Thursday, June 21, 2007

Post-liberation photos of Seoul and Incheon

Robert over at the Marmot's Hole links to a Kyunghyang Shinmun article which shows a few more photos taken by US forces in Korea.

In the Chosun Ilbo today was a story about some newly released photos:
Some 1,056 photos taken by the U.S. Navy for military purposes in late August and early September 1945 of Seoul, Busan, Incheon, Gunsan, Jinju, and Masan were released on Tuesday.

They [were] taken on Aug. 28-29 and on Sept. 9-10, right after national liberation on Aug. 15, 1945. Except for Seoul, all the other locations are ports. The U.S. military authorities seem to have taken photos of major areas, first of all, to obtain information on Korea after the collapse of Japan. [...] During the colonial era, Japanese authorities also took aerial photos, but only of downtown Seoul.
Below are some of the photos. The first looks north, with city hall near the center and Gahoi-dong at the top.

The next photo, though marked "Jinsen" (Incheon), shows the area near Dongdaemun, with the athletic grounds and Cheonggyecheon visible (as well as the Han River, at upper left).

For some reason, searching for articles about this at naver has turned up nothing, though another photo can be found here. Unfortunately, I can't seem to find another photo I know I have somewhere, of the area around Seoul Station; what's interesting about it is that another plane is visible, and its pilot can be seen quite clearly. [Update: Here it is, along with a photo of Jongmyo]:

These photos (of Seoul, especially) were taken as US troops arrived to occupy Korea south of the 38th parallel and disarm the Japanese troops here. For more on how the decision to divide Korea into occupation zones came about, this article is well worth reading, as it is a very in-depth look at the decision making. The Chosun Ilbo states that some of the photos (likely the ports) were taken on August 28-29, and the following paragraph from the aforementioned article may shed some light on them, as well as on how quickly the occupation of Korea by the XXIV corps, then on Okinawa, was arranged:
Finally, there was the problem for the occupation force of finding any information about the country they were to occupy. One of the few sources of intelligence was the Joint Army-Navy Intelligence Study of Korea (JANIS 75), which had been published in April 1945. This document contained some useful data but was superficial. Korean prisoners of war captured on Okinawa were interrogated and provided a small amount of additional information. Since the situation in Korea was obscure and General MacArthur wanted to avoid any incidents prior to the occupation, aerial reconnaissance of Korea was forbidden. However, some recent prints of aerial photographs were discovered, and the XXIV Corps staff persuaded an Army Air Force reconnaissance squadron on Okinawa to fly a few photographic sorties. The resulting photographs, although inadequate for combat operations, were useful for planning the deployment of the occupation troops. Thus, in the absence of any more authoritative information, the former anti-aircraft gunners of the newly formed Military Government Headquarters planned for the occupation of Korea using War Department field manuals, some illicit aerial photographs, the Cairo Declaration, and JANIS-75.
The occupation force arrived in Incheon on September 8, 1945, and its arrival and the ceremony in which the Japanese turned command of Korea to the US can be found here.

In the two views above Wolmido and its causeway can be seen, as can the long line of US ships entering the harbour - a scene which would repeat itself five years and one week later. One of the nice things about the internet, of course, is that you can find pages like this, where soldiers involved in the occupation share their memories, as well as their photographs. Below, US soldiers march through Incheon on their way to Seoul on September 8.

When it was known US troops would soon arrive at Incheon, Koreans set out to welcome them, but Japanese troops fired on them, killing some. When the US troops arrived, they were given a message explaining these demonstrators' position, which can be read here. After the surrender ceremonies in Seoul and the disarming of Japanese troops, US troops accompanied the Japanese to the ports for return to Japan.

Another page with the memoirs of a US soldier can be found here, but the final one is really well worth looking at, because his hobby was taking photos of people and places in post-liberation Seoul, and a gallery of his photos can be viewed.

The photo above is labeled "Korean policeman and Japanese war prisoners", and is interesting because it begs the question of when a certain amount of authority was turned over to Koreans (especially considering how Japanese soldiers had fired on the crowd at Incheon before the US troops arrived).

Interested in Seoul's development as I am, the photo above drew my attention as soon as I saw the title: "Korean kids playing at fire break." In Keijo (Seoul), as in other cities in Japan, the Japanese authorities built fire breaks to stop the spread of fire during incendiary bombings (indeed, it was partly because they were outside working on such fire breaks that so many students were killed in Hiroshima). In Seoul, a number of these were built, and some have turned into streets today (Hunnyeonwonno, running south from Jongno 5-ga, for example). Such "building" was done by demolishing houses in a line which was anywhere from a few hundred meters to a kilometer or more long, and 30 to 50 meters wide. These firebreaks are discussed in the book "Seoul, 20th Century: Growth and Change of the Last 100 Years", where it is mentioned that there is no record of how many houses were demolished, as the Japanese destroyed such records. The following list of firebreaks was made public however, and survives:

The line running south from Jongmyo was "originally reserved for the deployment of US forces at the end of the Japanese colonial period," which may explain why a photo was taken there (I'm quite certain the photo above was taken there, near Namsan). This strip of land was eventually turned into the Sewoon Sangga, which will soon be redeveloped, as I've mentioned before.

1 comment:

Muninn said...

Matt, this is truly a great service. Great materials, and nice commentary. Thanks so much.