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.


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 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."

Friday, November 17, 2017

"Why can't Americans be Punished?"

The 1988 Seoul Olympics

Prologue 1: "Why can't Americans be Punished?"

Part 1:  The Seoul Olympics, 25 years later
Part 2:  The 1988 Olympics and Korean fears of AIDS
Part 3:  Americans and bad first impressions
Part 4:  Reptilian Style: The 'live-or-die general war' against Hollywood
Part 5:  An attack in a boxing ring
Part 6:  Media responses to the boxing ring incident
Part 7:  No more lion: US swimmers' 'prank' becomes 'diplomatic incident'
Part 8:  KAIST catches Big Ben
Part 9:  Hankyoreh interviews Korean witness to theft by swimmers
Part 10: Stop me if you've heard this one: Four GIs head to Itaewon in a taxi...
Part 11: Taxi-kicking US runner taken to Itaewon police box
Part 12: NBC uses the power of t-shirts to insult Korea... again
Part 13: Cultivating outrage toward America
Part 14: Politicians engage in damage control
Part 15: Heaven on Earth
Part 16: Hustler magazine tramples the purity of the Korean race 
Part 17: Stolen gold

[Update: I rendered the names of the teens below into English from their renderings in Hangeul, which were 매트니 잘스 and 오맬리 패트릭. The latter is easy enough, but I rendered 매트니 잘스 as 'Charles Mateny,' which may not be correct.

Original Post:]

Prologue 1: "Why can't Americans be Punished?"

Prior to the 1988 Olympics, the claiming of jurisdiction by Korean prosecutors in SOFA cases was an issue that had failed to garner much interest among the general public. In the summer of 1988, the Hankyoreh was mostly alone among newspapers in arguing that SOFA should be revised, especially in regard to reporting on rallies calling for the government to take jurisdiction over U.S. soldiers who had committed crimes in several cases outside Seoul that summer. On August 6, however, a spokesperson from the foreign ministry said the government was reviewing the possibility of revising the SOFA. Because issues related to jurisdiction of U.S. soldiers who committed crimes, the rights of Koreans working on U.S. bases, and cost sharing had come up at previous annual security consultative meetings with the U.S. government, various ministries planned to meet to discuss these and make recommendations to USFK. This issue began to gain traction with the public days before the Olympics, however, when the assault of a pregnant Korean woman by American teens from a US base took place in Seoul. In many ways, the Donga Ilbo, even more so than the Hankyoreh, was at the forefront of pushing left-nationalist causes at this time, and on September 5, 1988, twelve days before the Olympics, the Donga Ilbo published the following piece of agitprop article in a column called "Window":
"Why can’t Americans be punished?"
Pregnant woman battered by children of US Military 

September 3, around 8:30 am in Predelivery Room 1424 in the Joongang University Yongsan Hospital on Hangangro 3-ga, in Seoul’s Yongsan-gu. Jo Gyeong-ok (334 Han River 2 ga, Yongsan-gu) was laying in bed and crying as she thought of the infuriating and absurd thing she had gone through the night before.

Mrs. Jo's husband Im Sam-bin (37, tile worker) was at her bedside comforting her, holding his wife’s tear-streaked face in his hands.

At around 12:40 am Mrs. Jo went out by the street to wait for her husband, who was late coming home.

Mrs. Jo married Mr. Im, who is the only son of an only son, three years ago, and at last she was about 4 months pregnant with her first child.

About ten minutes after leaving the house, Cho was surprised when someone suddenly hit her cheek as they rode a bike past her. Mrs. Jo, who shouted "Why did you hit me?” was mistaken in thinking it was her fault. They heard Mrs. Jo's shout and came back on their bicycles.

Both of them were young-looking foreigners.

They began to beat Mrs. Jo. They jibbered on in English and punched and kicked her wildly but, unable to ask them in English why they were beating her, Mrs. Jo screamed.

Passersby reported it to a nearby police box but during the 10 minutes before the neighbourhood patrol arrived she had to suffer beating and taunting.

The two who were arrested and taken to the police box in front of Yongsan Station were found to be the children of American military personnel, Charles Mateny (18, high school student) and Patrick O'Malley (17, high school student). They never did explain why they slapped Mrs. Jo as they rode by on bicycles.

However, after the police contacted the main Yongsan Police Station and asked some questions, they were all sent home around 4 o'clock in the morning.

Mrs. Jo and her husband, Mr. Im, who had hurried to the station later, protested, but the police explained that they couldn’t help it because of the "Korea-US Status of Forces Agreement" [SOFA].

The explanation Mrs. Jo heard was that if they were to collect material from the police and notify the US military, they (the boys) would get punished there so it would be the same anyway, but she could not accept this.

"I don’t know what SOFA is, but they beat a Korean in Korea, so why can’t Korean courts punish them? And how should I get compensation for the mental shock my wife received?"

Her husband, unable to go to work that day, was saddened as he looked after his wife.

Reporter Kim Sang-young
In an article I posted here, it was reported that she would not miscarry. This is the incident - and most likely the very article - that turned issues related to SOFA from an esoteric topic few but activists and those near US bases cared about into an issue people could relate to: the victimization of an innocent Korean - a pregnant woman, at that - at the hands of Americans who seemed to get away without punishment, a trope which would be of great utility to activists in the decades to follow.

The media attention may have led the police to follow up on the assault, as the Donga Ilbo published the following report the next day:
Investigation launched into assault on pregnant woman, USFK kids summoned to police station

The Yongsan Police Department in Seoul has decided to directly investigate the case of the children of US military personnel, Charles Mateny (18, high school student) and Patrick O'Malley (17, high school student), who for no reason assaulted a pregnant Korean woman, and sent a summons to the US 8th Army ordering them to appear before the police within three days.

Police said it was judged that South Korea had jurisdiction over soldiers' family members under Article 22 (3) of the ROK-US SOFA, and decided to summon them for an investigation.

Article 22 paragraph 3 of the ROK-US SOFA states that the US 8th Army holds jurisdiction over active duty US military and US military property, and the ROK has jurisdiction over the families of soldiers, civilian attached to the military, and their families.

Meanwhile, as witnesses testified that they seemed to be high at the time of the assault, police intend to investigate whether they took drugs or not.
The next day, on September 9, 1988, the Donga Ilbo published a follow up which highlighted the impact of the first article:
Stir over US military kids' "assault on pregnant housewife"
US military kids' pregnant housewife assault incident

Our report in "Window" on September 5 is causing an unexpected stir. After the report on this incident our office received flood of telephone inquiries about the SOFA agreement by many readers wanting to recover their wounded national pride and scolding the insincerity and indifference of the police investigation.

The readers who called in above all expressed anger in complaining about the ROK-US SOFA. Experts also pointed out that the ROK-US SOFA is a much more unequal agreement than the "London" convention (concluded in 1951), the law on foreign military status on which it is modelled.

One reader, a 40-year-old housewife, argued that "this agreement, which was signed 22 years ago when we had to put up with inequality, should be correctly revised to fit current realities."

However, rather than the inequality of the agreement itself, what caused resentment among readers was the passive attitude of our nation's government, which from the beginning shrinks from and turns its back on incidents involving Americans, even if one of our citizens is the victim.

According to the ROK-US SOFA, domestic investigative agencies can investigate criminal cases even if they are the families of American military personnel or families of civilians attached to the military, and according to Article 22, which regulates criminal jurisdiction, there are various conditions, but generally jurisdiction over families of American military personnel or civilians, excluding soldiers, should be exercised by Korea. Even in the case of US soldiers, cases of serious crimes such as murder, robbery, and rape must also be brought before Korean courts.

In spite of these regulations, there are many cases when our side gives up jurisdiction while the case is in the hands of the police and the prosecution, and jurisdiction is passed on to the US military.

The fact is, in the past year, of 835 cases involving Americans the Seoul District Prosecutor's office received, 196 cases involved crimes by military family members, but the number of these cases prosecuted by our nation’s prosecutors amounted to no more than twelve.

In fact, in the case of this incident, even though as a matter of course the police should have started an investigation immediately after the incident, one gets the impression that the belated issuing of a subpoena to the young Americans who committed assault is due to the pressure of public opinion.

A 50 year-old reader said, "Although it is an unequal agreement, it is sadaejuui-type thinking for us to abandon even the right to exercise [jurisdiction] as a matter of course." Kim, a 26 year-old graduate student, said, "Acknowledging that there is a positive aspect of the role the US has played in our country since liberation, we should also re-establish our position now by asking the question "What is America to us?"

Reporter Kim Sang-young
One has to chuckle at the Reporter Kim's description of the furor following his first article as an "unexpected stir" when that was pretty clearly the hoped-for response to it. Criticism of the "sadaejuui-type thinking" in regard to Americans appeared the next day when a letter was written to the Donga Ilbo and printed with the title "The humiliation of the US Army kids’ assault on Korean pregnant women; If we can’t punish it, are we not a colony?"

It's the phrase about readers wanting "to recover their wounded national pride" that stood out for me the first time I read this article, however. How wonderful and evocative is that phrase? During the previous year or so the liberalization of the economy, particularly of beef and cigarettes (see the articles here) had angered farmers, and students and farmers' groups held protests, criticizing the government's "renunciation of sovereign rights" and distributed leaflets reading, "Those who smoke foreign-brand cigarettes are sellers of national self-respect." And when United International Pictures (UIP) began doing an end run around Korean film companies by directly distributing its films in Korea during the Olympics, one director said that UIP's dealings demonstrated "a high-handed attitude to the disregard of the Korean people," while another said "UIP's 'sneaking' infiltration is a fatal blow to our pride." The need to recover national pride vis-a-vis the US would become a theme in media coverage throughout the Olmypics, helping spread anger at the US from students and farmers to the population at large.

As reported in a September 19, 1988 Joongang Ilbo article, the United Korea Women's Association gave a statement the day after the Olympics began denouncing the attack by US military teens against the pregnant Korean woman and criticized the "special privileges" of the US military, citing a government statistic that out of 15,000 crimes committed by US soldiers in the past decade, the Korean government had exercised jurisdiction in less than one percent of the cases. As well, they called for the perpetrators' parents and the US Ambassador to publicly apologize to Korea citizens, a speedy and fair investigation and punishment by government authorities, and "revision of the unequal SOFA." They also declared that it "wasn't simply an assault, but a reflection of Americans' tendency to look down on Koreans." This tendency would be highlighted by the media throughout the Olympics, influencing a growth in anti-Americanism that would influence government policy after the Olympics, particularly in regard to the SOFA.

[For an archive of SOFA-related documents, see here.]