Black GIs on Rampage
Riot-Torn Anjong-Ni—Why It Happened
By M. SGT. JIM FREELAND and JIM LEA
S&S Korea Bureau
ANJONG-NI, Korea—A sign hangs on the rear wall of the security guard house at the Camp Humphreys main gate which lists the names of 12 bars.
Beside each is a pair of nails from which a small plaque is hung to tell American GIs who are the life's blood of this village of perhaps 2,000 population, 60 miles south of Seoul, the situation in each bar. A black plaque means the place is on limits; a yellow one means it is off limits.
Since 9:30 p.m. July 10, all the plaques have been yellow. The sign will remain that way for a very long time, Camp Humphreys commander, Col. John C. McWhorter, says.
A few minutes past 9 p.m. that Friday, 50 black soldiers from Camp Humphreys walked into Duffy's Tavern, one of the plushest of the bars which line a pathway GIs call "the alley," climbed up on the stage and told everyone to leave the club. In minutes, they had demolished it and moved on to three other clubs which, they say, discriminate against blacks. Those were demolished too. "They didn't stay around each place very long," McWhorter said.
"They hit one place, then moved to the next. Some news stories have said there were whites involved, but that is not true. This was between a group of black soldiers and Koreans."
More than 200 MPs and Korean National Police swarmed into the area and struggled to separate the combatants. McWhorter ordered the village put off limits and the MPs began moving Americans back up Anjong-Ni's single dusty street.
"We had about 80 men who were moving back toward the gate with a crowd of Koreans following them. The Koreans started throwing rocks and, to break up the crowd and protect the camp, we used tear gas grenades/' he said.
"Some shots were fired from .45 cal. pistols.
"No one was shot down here. There are rumors that some people were shot but that isn't true. All the shots were fired into the air to break up the crowds."
Four bars were extensively damaged. Four days after the riot, young Korean men loafed amidst the wreckage, playing go (Japanese chess), coming alert only when newsmen came in too look at the damage. Then, they hobbled about.
The bar owners are claiming 20 million won ($54,000) damage and the 8th Army Claims Office is accepting claims. If they are legitimate, they will be paid, an Army spokesman said.
The damage does not appear that extensive.
There were no houses damaged. One shop window was broken, apparently by a rock, and the Koreans reportedly were throwing the rocks.
By 11:30 p.m., most of the Americans were out of the village and safely behind concertina wire which had been stretched across the gate. About 10 U.S. dependents were moved out of the village and onto the compound.
"There was one man down here on leave with his wife. We brought them on the base Friday night and moved them out the next day," McWhorter said.
Saturday, U.S. MPs swept through the village twice in a door-to-door search for other Americans.
"There was a lot of anger out there, a lot of tension. The men who got caught in it went into hiding. They were afraid," McWhorter said.
One man, a Negro, was caught by villagers as he tried to make his way back to Camp Humphreys Saturday and was beaten. Police rescued him. Another man, who was injured Friday night, was found during a search and was taken back to the post dispensary.
"This man was not involved in the riot. He's one of my best EOT (equal opportunities and treatment) men, and he definitely was not involved in it.
"We don't know, yet, exactly who was involved. We're investigating, but no one has been charged yet. There were many people hurt, but just because a person was hurt doesn't mean that he was involved in it. Many were simply bystanders.
Anjong-Ni is not an unusual village.
Its single unpaved, pot-holed street is lined with vegetable stores, a hotel — which the manager says soon will boast a miniature golf course and a swimming pool—tailor and shoe shops which hawk the outlandish fashions of the young and souvenir stores which offer everything from peace beads to intricately etched Korean brassware.
The 12 bars which dot "the alley" are by GI bar standards in Korea, plush, but they are like GI gin mills anywhere. Camp Humphreys is Anjong-Ni's major industry. It is the reason the village was built and the people and the village could not exist without it.
Its future is now shrouded in a cloud which has put the economy of other towns, other people, in jeopardy: racial discrimination.
Duffy's, where Friday night's riot began, is a major source of the discrimination, blacks say.
"We have no place here to relax. The bartenders don't like to serve us, the girls don't like to sit with us," they say.
These are the same complaints that other GIs in Japan, the Philippines, in other areas of Asia, have. They are difficult to prove.
In Friday night's riot, 14 Americans and Koreans were injured and were treated at U.S. military medical facilities. One Korean, a slim man nicknamed "Johnny," the manager of Duffy's, was evacuated to the 121st Evac. Hospital in Seoul for treatment of three stab wounds in the abdomen.
In town, people were saying Johnny was dead and a secret funeral had been held for him Monday.
Monday afternoon, Johnny was returned from Seoul and he was driven from the base to his home in a Pacific Stars and Stripes station wagon, one of the few U.S. forces vehicles allowed into the village that day. As we moved through the concertina wire at the gate, people in a crowd glared at us. The crowd had gathered a few moments earlier when base officials decided to allow Korean women through the gate to visit their boy friends.
Then someone recognized Johnny and word that he was not dead spread quickly down the street. In seconds, the hostility vanished and people ran alongside the car, shouting welcome home and smiling for the first time in four days.
As we took him home, Johnny told us about his club and about what happened.
"I was in the club about 9 p.m. and a bunch of black soldiers came in and told everybody to get out. I ran next door to call the police. We've had a lot of trouble here before and I knew, there was going to be trouble again."
"When I got back to the club, I couldn't get inside because the black soldiers had pushed everybody out. I could hear them tearing up the place. When they left, I followed them to the street. There were a lot of people around and suddenly someone stabbed me. I don't know who did it. There were too many people around."
"I don't know why they did it. Somebody said it was because there was fight between a black soldier and a white soldier at my club early in the evening. That's not true. There wasn't any fight before 9 p.m.
We asked point-blank if there was racial discrimination in Duffy's.
Johnny lowered his head and answered very quietly, "no."
"Is the service you give whites any different than that you give blacks?"
He ignored the question and waved out the window at a woman who was running beside the car, waving at him.
The manager of another bar gave at least one piece of concrete evidence of discrimination.
"A lot of it has to do with credit. Many of the bars use chit books. When a soldier doesn't have any money he can use the chits and pay on pay day. We had a bar owners meeting and some of us argued that the chit books are no good. They only cause problems."
He said other bar owners will extend credit to white soldiers, but not to blacks. He said his bar does not extend credit, to anyone.
Some people in town — and some on base — say that gangsters have been brought into town to keep the blacks out. They say the gangsters are being paid two million won ($5,400) for the job.
"All I know," an MP said, "is that since Friday a lot of girls have been leaving and a lot of men have been coming in."
"Those are rumors," McWhorter said. "We've heard that's being done and are investigating, but so far we haven't confirmed it."
The riot at Anjong-Ni Friday night has served one purpose: It has brought the black soldiers and white soldiers a little closer together.
Monday, when GIs were allowed to go back into the village with an MP escort to pick up their belongings, blacks were not allowed to go.
"No sweat, man," white GIs said time and again, "I'll get your stuff for you."
Anjong-Ni's bars now are faced with a choice: Either clean up their town and end discrimination or go broke.
"The village will stay off limits indefinitely," McWhorter said. "It will be off limits until each man who goes out the gate receives the same treatment as the next man."
That article places the blame in a rather different place than the Korea Times articles did, specifically noting the credit system as a source of discrimination. Note also the way in which the off limits decree was being used to punish the Korean club owners.
One of the few books that delves into the racial tensions within USFK in the early 1970s is Katharine Moon's 'Sex Among Allies: Military Prostitution in U.S.-Korea Relations.' She not only looks at media reports, but also uses internal USFK documents and interviews with Korean and American officials. (The information that follows is found on pages 67-74 of the book.)
One of the things she notes as contributing to tension at that time was the fact that, as part of the Nixon doctrine, 20,000 US troops were pulled out of Korea by the end of 1971. As a SOFA subcommittee put it in 1972,
The drawdown of U.S. forces introduced new elements of tension into traditionally friendly relationships. Accompanying base closures and restationing of U.S. forces resulted in widespread dislocations among Koreans living in villages adjacent to U.S. bases… and resulted in increased competition among bar owners, “business girls,” and merchants.Moon notes that while problems had always existed in the camptowns, Koreans were generally able to overlook them for the sake of their livelihoods. As their livelihoods became threatened, this began to change, and as this was happening, in the summer of 1971 fights between black and white soldiers began to spill over into the camptowns and involve Koreans. An investigation by the Joint SOFA Committee noted that most incidents took place in or near clubs in the camptowns:
A careful review of such incidents reveals that a large number, if not a majority, of such clashes arise from feelings by black servicemen that they are being discriminated against in some respect by either white servicemen or Korean service personnel working in various Korean clubs… More specifically, investigations reflect that black charges of discriminatory practices in Korean clubs relate to the performance of three functions by club proprietors and their managers and personnel. These are 1) alleged or real discrimination against black servicemen in the service or food or beverages on club premises; 2) alleged or real discrimination by bona fide hostesses working in the clubs against black servicemen in their entertainment or dancing functions on club premises; 3) alleged or real discrimination against black servicemen by club management in the selection of types of music played within the clubs.The Psychological Operations unit of the Eighth Army found that
[t]his [increased Korean] involvement [in racial confrontations] normally assumes three forms of progression. First, the Koreans aggravate racial problems [existing on post] by discriminatory practices. Second, they are often the injured party during black/white confrontations, suffering physical and/or property damage. Third, they demonstrate, often violently, against U.S. troops in general and against blacks in particular… Discriminatory practices by the Koreans are usually of a passive nature rather than one of violence. In the clubs, such practices include poor service, unfriendliness, and sometimes refusal to even serve black soldiers. Among business girls, such practices take on two forms. Some of the business girls refuse to associate with blacks. Some also discriminate against Koreans who do associate with blacks and consider those Koreans to be of lower status than those who go only with white soldier[s]. Polarization has developed to the point that some girls are called ‘black’ because of their frequent association with blacks.Moon mentions racial attitudes Koreans have towards those (Korean or foreign) who have darker skin, but describes “American racial ideology” as the “primary source of Korean’s racism towards African-Americans, both in Korea and in the United States.” Supporting this are quotations from US military personnel:
“Korean locals have been subjected to the attitudes of the white majority for so long that they practice discrimination without even being aware of what they’re doing.”The influence of American racial attitudes seems clear enough from this photo from the Kyunghyang Sinmun:
“[It is] undoubtedly true that in many instances club owners and the hostesses are discriminatory towards one group or the other… However, it must be recognized that we have created this condition through patronage habits and individual or group behavior. … In many instances, vociferous groups have forced Korean clubs to cater to only a certain group and exclude all others. … Korean business establishments willingly try to correct those undesirable practices over which they have control but are in a dilemma when they try to correct a situation which is created and controlled by the patrons. Korean businessmen, hostesses, and residents have been drawn into the midst of the current turmoil."
"Go back to cotton field," it's hard to read the banners, though Moon writes that the one on the right reads "We don't need any niggers" (I can't say I'm sure that's correct, however).
The one on the left may also say "we will show you our might" (or 'right', though the line below it in Korean seems to read "안정리 주민 일동" (All the citizens of Anjung-ri), which perhaps supports reading it as "might."
To be sure, "Go back to cotton field" is specifically American, and supports the idea that some of these attitudes were learned from white Americans in Korea.
This essay summarizes Moon's account of what happened in response to the race riots:
Congressman Ronald Dellums, himself an African-American, accused the Korean government and people of mistreating black servicemen. Dellums supported pulling U.S. troops out of Korea, stating that they did not need to be where they were not wanted.Moon's book is primarily about the Camptown Clean-up Campaign, and it looks at how it sought to manage the roles prostitutes played as 1) vectors of disease (and thus subjected them to increasing state control through mandatory STD tests) and 2) as, in some ways, ambassadors for Korea, since they were often the Koreans with whom soldiers had the closest connections.. On the one hand, the campaign involved active Korean government and US military involvement in controlling aspects of (and thereby abetting) prostitution, and on the other an attempt to end discrimination towards black soldiers by the Koreans who most often were in contact with them. The acknowledgement that this had become an intolerable problem only came with the riots that took place in Anjeong-ri 40 years ago tomorrow.
In order to entice the American military to continue to stay on the Korean peninsula, the South Korean government initiated the Camptown Clean-up Campaign (1971-1976). This campaign had two major goals: the first was to regulate and control the spread of venereal diseases among kijich’on women, and the second was to press for behavioral and policy changes regarding discrimination against black military personnel. This included educating Korean club owners and employees as well as white American soldiers about racial discrimination. Club owners were also encouraged to post signs that read: “Serve All Customers Equally,” and “Don’t Discriminate—Participate.”
There are other aspects of the US military presence in Korea at this time which are very interesting, but I'll have to delve into those when I have more time...