Thursday, February 01, 2007

Park Yeol, Kaneko Fumiko, and Korean Anarchism

I've updated this post by adding photos and more information about the rice riots and the earthquake.

Park Yeol and Kaneko Fumiko together,
possibly in prison during their trial in 1926

[Update - It's actually taken in the courtroom (!)]

Last weekend, the Korea Times had an article about the publication of a new book about Korea's anarchist movement, and brought up the names of a few prominent historical anarchists. To expand on what was written there, you can read this summary of the movement (in the 1920s and 1930s), which was taken from Ha Ki-rak's A History of the Korean Anarchist Movement (1985), a very rare book that I photocopied several years ago, and which the Times article prompted me to reread. Ha met British anarchist John Crump in the 1990s, which led him to write an article titled "Anarchism and Nationalism in East Asia", published in 1996. The aforementioned book and article form the basis of this essay, written by a New Zealand anarchist who lived in Korea a few years ago (which was originally written for and published in Bug 5). Other sources, for the multilingual, are listed here.

This topic is too large to discuss in a single post, so for this one I'm just going to look at the Japanese influence on Korean anarchism, specifically at the Park Yeol/Kaneko Fumiko case. And just for fun, Kropotkin's article about anarchism from the 1910 Encyclopaedia Britannica can be found here.

The aforementioned John Crump wrote a history of the Japanese anarchist movement, which can be found here; it provides the basis for the following few paragraphs:

Kotoku Shusui, at the time a social democrat, organized an anti-war journal called the Common People's Newspaper in 1904 in response to the Russo-Japanese war. After spending time in prison, where he read Kropotkin, and a visit to the US, where he met many anarchists, he returned to Japan in 1906 an anarchist and began organizing like minded people and publishing various newpapers. In 1910, after four anarchists were found to have acquired bomb-making equipment, the government rounded up and prosecuted 26 anarchists in what was known as the High Treason Case, executing 12 of them, including Kotoku, the next year. After this, the Anarchist movement went underground for several years (Interestingly enough, this style of 'judicial murder' would be emulated in South Korea, especially during (but not limited to) the Yushin years (1972-79), most notably with the People's Revolutionary Party Restoration case in 1975, which was designed to frighten the student movement in Korea into silence, much as the Japanese authorities had hoped for in 1911).

The anarchist movement, along with other social movements, would see a resurgence in Japan after the 1918 rice riots, the greatest mass uprising in modern Japanese history. During the final months of World War I (and prior to Japanese troops being sent to Siberia to try to contain the Russian Revolution) inflation combined with market speculation and hoarding pushed rice beyond the purchasing power of millions of Japanese citizens. Protests, in which people rallied to force merchants to lower prices, first broke out in Toyama in July 1918, and spread quickly among communities along the coast ringing Toyama Bay. When newspapers gave national exposure to the Toyama riots the following month, similar riots rapidly erupted around the country. As Roger Bowen writes in his review of Michael Lewis's book Rioters and Citizens: Mass Protest in Imperial Japan,
Between July and September 1918, 42 of Japan’s 47 prefectures reported incidents of rice riots, many of them violent, and all told involving over a million people. The military had to be mobilized in twenty six prefectures. Some 20,000 citizens were illegally detained, over 8,000 were prosecuted for rioting, and more than 30 people were killed.
Aware of the Suzuki Trading Company’s involvement with the government in its rice price manipulation policies, a crowd of rioters burned its headquarters to the ground on August 12, 1918, along with 26 other Suzuki buildings in Kobe.

After, as Richard H. Mitchell puts it, "an unprecendented series of strikes and explosive riots ripped open the social fabric so carefully woven by the Meiji leadership," "the blanket suppression of all activity was no longer possible and the anarchists were quick to seize the opportunities that presented to regroup, launch new journals and involve themselves in the workers' and peasants' movements" (according to Crump).

There's an interesting parallel here: just as the rice riots of 1918 led to the slight easing of restrictions in Japan, the 1919 March 1st independence protests in Korea also led to the implementation of the Cultural Policy, which also led to the relaxation of political and publishing controls in Korea. What's interesting is that a major influence upon the March 1st independence movement in Korea came from a declaration of independence by Korean students in Tokyo a month earlier:
Living in Tokyo under a liberal atmosphere and having free access to international news, which were denied to their compatriots in Korea, the Korean students studying in Tokyo were destined to be forerunners of the Korean independence movement. Some 828 Korean students were studying in Japan in 1920, of which 682 were concentrated in Tokyo.

[These students] formed the Korean Youth Independence Corps and laid out a course of action. In consequence, about six hundred students met at the YMCA Hall in Kanda, Tokyo on February 8, 1919, where they adopted a series of resolutions and issued a declaration demanding independence for their country.
The students who issued the declaration.

Another account here goes tells us more:
At 2 p.m., the YMCA auditorium was packed with some 600 Korean students who were studying in Japan. It was snowing. The participants gathered under the pretext of a general meeting of students to escape the attention of the police, who were standing guard at the entrance. Once the meeting opened, the organizers carried out their original plan and held a rally for Korean independence. The declaration of independence was posted on the stage. When a student representative read it, the auditorium roared with applause and cries of joy.
The declaration was written by future novelist Lee Kwang-su.
"Compared with the text that was read (in Korea) in the 3.1 independence movement, the content is much more aggressive," said Kim Hong Myong, deputy director of the YMCA. The declaration ends with the following statement: "If our demands are turned down, we will fight an endless bloody war."[This has also been translated as "we shall fight to the last drop of blood in the cause of liberty."]
The students also sent delegates to Korea and Shanghai to publicize the declaration, the English version of which can be found here. It's interesting to consider than the organizing which produced the 2.8 declaration in Tokyo (which influenced the Samil uprising to a great extent) was possible due to many people in Japan taking part in 'riots' and strikes only five months earlier. In other words, if not for the actions of many people in Japan, perhaps the independence movement would have turned out quite differently, and the protests pictured below might never have happened.

Independence protests in front of what is now city hall

These connections may not be spoken about much these days, but they were likely obvious to many at that time. As there were no universities in Korea then, students wanting a post-secondary education had to go to Japan, which was less oppressive than in Korea, especially after 1918. It was in Japan that many Koreans first came into contact with anarchism and communism in the post-WWI period.

Over at the Korean Studies email list, Frank Hoffmann posted a great deal about the Korean anarchism movement recently, listing a number of memoirs by anarchists and relating some of the insights they imparted as to why these people chose to become anarchists (mostly in the early 1920s):
They all give the same two reasons. Here a quote from [the] memoirs (p. 50) by Yu Cha-myông giving the first reason:

"Because the fight for national liberation against the Japanese imperialist invasion had had become our foremost duty at this time [1920/21], I thought of the racial [or 'national'] conflict as being as being an important matter. Consequently, I did neither understand some parts of the doctrine on class struggle presented in the Communist Manifesto, nor could I agree with them. From this time on I became more and more attracted by anarchism."

The second reason was the news [...] of what had happened to the Kronstadt sailors after the Lenin and his group had successfully taken the revolution in their own hands. Japanese authorities, of course, were more than happy to publish extensively about the massacre, and this did indeed have a big impact then, as we see in many memoirs.
Kronstadt represented the final consolidation of power by the Bolsheviks, and their betrayal of other leftists (and, in the eyes of the anarchists, the betrayal of the revolution itself); it served to warn that the Bolsheviks could not be trusted.

This was the milieu in which Park Yeol found himself when he arrived in Tokyo in 1919. Park was born in Mungyeong, Gyeongsang-do, in 1902. He attended Seoul Normal High School, which he dropped out of in 1919, due to the suspicion he had taken part in the Samil demonstrations. He then left for Japan and went to school in Tokyo. There he fell in with socialist and anarchist circles among Japanese and Korean students living there. He eventually formed a group called Futeisha, or 'Revolt', which was made up of Korean and Japanese members. One of the members of this group was Kaneko Fumiko.

Kaneko Fumiko

Unlike Park, who seems to have written very little, Kaneko wrote an autobiography in prison during her trial at the request of the judge, eventually published with the title "What made me do it?", but which is available in English as "Prison Memoirs of a Japanese Woman" (which is certainly on my 'to read' list). In her review of this book, Patricia G. Steinhoff provides many details about Kaneko's life. Kaneko was born in 1903 to a poor family and lived in poverty for much of her life, barely avoiding being sold into prostitution at one point. She was sent to live with her affluent grandmother, a well-off colonist in Korea, when she was nine, but was mistreated by her relatives, and returned home after finishing higher elementary school. She bounced back and forth between her mother's family and her father, trying to find ways to continue her education. She eventually made her way to Tokyo, working odd jobs and studying math and English. There she fell in with some radical Korean students, and first met Park Yeol, "[who] first entered her life as the mysterious author of some powerfully moving poetry, and then as an elusive revolutionary. Like many other young women before and after, Kaneko was drawn to the nobility of Pak's cause and to the vulnerability of the man pursuing it." They eventually moved in together.

Then the great Kanto earthquake struck. As Sonia Ryang writes,
On September 1, 1923, at 11:58 A.M., the earthquake of magnitude 7.9 violently shook the Kanto region encompassing Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama, Chiba, and other prefectures in the vicinity. During that day a total of 114 tremors were felt. In Tokyo only, a total of 187 major fires were recorded, which spread all over the metropolis in no time, burning down residential homes, industrial premises, and public buildings. It is said that the death toll reached somewhere between 100,000 and 140,000. The authorities and residents were totally unprepared for a disaster of this magnitude.
(Photos taken from here; others are here)
Due to a complete lack of reliable information people panicked and became extremely susceptible to rumors. Amidst this chaos, one population group was singled out as the object of persecution, or extermination to be precise—Koreans. It is said that at least 6,000 Koreans were killed in Tokyo and Kanagawa alone. (There were 20,000 Koreans living in Tokyo and Kanagawa at the time).
A Ryang points out in her essay, while some in the police and army helped Koreans, many took part in the massacres. Fukushima Zentaro, a witness of the military's action in Tokyo, recalls:
In the afternoon of [September] 2nd I was walking along the paddy field after having received rationed food... [Someone said] they are beating Koreans to death. All of us who had been walking very slowly with fatigue began running fast. After a while, from behind the crowd, I clearly saw a horrendous and brutal event. Seven men, all wearing very thin and old clothes, were dragged together with hands tied at the back. All tied up in line, they were laid on the ground. They were Koreans. Completely lost color, they were talking desperately some language, which I did not understand. "Stop yapping, you fucking..." One soldier raised the sword and dropped it right on the head of a man who was restlessly moving. The crowd could not even utter the voice. Everybody turned away. When I slowly opened my eyes, [I saw that] the man's head was broken open and his bright red blood spilt all over. His limbs were still moving convulsively. "Ha, ha, ha. Just what they deserve." "All of them, kill all of them." "You fucking animals." "You pigs go to hell." About ten soldiers raised their swords high in one action...
The majority of those killed were lynched by the armed citizens who formed the vigilantes, who were armed with homemade weapons such as bamboo spears, knives, and clubs, and bodies of horrifically mutilated Koreans began to turn up throughout the Kanto region. As so many people died in the earthquake, it's hard to know if pictures of bodies are in fact Koreans murdered at the time, or earthquake victims; some can be found here, here (I have doubts about the last photo), and here (where a sign cautions people that Koreans are poisoning wells). Foreign accounts of the violence can be read here, while an essay about how this event has been remembered in Japan can be found here.

Koreans, however, were not the only victims of the post-earthquake chaos. As Crump tells us,
In this situation of panic and chaos, the authorities were presented with another golden opportunity for eliminating enemies of the state. Ôsugi Sakae [who, after Kôtoku's death, was indisputably the most talented thinker and writer in the anarchists' ranks] his partner Itô Noe (who was herself an outstanding anarchist) and Ôsugi's six year-old nephew Tachibana Munekazu (who happened to be with them) were seized by a squad of military police and all three were brutally put to death. Taken into custody on 16 September 1923, their battered bodies were discovered four days later where they had been dumped in a well.
As Steinhoff tells us,
As the leader of one of many small radical circles of Koreans in Tokyo, Pak Yeol was detained by the police without charges shortly after the earthquake. Two days later, Kaneko Fumiko, who lived with him and participated actively in his movement, was also detained.
In this essay, Hélène Bowen Raddeker tells us
The circumstances of the arrest of this group of mainly Koreans are therefore complicated both by Pak Yeol's nationality and by the fact that they were arrested just after the earthquake. [...] Pak and Fumiko's group had called themselves the 'Futeisha' ['society of outlaws, rebels or malcontents'], satirising the way Koreans were referred to by the authorities as troublemakers. If it had not been mostly comprised of Koreans, the group probably would not have been arrested, supposedly for their own 'protection'; furthermore, the charges may not have escalated from vagrancy, to an explosives control law violation, and then to treason, with which Pak and Fumiko were ultimately charged. Pak was not entirely innocent of the charges of trying to import explosives, even of hoping to use them on the emperor or crown prince. However, sympathisers had good cause to suspect a 'lawful' conspiracy to use his case both as warning to others not to resist Japanese imperialism and as a post-hoc justification of the massacre of mostly Koreans. The Japanese authorities had been censured by the foreign press and diplomats for allowing such an atrocity to occur, so the case enabled them to claim that Koreans had indeed been plotting subversion: the Pak Yeol/Futeisha case was proof positive of the real danger of Koreans' 'causing trouble' amid the post-earthquake destruction and mass confusion, trying to take advantage of it for their own rebellious ends. Nevertheless, it was Pak, not Fumiko, who had always been the main target of the authorities.
Steinhoff explains how they came to be charged with treason (click to enlarge):

From the Korea Times

The case came to court in early 1926, and after the opening ceremonies the court was closed to the public. In court, they both wore Korean clothing, and said they were there as representatives of the Korean people (which would explain the photo here). The case was covered a great deal in the Korean media, as this montage of contemporary Chosun Ilbo articles shows:

They were sentenced to death in March 1926, two days after they had registered their marriage in prison. The sentence was commuted to life in prison, but Kaneko refused to allow the government power over her life and death. Radekker quotes one of her poems:
One's limbs
may not be free
and yet—
if one has but the will to die,
death is freedom.

This was one of Fumiko's prison tanka, traditional short poems of 31 syllables.
On July 23, 1926, Japanese authorities announced that Kaneko had hung herself in her solitary confinement cell at a prison in Utsunomiya.

As the Marmot tells us,
After her death, Park’s older brother went to Japan and brought Kaneko’s body back to Korea, where it was interred at the Park family’s burial area in Pallyeong-ni, Mungyeong-eup. In November 2003, her body was moved to Maseong-myeon, in back of Park Yeol’s birth home.
Park would not be freed until 1945. He returned to Korea in 1945, only to go north in 1950 during the war. He died in North Korea in 1974.

The story of Park and Kaneko's comrades from the Futeisha group continued, however, and it's worth prefacing their (brief) story with this observation by Frank Hoffmann:
Same as with the Communist movement, if you look at the organizational structure you will see that regionalism and school and family ties played the most important role. That might not be so evident if only reading the "official" histories (mostly published by anarchist and pro-anarchist historians) but when you go through all the many volumes of Japanese Secret Police reports, Chinese Communist Party sources, and biographies of anti-Japanese independence fighters you will see that it was *largely* based on school ties, region (e.g. Taegu) and family ties -- not on political conviction per se, or social backgrounds, etc. The driving source was, this will not be surprising, nationalism and Koreans' desire for independence. We therefore find a wide spectrum of shadings within the anarchist movement -- some groups that understood themselves as anarchists, others that were later considered anarchists but understood themselves more as terrorist independence fighters but cooperated with the "real" anarchists, and so forth.
It's worth thinking about the influence of those ties of region, family and friends when considering what Ha Ki-rak wrote (in A History of the Korean Anarchist Movement) about Park and Kaneko's friends (who were arrested but not prosecuted) when they returned to Korea. The details of the prosecution of the following groups are from Donga Ilbo articles.

Seo Sang-gyeong and Hong Jin-yu, who were part of Park Yeol's group in Tokyo, returned to Korea and formed the League of the Black Flag, and due to this were among 10 defendants arrested and sentenced to 1 year in prison in October 1925.

Seo Dong-song, another freed after the preliminary investigations into Park Yeol and Kaneko Fumiko's group, returned home in 1925 and joined the League of Truth and Fraternity, founded in September of that year in Daegu (which would continue to be an area with an anarchist community into the present). The group sent a member to Japan that November to visit Park and Kaneko in prison, who returned to Korea to raise funds for them. A Japanese activist named Kurihara visted the area that year and made contact with Seo's group to arrange a meeting with Park Yeol's brother, Park Jeong-sik, to arrange for him to receive Park and Kaneko's bodies should they be executed. The group had contacts with anarchists Seo had known in Japan, and whether they were planning some mayhem or not is rather unclear. What is clear that the Japanese began investigating them in 1926 and arrested the whole lot (excluding Park Yeol's brother) that summer, sentencing 13 of them (including two Japanese) to prison terms of between 1 and 5 years in July, 1927. Seo, having escaped prison during the Park Yeol affair, was sentenced to 3 years; Kim Chung-gun died in prison of pneumonia a few weeks after being sentenced.

A group of friends influenced by this case formed a group in Anui and made contacts in Japan, eventually forming a Cooperative union which was still in existence in 1946.

Jeong Tae-seong was another member of Park Yeol's group in Tokyo who was set free. He returned to Korea and in Jinju formed an anarchist circle. The group's members were arrested in December of 1928, only to be set free for lack of evidence.

In March, 1930, 6 members of the Chungju Artists movement society were sentenced to 5 years in prison, as the presence of the aforementioned Seo Sang-gyeong and another member of the aforementioned League of the Black Flag who had also served time in Seodaemun prison, Seo Jeong-gi, made it clear to the authorities the nature of the society.

As can be seen, a handful of Park Yeol's comrades managed to leave Japan (while often maintaining ties there) and spread such radical circles amongst friends and colleagues. This activity would continue until the early 1930s, when the authorities drove such activity underground in both Korea and Japan. I'll delve into that and other aspects of Korean anarchism next time around.


Jamie said...

Excellent post as usual. Two sources that might be useful. Sonia Ryang has written a essay, in sometimes horrifying detail, about the Kanto earthquake and the judicial murders of Koreans and leftists that followed it, including Osugi Sakae and Noe Ito. Haroumi Setouchi's book about Noe Ito, Beauty in Disarray, is also a good read -- what one might call biographical fiction.

Anonymous said...

I was just reading up on my history, when I came upon Kaneko... I'm very impressed, she should be better known in Korean-Japanese history. I'm not being very eloquent on my feelings on this topic, but I would like to say they are of the utmost sincerity and your post endeared me to the subject.

Anonymous said...

Japan's uyoku
basicaly, Japanese nationalist were
pro-asia ans anti-wertern.
it seems like today's democratic party..
Osugi sakae was supported by also uyoku, right winger


I think these things were not understood without begining of colonization..

Anonymous said...

do you still have a copy of the ha ki-rak book? is it possible to obtain this by any chance? I would love to read it.

Your distant and unknown friend said...

Was wondering, if you knew the exact location of Kaneko-san's grave (if she has a proper one) in Maseong-myeon, if it's open to the public. I had read before that a group of writers had found it, but I can't find anything on it online, my online search actually brought me here.

Anyway,I travel through Asia frequently, and would love to stop by her grave, and pay respects, if I'm able to do so. I'll continue to search, but any clues would be helpful.

matt said...

I'd never looked it up before, but the Korean language Wiki on Kaneko says her tomb is next to the Park Yeol Museum (which I had no idea existed!). Its website is here:
Its address is 경상북도 문경시 마성면 샘골길 44 (or 44 Saemgol-gil [street], Maseong-myeon)
If you copy and paste that into daum map it will give you the exact location. Now that I know I'll have to visit next time I'm in Korea.

unblocktheplanet said...

My 2017 book, Free Radicals: War Resisters in Prison, features an article on South Korean resisters in its forthcoming electronic edition.

Although anarchist resisters were jailed for refusing Japanese military conscription in 1939, did these earlier anarchists suffer a military draft?

If so, is there any record of their resistance?

Thank you.

CJ Hinke
Thammasat University

matt said...

I'm assuming you mean that Japanese anarchists in Japan were jailed for refusing Japanese military conscription in 1939? Conscription existed in Japan since the 1870s, so I would not be surprised if anarchists before 1939 also resisted conscription, but I'm afraid I don't know for sure. As for Korea, the Japanese recruited small numbers of Korean volunteers from 1938 and prison guards from 1942, but didn't start conscription until 1944. I'd guess that any of those still active against the Japanese government in Korea at that oppressive time would have evaded military service rather than resist it openly.