In Iraq many more tortures…How long will this go on??? Why is America never held responsible?? Always pointing the finger at others. Its why there are so many Law suits in America. ITs a culture of blaming others, doing evil things and covering it up. Then puffing out their chest and trying to look like the good guys and proud. Look at Enron, Look at this Subprime bull shit. All caused by US>. Sure someone will read my comment and then make some retort. Sure…without even accepting what I am even saying to begin with. WHEN WILL THE US EVER SAY SORRY AND ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITIES FOR ITS WRONG DOINGS. There are soooooo many WAR CRIMINALS in the US.

  • http://www.palbee.com mateomiguel

    … and what are you doing right now?

  • Smackem

    So lets see Koreans forced into the military by Imperial Japan, are PoW guards. How about blaming Japan? They are the ones who started the war.

    Hell you want someone to blame, blame yourselves for giving Japan the weapons.

    This is just retarded American whining.

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  • Dave Baxter

    93% of Koreans were permenantly “mobilized” as uneducated peasants before the Japanese occupation. It’s only these days that every Korean imagines him/herself to be part of the Yangban class.
    If you read about the decades of peasant rebelions before the Japanese occupation you can probably imagine that the greater percentage of the Korean population didn’t care who their masters were.

  • Yu

    I’m Chinese and I approve this message.

  • Mark

    you are right, koreans were largely involved in the second sino japanese war. even today, many chinese call koreans “er gui-zi” meaning second class japs.

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  • Masi Yosu

    They was war crimes.

    Therefore, they was accused.

    This is all.