Wednesday, August 07, 2019

The Trials of Korea's Atomic Bomb Survivors

Update, August 7:

The Korea Times published a worthwhile article on the Korean atomic bomb survivors here.

Original post:

Korean first and second generation atomic bomb victims in 
Hiroshima during President Obama's visit, May 2016.

We had been deprived of our land, property, and even our mother tongue. We were driven away from our homeland. Why was it that we had to suffer? What did we do? While suffering as colonial people, we had lived to the best we could do, conscientiously. But what we were given was a living hell – the atomic bomb brought on by the war of aggression. Both innocent Japanese people and Koreans died, scattered like scraps of garbage. 
- Atomic bomb survivor Sin Bok Su, in Twice Victims: Koreans at Hiroshima

My latest article for the Korea Times, titled, "Trials of Korean atomic bomb survivors," can be read here. While at the University of Washington I wrote a lengthy paper on this topic for Kenneth Pyle's seminar on the historiography of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and he encouraged me to do further research and publish it. I'll return to it one of these days.

It still amazes me that almost 20 years passed without any attention being paid to the survivors in South Korea. The earliest articles I could find date from 1964. The Korea Times article that appears with my article covered the topic with more sensitivity than most articles from that time - here it is in full:


Interestingly, I think the Kwak Ki-hun mentioned in the article may be the same 곽귀훈 whose lawsuit won the right in 2003 for overseas survivors to receive benefits from Japan. (He is mentioned and pictured here.)

For more recent articles, here is a 2010 Korea Herald article titled "Sufferings still linger for Korean A-bomb survivors." For more on the struggles of second-generation atomic bomb victims, this letter by Han Jeong-soon (on the right in the photo at top), honorary chair of the Association for the Second Generation of Korean Atomic Bomb Survivors, is well worth reading.

One of my arguments - influenced by Scott Burgeson's essay 'Stranger in Chongno' (particularly this page) - is that to bring up the atomic bomb victims is to bring up the atomic bombs that brought about Korea's liberation from Japan. I looked through more than a dozen middle school history textbooks, and two high school textbooks, and here are typical examples of how liberation was dealt with:


 All of the books were all structured with 'Korean history' at the beginning, then 'international history' at the end. This meant that the events of World War II were disconnected from the Korean history section. Not that matters, I suppose, since WWII got two pages of coverage: one for the war in Europe, one for the war in the Pacific:


(The textbooks also had a WWII atrocity page equating comfort women with the holocaust, the rape of Nanking, and the use of atomic bombs.)

Not mentioned in my article was the fate of North Korean survivors. What sources I could find suggest the vast majority of survivors returned to southern Korea and stayed there. Those that did end up in North Korea did so when Japan repatriated Koreans in Japan to North Korea beginning in 1959 (over 90,000 ultimately returned). Among them were likely over 1,000 survivors. In the 1990s Japan began considering how to address this issue (should DPRK citizens seek treatment in Japan) and in 2001 Japanese doctors visited North Korea and confirmed 938 survivors were still alive. The political fallout of North Korea admitting to kidnapping Japanese citizens, along with other incidents and the restarting of the DPRK's nuclear program made further contacts difficult. In 2008 North Korea announced that 382 survivors were still alive.

I've barely scratched the surface of this topic here, really. I'll return to this topic, but for now here's a section from my paper's conclusion:

"On May 20, 2013 Joongang Ilbo editorial writer Kim Jin published a column which, based on the idea that “God sometimes borrows human hands to punish human evil,” argued that “Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the revenge of Asians sacrificed for Japanese militarism,” particularly those killed by experiments of Unit 731, which referred to its test subjects as maruta, or “logs.” Castigating Japanese Prime Minister Abe for a lack of repentance, Kim wrote that “He is free to act as he wishes. But God also has freedom. It is God's freedom to judge that the marutas’ vengeful spirits have not yet been appeased, and that therefore the lightning that struck Japan was not enough.” Unsurprisingly, members of the Japanese government protested the column, while a press release by the Association of Second Generation Korean Atomic Bomb Patients “strongly condemned” the column and demanded Kim and the Joongang Ilbo apologize. At the end of his next column a week later, Kim wrote, “I regret if, contrary to my intentions, I hurt the feelings of Japanese atomic bomb victims or their bereaved family members." If it did not seem to occur to Kim to apologize to Korean survivors, one reason may be that no major Korean news outlet reported on the Second Generation Association’s press release.

The above episode highlights both the way in which the Japanese government has successfully claimed the atomic bombings as an example of uniquely Japanese victimization as well as the continuing marginalization of Korean atomic bomb survivors within South Korea. Though the South Korean Foreign Ministry ultimately responded positively to President Obama’s visit to Hiroshima, saying, “It is meaningful that he mentioned Korean victims on par with U.S. and Japanese victims in his historic speech,” it would seem that diplomatic parity was the government’s main goal. The fact that a toothless Special Act to Support Atomic Bomb Survivors, which had made no progress after eight years in the National Assembly, was passed only a week before President Obama’s speech suggests that the South Korean government may have wished to avoid being seen as hypocritical when asking for special mention of the atomic bomb survivors it had ignored for decades."

Also worth noting: After years of court cases aided by Japanese activists, South Korean survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki now receive better treatment from their former colonizer than they do from their own government.

Friday, July 26, 2019

First attempts to fly across the English Channel

It was with some interest that I came across this article about inventor Franky Zapata’s failed attempt to cross the English Channel on his flyboard (he only made it halfway across the 22-mile channel before he ran into trouble at his refueling point). This is because one of my favorite essays I wrote in undergrad at the University of Guelph was from a 4th year course on the public sphere (ie. Newspapers and magazines) in England in the 1780s. For my essay I wrote about the ballooning craze in England in 1785. Hot air balloons had been invented in France in 1783 but lack of government interest in England led to it becoming an entrepreneur’s paradise as balloonists competed for attention. The craze eventually petered out after deaths and the basic physical fact that balloons only go up and down, and aren’t all that exciting after you’ve seen it go up once. It was so popular during that time, however, that pickpockets were even able to snatch Edmund Burke’s wallet as “thousands look[ed] up in astonishment” (the title I gave my paper).

Though the article on Zapata’s attempt mentions the first powered flight over the English Channel, it leaves out the first unpowered flight. I wrote in the paper, “After three successful flights in France, Jean-Pierre Francois Blanchard ascended from Chelsea in October 1784, and became the first person to cross the English Channel by air on January 7, 1785, with an American, Dr. Jeffries, as a passenger.”

Not everyone who tried this was so lucky: “Pilatre de Rozier, the first man to ascend in a balloon [in France], sought to cross the English Channel from France to England, which was difficult due to the prevailing winds. He set out with M. Romaine on June 15, 1785, flying a machine that combined a Montgolfier [fire-powered] and a hydrogen balloon, and the inevitable explosion occurred over the rocks on the Channel shore, where they both fell to their deaths.” Luckily, Zapata’s failed attempt was far less fatal.

I should also mention that my professor for this course, Donna Andrew, who has published a number of books on this time period and helped instill in me an affinity for archival research (which at that time was all on microfilm), was as dedicated as they come; she’d take our stack of papers to the library, find the books in our bibliography, and check to see that we’d cited them correctly.

I got a B on my paper - she correctly criticized me, despite it being "well written," for being too dependent in its thesis on a secondary source. Years later I realized I should have focused on the public / private divide that balloons broke. You see, some balloonists got the capital to fund their balloon building and hydrogen-making through subscription - those with means would offer them a portion of the capital needed and in return were invited into a closed space to witness the balloon launch. The problem is that balloons rise out of those private spaces into public space, and people skipped work and climbed onto roofs to watch balloon launches. I realized teasing out the ways in which balloons broke the bonds of subscription-funded private space and entered into public space would have made for a much more interesting paper. A future project for a rainy day, perhaps.

Here's a lecture by her discussing the culture surrounding, and criticism of, dueling in 18th and 19th century England:

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Nationalist outrage, 2019 edition: Flag ripping and boycotts target Japan

As Japan-Korea relations spiral downwards, a primer on the direction it may go can be found by looking at the 2002 candlelight protests aimed at the US. To be sure, similar scripts are appearing as nationalist reactions are being stoked, though there are differences. As Robert Kelly has noted, usually there are forces that would slow the momentum of anti-Japanese furor in Korea, but at the moment Korean conservatives are out of power and the US will likely not be bothered to intervene. Thus this is, as he put it, "a ‘useful’ social science natural experiment moment: we will learn just how far the South Korean left is willing to go on Japan, because the traditional brakes are not there this time."

Another difference is that in the past (particularly in the anti-American cases), it was opposition activists who stoked the flames of nationalism, but this time the government and ruling party have taken the lead in this capacity. For example, on Monday Democratic Party Chairman Lee Hae-chan said that "Following Abe’s election victory, Japan will intensify 'its attempts to invade the Korean economy,' (in Korean, "이제 우리나라에 대한 경제침략이 본격화될 것"). The same day Cho Kuk, senior presidential secretary for civil affairs, wrote in a Facebook post that "It is not proper to advocate Japan's assertion at a time when Korea's legitimacy and judicial power are under attack by Japan, which nullified South Korea's sovereignty in the past." Of course Japan complicating export processes is just like being colonized by Japan all over again! How helpful of him to offer such reasoned, thoughtful commentary.

Luckily, Cho noted that under the current government, "Anyone can criticize without fear of retaliation. In 2019, South Korea has a higher freedom of press index than the United States and Japan." This would be more reassuring, however, if Won Il-hee, a news anchor for South Korea's SBS CNBC, hadn't been called a 친일파 ('pro-Japanese) and fired for suggesting that South Korean leaders, policy makers, diplomats, and the media should remain level-headed and seek rational and diplomatic solutions. (See here; hat tip to John Lee.)

Level-headedness has, of course been eschewed for anti-Japanese boycotts which have affected the sales of Japanese goods (though it can at times be difficult to determine what, exactly, is a Japanese product). Protests calling for these boycotts and engaging in giant flag ripping have taken place, and have also equated Japan with the conservative Liberty Korea Party (as has KBS news). Students who held a protest in the Japanese consulate in Busan were detained by police after they "shouted slogans and held banners that read, 'We denounce Japan's re-invasion,' 'We condemn economic provocations,' and 'Abe must apologize.' I fail to see how referring to the 1965 agreement in the face of the ROK's Surpreme Court decision on forced laborers and complicating export procedures is "Japan's re-invasion," but I'm sure the phrase has great utility in whipping up negative emotions in graduates of the ROK public education system who hear it.

One rather inane voice may have inadvertently highlighted one of the Moon government's aims when he wrote, "Nothing spoke for me better than some North Korean media outlets in rebuking the Japanese government," and offered this example:
"The South Korean Supreme Court's ruling, which called for Japan to compensate the victims of forced labor during the Japanese occupation, was more than justified. Tokyo's export controls are shameless acts like the thief turning on the master with a club," said Meari (Echo), the North's government mouthpiece targeting the international audience. "Regarding the imperishable crimes Japan committed against the Korean people ― sex slavery, forced labor and genocide* ― Tokyo will not be able to repay fully even if it sells off the entire archipelago."
What better way to encourage a feeling of brotherhood with those north of the DMZ than by rallying against the eternal race enemy, America Japan? In another broadside directed at the conservatives, the reason to abrogate the 1965 Normalization Treaty upon which Japanese - ROK diplomatic relations are built, it is said, is because in 1965 "Korea was governed by a general-turned-dictator who had only economic growth and his continuous grip on power in mind." While the latter two assertions may be true, in 1965 Park was arguably in the least-dictatorial phase of his rule; open dictatorship would not arrive until 1972.

I'm sure there will be more frustrating days of this ahead.

*(I'm not sure how 'genocide' is to be reconciled with Korea's population doubling between 1910 and 1945, but whatever stokes people's anger is worthy of inclusion, right?

Update, July 28

An update, plus subway unions plan to post 20,000 anti-Japanese stickers in Seoul's subway cars. It's nice to see productive action being taken.

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

The 1965 methadone scandal

My latest Korea Times article, about the methadone scandal (메사돈 파동) of 1965, which involved medicines containing methadone that were sold at pharmacies to thousands of people due to corruption that reached high levels of government, can be read here.

Media blitz

Update, August 2:

I forgot to mention that I learned that SMOE sent watermelon to our school to thank it for allowing the media to film there. It would seem my school played a part in SMOE's propaganda campaign against the strike, which seems hypocritical considering our staff only went on strike for a single day, rather than 3 days like at many schools.

Original Post:

It's not every day you're on your way to work and find the entrance to the school being recorded by three different cameramen. My coworker was not sure why they were there; later I looked out the window and saw all these vehicles  parked in front of the school.




As can be seen, they were from just about every media company. Upon my second inquiry, my coworker surmised, correctly, that they were there at the school's invitation to cover the effect of the strike by cafeteria (and other irregular) workers. Searching about, I found two articles that had photos (at the top of the articles) taken in the school cafeteria (in fact, I recognize a student in this one).

From the Joongang Ilbo.

It makes me wonder what the protocol is when it comes to photographing these kinds of stories. Did they contact the school, or vice versa? I'm sure I'll find out eventually. At any rate, it made for a more interesting day than usual. The media presence, I mean, not the lunch we were provided. The bread was god-awful, and I heard some of the grade 6 students were joking about complaining to the media. Thankfully, I was told the workers at our school were only planning to strike for one day. Hopefully their union's demands are met satisfactorily, though it doesn't seem too promising.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Incorrect claims by Kim Yong-jang about evacuation of US citizens from Kwangju before May 18

Peace Corps Volunteer Tim Warnberg, center, helps carries an injured person during the Kwangju Uprising. From here.


Kim Yong-chang, a former agent of the U.S. 501st military intelligence brigade, has been featured in the news over the past week after giving testimony about his intelligence-gathering during the Kwangju Uprising at both the National Assembly and the May 18 Memorial Culture Center in Kwangju. In particular, as noted in the Korea Times and the Korea Herald, Kim reported that Chun Doo-hwan flew in a helicopter to Kwangju Air Base at noon on May 21, just an hour before troops opened fire on protesters in Kwangju; he argued it made sense that Chun issued the order to fire during this visit.

Needless to say, many people were quite happy to hear his testimony; I certainly was. There were a few things he said, however, that seemed questionable to me, and now I have good reason to treat some of his claims with caution.

This is because on May 18, Ohmynews published an article I've excerpted below based on a telephone interview with him the previous day:
Kim Yong-jang: "3-4 days before 5.18, only US citizens were evacuated from Kwangju"
Heo Jang-hwan: "'The US looked on as the new military authorities sent troops'...providing additional evidence to investigate the role of the US."

"3-4 days before the Kwangju Uprising, an order was issued to evacuate all American citizens residing in Gwangju. These were the instructions of the US Department of Defense. The evacuation order was only for Kwangju. The US knew the Kwangju Uprising was going to break out before it happened." [...]

The testimony of Kim Yong-jang that the US Department of Defense had issued evacuation instructions for Americans even before the first clash at Chonnam University on May 18 is a major clue that at that time the US had detected the moves of the new military authorities before they happened. In particular, when examining the ROK - US Defense Treaty which regulates US-Korean relations, this can be interpreted as US approval, condoning, or aiding in the operations of the new military authorities.
Kim said further that the "the United States knew the plans of the new military authorities in advance and evacuated only US citizens from Gwangju." He was contacted 3-4 days before May 18 and after that US citizens in Kwangju were pulled out. They were all evacuated, but 12 Mormon missionaries were stopped by Martial Law forces at Sangmudae and couldn't evacuate. He received further orders to pull them out, and did so on the 25th.

**********

The claim by Kim that the US evacuated its citizens from Kwangju before May 18 is not at all true. 12 Mormon missionaries were at Kwangju Airbase by May 26, but this seems to be the only aspect of his claim that has any basis in fact. US citizens were not only not evacuated from Kwangju before May 18, they were not urged to leave until either May 22 or 23, and by May 26, the day before the military re-invaded the city, there were still at least 33 US citizens in Kwangju. This claim by Kim is, in essence, the Kwangju Uprising's version of "Jews didn't go into work at the World Trade Center on September 11." It is a claim with grave implications for portrayals of the American role in the Kwangju Uprising. We can see above how Ohmynews is using it to argue that the US knew about Chun's crackdown before it happened, protected only their own citizens, and, since it did nothing else, must have been "approv[ing], condoning, or aiding in the operations of the new military authorities."

To summarize the sources below, according to Embassy cables, the US Embassy had almost no warning of the expansion of Martial Law on May 17. According to the memoir of missionary Arnold Peterson, who lived with several missionary families on a compound in Kwangju, four Baptists from Florida came to Kwangju May 16 for an evangelistic crusade scheduled for May 18-21. Peace Corps Volunteer Paul Courtright was at the Peace Corps office in Seoul on May 15 and was not warned against returning to Kwangju the next day.

David Miller, the US consular representative in Kwangju, stayed indoors for several days after May 18 before making his way to the air base on May 24. On May 22, Peterson received a call from a US soldier he was friends with at Kwangju Air Base saying they were considering rescuing the missionaries; Peterson said this was not necessary. Since Miller was was leaving the city, on May 23, Peterson became "involved in efforts by the U.S. Embassy to locate and confirm the safety of citizens of the United States and other countries who remained in Kwangju."

According to US Embassy cables to the State Department written by US Ambassador Gleysteen, on May 25 he wrote that had been "urging [American citizens] repeatedly to leave Kwangju in the last few days," which accords with Peterson's dates. He added that on "May 25 MOFA [ROK Ministry of Foreign Affairs] requested that we urge all Americans to leave Kwangju and Mokpo as quickly as possible." He noted that "Twelve Mormon missionaries and five Canadian citizens are at the airbase at this time" but that most Americans were planning to remain in the city. He later wrote that "A USAF C-130 arrived at Osan from Kwangju at 1800 on May 26 carrying 23 evacuees." On the evening of May 26 MOFA called the embassy again, "asking for names and addresses of all Americans believed to be still in Kwangju" in order to assure their safety in the coming military operation. The "Embassy provided MOFA with a list of 33 names."

Therefore, not only did the US not evacuate its citizens from Kwangju before the uprising, it only urged them to leave from May 22 or 23 and then redoubled their efforts when the ROK Ministry of Foreign Affairs requested them to do so. In the end, at least 33 US citizens remained in the city when the military returned on May 27.

********

Below are more complete quotations and sources, as well as a few questions raised by some of Kim Yong-chan's other statements.

Contrary to Kim's claims, the US Embassy was given about an hour's notice of the expansion of martial law on May 17, and that was only because they were making queries about the student leaders arrested at Ehwa university. As Gleysteen described it in a cable to the State Department, "The military leaders have shown disregard for constituted authority in the ROK – and for us. We have been presented with a fait accompli suggesting that the military leaders either do not know or care about the consequences of treating us in this manner." But, after suggesting various ways in which they could protest the ROK's actions, he wrote, "I regret to say at this point our influence appears disturbingly limited."

The following is from the account of missionary Arnold A Peterson, titled "5.18: The Kwangju Incident," published in English in 1990, and available in both English and Korean in: 아놀드 A. 피터슨, 5.18 광주사태 (풀빛, 1995).

A Baptist evangelistic crusade was to be held May 18-21 in Kwangju and four Baptists from Florida came to Kwangju for this on the 16th. They were staying at the Tourist Hotel downtown – not the best choice, as it would turn out. They got a blast of pepper gas while walking from church to their hotel on May 18. The crusade had to be cancelled and the Baptists from Florida and some missionary children left Kwangju on May 22.

According to Peterson, on May 22,
At 5:00 p.m. Dave Hill, a friend who was a First Sergeant in the U.S. Air Force at SongJeong Ri called. He told us that the U.S. Air Force was considering making a forced entry of Kwangju to rescue the Americans in YangNim Dong. I said that there was no need for such action. The idea for the "rescue" was the result of false fears created by reports made to the Air Force by David Miller, the American consular representative in Kwangju who had left the city and gone to the airbase. [Page 225]
Actually, according to the diary of Linda Lewis, a former Peace Corps Volunteer doing PhD fieldwork in Kwangju, Miller left Kwangju on May 24. (Excerpts of her diary are reprinted in her book Laying Claim to the Memory of May: A Look Back at the 1980 Kwangju Uprising (2002).

According to Peterson, on May 23,
I spent much of the afternoon making telephone calls on behalf of the U.S. Embassy. I had become involved in efforts by the U.S. Embassy to locate and confirm the safety of citizens of the United States and other countries who remained in Kwangju. The embassy's consular representative had fled Kwangju early in the week so the embassy had no official representative left in the city.

The method of the contacts with the Embassy was strange. During the pre-dawn hours on Wednesday, May 21, all long distance telephone lines between Kwangju and the rest of the nation were cut off by the military. The American military base at SongJeong Ri was outside the military perimeter which surrounded Kwangju. However, their telephone system was a part of the Kwangju local phone system. As a result, our friend, Dave Hill, a First Sergeant in the Air Force, was able to telephone us.

However, the telephone system on the American base was subject to the control of the Korean military. The Korean military tried to prevent calls between the American military and Kwangju citizens as a method of limiting the flow of information into and out of Kwangju. However, the American commander protested sufficiently that the Korean military agreed to allow the American base to make calls to our telephone number. After some additional negotiation, the Korean switchboard operator was also allowed to accept calls from my telephone and connect me through to the American base. In this way, we were able to communicate one or two times a day.

The embassy contacted me several times through the American Air Base. Each time they gave me the name, phone number, or other information about persons whose safety they wished to confirm. I then called or otherwise tried to contact these persons to gain information to pass along to the Embassy. Altogether, I made contact with eight other foreigners in Kwangju at the request of the American Embassy. [Pages 227-8]
According to Jean Underwood in her chapter, "An American Missionary’s View" in the book Contentious Kwangju: The May 18 Uprising in Korea's Past and Present (2003), there were at least 5 families of missionaries on their compound, so they would have made up a large share of the Americans in Kwangju.

The following information comes from US Embassy Cables to the State Department by Ambassador Gleysteen. Those from May 1980 are collected here.

On May 25, Gleysteen wrote,
The Korean foreign ministry has now piously requested that all foreigners leave Kwangju for their own safety. American embassy and military authorities in Korea have formed a task force which is working late Sunday night on this problem. Initial conclusions are, however, that there is no way to extract the remaining Americans safely and that there is somewhat greater safety no[w] in their lying low in place. Those remaining (25-30 persons, including five Peace Corps Volunteers, missionaries and academics) had unwisely disregarded strong warnings from the American ambassador urging them repeatedly to leave Kwangju in the last few days while it was feasible to do [so]. The five Peace Corps Volunteers defied a direct order to leave. Once out of Kwangju, they will be sent home.
American citizens being urged "repeatedly to leave Kwangju in the last few days" would accord with Peterson's calls starting on the 23rd (though he makes no mention of  requests by the Embassy to leave). As well, according to Linda Lewis, US consular representative in Kwangju David Miller had urged her "to get a bag packed" on May 22.

On May 26, Gleysteen wrote,
Shortly after 1800 May 25 MOFA requested that we urge all Americans to leave Kwangju and Mokpo as quickly as possible. With the help of BPAO Miller, who had just left Kwangju, and consular records, we were able to pass a list of those Americans thought still to be in Kwangju to the American OIC [Officer in Charge] at the nearby ROKAF base. Twenty-five of the Americans were contacted by the OIC. (No calls are permitted from Seoul to Kwangju, but we have a line to the airbase and a Ministry of Communications line to Kwangju for emergency use.) Six remain to be reached, but, of course, there may be other U.S. citizens there not presently known to embassy. Some of those contacted decided they would try to reach the military base, although they would have to pass through barriers manned by radicals and ROK military astride all routes leading out of the city. Twelve Mormon missionaries and five Canadian citizens are at the airbase at this time. Others have decided to remain in their homes for safety or other reasons. Four Peace Corps Volunteers could not be reached. (We have talked with PCV Paul Courtwright. [sic]) We are making another attempt to contact all those we have not spoken with and will report as Americans reach the base.
Later that day, he wrote,
A USAF C-130 arrived at Osan from Kwangju at 1800 on May 26 carrying 23 evacuees (including four Canadians and one South African.[...]

There are four Peace Corps Volunteers in Kwangju: Tim Warnberg, David Dolinger, Judith Chamberlin and Julie Pickering. Peace Corps has 24 other volunteers in Chollas and has contacted all but one, asking them to come to Seoul.[...]

MOFA called Embassy evening of May 26 asking for names and addresses of all Americans believed to be still in Kwangju. MOFA officials indicated that information would be passed along to Martial Law Command in attempt to assure AmCits’ safety. Embassy provided MOFA with a list of 33 names - - all the Americans there that we are aware of at this moment. If we learn of any others, we will notify MOFA immediately.
I asked Paul Courtright, one of Peace Corps Volunteers in Kwangju at the time, for his thoughts on the claim that the US issued an evacuation order before May 18, and he replied, "That is the first I've ever heard of such an order and I think there is little credibility." He added the following:
I was in Seoul on May 14-15. On the 15th I was at the [Peace Corps] office. I took the 고속 bus from Seoul to Gwangju on May 16. PC knew I was going to Gwangju. The point of this: if there was such an evacuation order, the PC would have told me not to go. There was no mention of any evacuation. 
As for when the Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) in Kwangju were first told to evacuate, he wrote, "The first we heard of the order to leave was on 23 May. Judi Chamberlin was the person who told us. Judi may have got the message on 22 May but she did not come over to Tim's to tell us until 23 May."

Peace Corps Volunteer David Dolinger wrote that he was in contact with the Peace Corps office in Seoul on May 22. All of the above accounts point to May 22 or 23 as the date when the US Embassy and the Peace Corps office began urging (or ordering, in the case of the PCVs) American citizens to leave Kwangju. Needless to say, this was five or six days into the uprising, not three or four days before.

*********

Some of Kim Yong-jang's other statements, particularly one reported in the Korea Herald about how he "said he filed 40 reports to the US officials, three of which were read by then-US President Carter," made me rather suspicious. How would an intelligence gatherer know his report had been read by the president? As far as I know, most raw intelligence reports would be sifted through and compiled into prepared reports for the Pentagon, and then passed upward; it would be unusual for raw intelligence reports to be passed upwards, particularly to the president. Seeing how Kim has now made a clearly incorrect statement - one seemingly meant to show the US in a negative light - his claim that President Carter read his reports, which included information about "the military’s corpse disposal, helicopter shooting, sexual assaults and takeover of Gwangju Prison" should be treated with skepticism.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

The Kwangju Uprising 39 years later

Today is the 39th anniversary of the Kwangju Uprising.

I've written quite a bit about the uprising in the past. A brief timeline is here, and there are also background posts about the situation in 1979 leading up to Park's assassination and Chun Doo-hwan's 12.12 coup. I've written more in-depth looks at the events of the uprising, such as the violence on the first day, the escalation of violence over the first three days, forcing the military out of the city, as well as an analysis of US news reports from May 22. I also looked at the retaking of the city by the military and the death toll.

I've also looked at more personal stories related to the uprising, such as the memories of a nurse, the memories of a photographer, the story of soldier, and the story of the death and memorialization of a high school girl named Park Geum-hui, who was killed during the uprising.

A bibliography of books in English about the uprising is here, links to literature inspired by the film are here. A series I started last year titled "The 1980 Kwangju Uprising and the United States" begins here.

Last weekend I had dinner with Paul Courtright, a former Peace Corps Volunteer who was one of four PCVs who were in Kwangju during the uprising. The others were Tim Warnberg (who wrote the first journal article about the Uprising, "The Kwangju Uprising: An Inside View," in 1987), David Dolinger (who I've met on several occasions and who has left comments on this blog about his experiences in 1980), and Judi Chamberlin.

Courtright has been working on a memoir of his experiences during the Kwangju Uprising, and during his visit to Korea, he planned to spend time in Kwangju brushing up on his Korean and visiting some of the sites to jog his memory. Instead, he was shocked by the current lack of understanding of what happened during the Kwangju Uprising and the prevalence of the belief that North Korea was involved. As an example, here is a poster at a conservative rally March 1 which purported to use facial recognition technology to reveal that leaders of the citizens' army in Kwangju were people who are now in Kim Jong-un's circle:


As a result of such misunderstanding, he has been giving interviews to try to share what he witnessed. He was interviewed by the Korea Herald and by the Kwangju Ilbo, which published two articles about him and what he saw. One article was about his experience during the uprising and why he was writing the book, while another article was about what he witnessed when he rode his bike into Kwangju from the south on May 22. As he put it in the Korea Herald article, "when I came across the soldiers (between Gwangju and Nampyeong), there were a number of buses and cars that were full of bullet marks. They were completely bullet ridden and there was blood everywhere.” The bodies were nowhere to be seen, and some of the buses were being used for a roadblock. While the shootings of at least two other buses by the army is well known (28 people died in two bus shootings on the outskirts of the city on May 23), it appears shootings at that location are not. The Kwangju Ilbo also published an article on the need to shine a light on the activities of the PCVs during 5.18 (something, since both Courtright and Dolinger have told me a number of stories, I'll write about in a later post).

I should add, however, Dolinger's account of military helicopters when he returned to Kwangju on May 21:
As I walked towards the center of town I was greeted by the sound of helicopters. With their approach the people in the streets all headed tor cover. Troops in the helicopters were firing on the citizens. The next day I saw the results in the hospitals. Patients with wounds entering in their shoulders or chests and exiting from the hips and lower backs. People paralyzed. The helicopters brought fear, maiming and death with their sound.
One story I was not aware of, but which recently had more light shed on it by Jon Dunbar, was of a helicopter firing on a building with a newspaper office in it. To this day one floor of the building still has the bullet holes in the walls and ceiling, and after restoration of the building that floor will be preserved as evidence of the shooting.

The Kwangju Ilbo also published an editorial on new information coming to light this week about 5.18. In addition to Courtright's testimony about the bus shooting, Kim Yong-chang, a former agent of the U.S. 501st military intelligence brigade, gave testimony at both the National Assembly and the May 18 Memorial Culture Center in Kwangju.

As reported by the Korea Times, Kim retold a story he had previously told during an interview with JTBC in March, and said he "decided to break his silence because attempts are still being made to distort the truth about the movement" (ie. 5.18). The story was a rather important one:
Kim reiterated that Chun [Doo-hwan] secretly came to Gwangju on May 21, 1980, by helicopter to meet four military leaders including Chung Ho-yong, then-commander of special operations, and Lee Jae-woo, then-colonel of the Gwangju 505 security unit[.]
As the Korea Herald reported his testimony,
“Chun came (to Gwangju) at around noon on May 21 (1980). He attended a meeting, including then-commander Jung Ho-yong. This is the unchangeable truth. I do not know the conversation they had (in the meeting). A mass shooting took place in front of the South Jeolla Provincial Government Office at around 1 p.m. Based on reasonable assumptions, the order to shoot was given at the meeting[.]” [...]

Heo Jang-hwan, a former investigator with the Gwangju 505 Security Unit during the uprising, said: “I saw the shootings myself. The ‘sit-down shooting’ posture is not for self-defense. Chun had ordered (the soldiers) to shoot (civilians).”[...]

Addressing the narrative that ordinary citizens used violence against soldiers, [Kim] said, “There were undercover soldiers [acting as agent provocateurs to discredit the movement]. About 30-40 soldiers came to Gwangju from Seongnam Air Base around May 20 (1980). They stayed at the K57 hangar for about two to three days. Upon receiving the tip, I went to the hangar and checked it out myself.”

According to him, the undercover soldiers were in their 20s and 30s, and some of them wore wigs and worn-out clothes.
He dismissed the idea of North Korean infiltration, saying the US would have noticed any large-scale infiltration, in part due to the fact that "Two US satellites specifically focused on North Korea and Gwangju." The above-linked article also includes a photo of "a deserted boiler room where [Kim] alleges bodies of killed protesters were incinerated...during a visit to the site of a former military hospital." This is interesting, considering former Peace Corps Volunteer Tim Warnberg wrote in the article, "The Kwangju Uprising: An Inside View," that on May 26
I walked to the hospital where I worked and talked to one of the doctors from the Dermatology Department. He had been on assignment at the military hospital on the edge of town, and reported seeing fifty bodies airlifted from the military hospital morgue in a one hour period.
It seems clear something was going on with bodies at the hospital. Perhaps two different disposal methods were used; Warnberg's conversation with a direct witness seems more a more trustworthy source.

Kim's testimony also raised questions about what the US knew or did not know about events in Kwangju. As reported in the Korea Herald, Kim was "one of the four experts dispatched to Gwangju during the May 1980" who, the Korea Times said, "was in charge of reporting facts and information he received from his informants in the South Korean government and military to the U.S. military." It is also said [in the Korea Herald] he reported to the US Department of Defense.

It adds that he "filed 40 reports to the US officials...[which] included the military’s corpse disposal, helicopter shooting, sexual assaults and takeover of Gwangju Prison." As well, "three of [the reports] were read by then-US President Carter."

Finding out more about these reports seems imperative. What were their detailed contents, did Carter read any, if so, when, and what did they contain - there are many questions to be answered.

Tim Shorrock summarized the Defense Intelligence Agency reports on the Kwangju Uprising and found them to be far more detailed and aware of what was going on than the embassy. They can be found under the heading "H1. DIA Kwangju Reports" here. Shorrock stated that "Some of the reports were received from an U.S. Air Force intelligence officer stationed at the nearby Kwangju Airbase, but others appear to be written by U.S. intelligence officers stationed in Seoul." Unless Kim was a source for the USAF officer at Kwangju Airbase, it's unlikely these were based on his reports. More to the point, it is hard to imagine Shorrock would not have mentioned the "military’s corpse disposal, helicopter shooting, sexual assaults" that Kim asserts he wrote about had they been in the DIA reports.

A reading of the US Embassy - State Department cables (those for May 1980 can be read here) reveals that, when it came to events in Kwangju, the Embassy was often reliant on distorted information gleaned from Korean media reports and the ROK military (both of which were controlled by Chun Doo-hwan). It would seem that the US military had access to more accurate information, but whether this was shared with those making the political decisions in Seoul and Washington is not yet known, but should be looked into.

I recently read a comment saying something along the lines of "Isn't this settled by now?" This week has shown that there is more yet to learn about the events of May 1980.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Vietnamese refugees arrived in Busan 44 years ago today

Today is the 44th anniversary of the arrival of Vietnamese refugees in Busan at the end of the Vietnam War. Last July I wrote an article about their arrival and their stay at a refugee camp in Busan for the Korea Times. The article was accompanied by a post here and greatly expanded on and published at Sino-NK last December.

As I've gone through magazines from 1975, I've come across more photos and information about the refugees. I've also been contacted by a number of refugees who have been happy to share their stories and photos with me. Below are a some of the photos I've come across in the media.

These are from the Korean government history site, www.ehistory.go.kr:

 One of the LSTs arrives in Busan May 13. From here.

Refugees from the Twin Dragon, a cargo ship which picked up refugees and arrived in Busan May 23, arriving at the Refugee camp in Busan. From here

As well, a video of the camp and the Twin Dragon's arrival can be seen here.

The following photos are from the Weekly Joongang, May 25, 1975, page 27:


A Korean husband and Vietnamese wife reunite at the camp. 

A store and post office at the camp. 

A Korean-Vietnamese child tries on a hanbok. 

Children playing. I sent this to a woman who contacted me and she told me she is in the photo, and that refugees from her LST wore blue track suits; those from the other LST wore red.

The following photos are from the Weekly Kyonghyang, May 25, 1975, pages 3-4, 18-21.


Disembarking. Note the camera. 

At right, children aboard a bus taking them to the camp. 

 First breakfast.

A sleeping area.

Children so happy while riding on tricycles that "the smell of gunpowder and the sadness of losing their country cannot be found." 

The caption says this is the only Vietnamese man, Korean woman couple.

I'm sure more photos will turn up, and hopefully before too long I can share some of the refugees' stories.



Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Censoring children's comics and the role of newspaper cartoons as critics in the 1960s and 70s

My latest article for the Korea Times, about comic book reading rooms and the censorship of comic books in the 1960s and early 1970s can be found here. Perhaps things have changed very recently, but two years ago when I tried to find academic articles on this topic, I found nothing in either Korean or English, though I imagine there must be something in Korean somewhere. I had previously thought the crackdown on comic books was more a product of the Yusin (1972-79) era, but discovered that was not the case. The pertinent photos I was able to discover in my Korea Times archive are posted in the Korea Times article; this one is certainly memorable:

"Let's burn bad comics." (Korea Times, Feb. 4, 1972)

This particular bonfire occurred at the elementary school attended by Jeong Byeong-seop, the 12-year-old boy who hung himself in imitation of a comic book character in early 1972.

In the aftermath of his death, Police in Seoul seized 20,400 "bad comics"; below is a photo of 8,600 seized by Dongdaemun Police Station:


Even more memorable is this video taken at the time:



Also in my research I've come across newspaper cartoons' take on political and cultural events. One event that was well-covered the first crackdown on long hair on men in August 1970. Of the half-dozen cartoons I've found, Kobau is the most memorable (published August 29, 1970 in the Donga Ilbo):

"We're cracking down on all the Korean hippies."  

"Men who are imitating women will have their hair cut right now."
"Dad, I was brought in too."
"What?! You're my daughter!"

(One of the many criticisms of this initial hair crackdown was that the standards for determining what constituted "long hair" were so vague as to be meaningless, though the cartoonist in this case is probably focused more on a 'they look like girls' joke than anything else.

For more on Kobau and other newspaper cartoons of the time, see the rather informative Korea Times article from October 1970 I uploaded here.

Kobau was also featured a great deal in the cartoons US ambassador Philip Habib sent in a cable to the State Department in March 1973. This came just months after the advent of the dictatorial Yusin constitution, and according to Habib they were about the only public source of criticism, mild as it was, of government policy at that time. Habib's cable, which was part of  a collection of such cables at the National Assembly Library website, can be read here.

I know of one person who was doing their PhD dissertation on newspaper cartoons from this time (particularly Kobau and its cartoonist, Kim Song-hwan). Considering newspaper cartoonists' role as critics at that time, as well as the efforts the government made to control children's comic books (as well as the popularity of webtoons in Korea today), the story of the comics industry from the 1950s to the 1980s deserves more attention.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Of pontoon trains, comfort concerts, and headers

There was an interesting article in the Korea Times the other day by Amanda Price titled "The Japanese who fought for Korea's freedom." It details a number of Japanese academics and other figures who opposed Japan's imperial expansion into Korea. It's well worth reading, though one photo - posted below in its original form - raised my eyebrows, since it was incorrectly captioned "Japanese soldiers carried alarming amounts of ammunition through The Independence Gates." I was already familiar with this photo, having posted it here before (13 years ago), but I had also recently come across it in its originally-published form in Colliers magazine (issues from the time of the Russo Japanese War can be found here). It was neither taken in Seoul, nor was it of ammunition. Below is the photo and its original caption:


A JAPANESE PONTOON TRAIN MOVING TOWARD THE YALU FROM PING-YANG
The floats, built in sections, were carried by one pack-train of the engineers' column, the beams and flooring by another. Before the war, the Japanese Intelligence Office sent skilled engineers, disguised as coolies, through Korea and Manchuria to make detailed measurements of the width, depth, current, and tidal force of every stream which an invading army might have to cross. The Yalu was the most important river to be surveyed in this way, and the data were used to construct, at Hiroshima, complete pontoon bridges for the crossing, so that the material was ready to be carried with the army when the advance began. In brief, the Japanese prepared the Yalu crossing to measure, months beforehand, and when the bridges were needed they were flung into position without the slightest waste of time, labor, or transport.

I also decided to change this blog's header for the first time in a decade or more (from this image I took 12 years ago of apartments going up south of Magok Station) to this one, from the August 3, 1975 issue of Sunday Seoul. After the promulgation of Emergency Decree 9 by Park Chung-hee in May 1975, this entertainment magazine - little different from ones you would find today - suddenly began publishing photos of "comfort concerts" held for Korean troops that it had clearly been pressured (if not outright ordered) to organize. (The next issue mentioned guitarist / singer / songwriter Shin Joong-hyun and his band the Yeopjeons were going to dress up more in the future after their hit song Mi-in (beautiful woman) had been one of 130 songs banned in June and July as part of the government's crackdown on decadence.) All in all, the image represents the militarization of almost every aspect of life under Park's Yusin regime.


My first header was of a branch of a cherry blossom tree. The other day I was on Gaehwasan, which overlooks Gimpo Airport, and saw this stand of cherry blossom trees just outside the airport, and quite close to Gaehwa Station. It took a moment before I realized it must be a nursery for cherry blossoms. I imagine it would be worth a visit. Perhaps next year.


Friday, April 05, 2019

Gungsan Tunnel History Exhibition Hall

In 2008 the city of Seoul decided to act on stories told by local residents that the Japanese military had a tunnel dug under Gungsan, near Yancheon Hyanggyo Station (Line 9), during World War II. The tunnel was discovered and plans were made to turn it into a tourist attraction with its alcoves being used as various exhibition spaces. In 2010, however large rocks fell from the roof as construction proceeded and after examination it was decided not to proceed with this plan for safety reasons, and the project stalled for years. A smaller plan was enacted in which its entrance would be turned into an exhibition space, that allowed for a glimpse of the tunnel, and in May 2018 it opened to the public.

The Gungsan tunnel was dug by Koreans mobilized in patriotic service corps in the 1940s during the Pacific War. It was 3 meters underground, 70 meters long, and 2 meters in diameter. It was used to store weapons, ammunition and other war materials, and could also be used as an air raid shelter. The main military outpost in the area was Gimpo Airbase. A small hill near the tunnel known as Seonyubong was demolished to provide stone for the construction of Gimpo Airbase in the late 1930s.





I visited the exhibition hall last weekend and took the above photos. It’s open from 10-4 every day except Monday, and though the display material is in Korean the volunteer when I was there spoke English well. Seeing as you can't actually go into the tunnel, it might not be worth a visit for the tunnel alone, but it’s right behind the Gyeomjae Jeong Seon Museum, an art museum dedicated to Jeong Seon, who was served as the magistrate of the Yangcheon Prefecture in the 1740s (but who may be more familiar for the image on the back of the 1000 won bill). Yangcheon Hyanggyo, Seoul's only remaining Confucian school and shrine, is also just around the corner, but is closed until May for construction. The newly-opened Seoul Botanical Garden is also nearby in Magok-dong, and is free until May.

I’ll be leading a tour for the Royal Asiatic Society to the Gungsan area and Gaehwasan (near Gimpo Airport) taking in both museums, Yangcheon Confucian Shrine, temples, tombs, Korean War memorials, and spring flowers next Saturday, April 13. For more information about the tour, see here.

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

A look at Arbor Day

My latest Korea Times story is about the long-lost holiday, Arbor Day / 식목일. For decades April 5 was a day off so students, citizens and civil servants could plant trees. One of the unsung accomplishments achieved (mostly) under Park Chung-hee's rule was the conversion of Korea's bare mountains into thriving forests that are today a haven for hikers - something now taken for granted.

For a decade or so Park led a ceremony on that day and was photographed planting trees, often with his children. He and others made lofty speeches, such as when, in 1968, "Seoul Mayor Kim Hyun-ok...emphasized planting trees as a sacred task for the modernization of the Republic and this generation’s sublime duty for the welfare of our descendants."

Here are a few photos and cartoons drawn from the Korea Times:

Korea Times, April 6, 1968. 

Korea Times, April 6, 1965.

Korea Times, April 5, 1967. 

Korea Times, April 5, 1970.