Thursday, July 07, 2011

The 1971 Anjeong-ri race riot

On July 11, 1971, the Korea Times published the following story about an incident in Pyeongtaek which occurred July 9 (click to enlarge):

You can find discussions of such race riots on sites which have stories of former soldiers who served in Korea in the early 1970s (such as the second and fourth stories here, which mention incidents in the camptown outside ASCOM (near Bupyeong in Incheon)), but it's a chapter of history which is not well known. The one described above was the largest that occurred, and, I believe, the one which involved the most Koreans. I don't know if any other such race-related incidents led to demonstrations by Koreans.

The article briefly mentions that the black soldiers were "angered over what they claimed was racial discrimination by the Korean community," but quickly follows the story with piece about an incident in Busan which makes it appear to be a grudge match between black and white soldiers. Note that both the Korea Times and this this Kyunghyang Sinmun article from a day earlier put the number of injured Koreans at 50. A Korea Times article the next day gave a much smaller number:

Again, the black soldiers "meant to clash with white soldiers, but when the white GIs ran away, they assaulted the hall employees and destroyed the furniture," resulting in harm to "innocent Korean residents." Koreans are portrayed again as innocent victims, and no mention is made, as it was briefly in the first article, of "racial discrimination by the Korean community." A closer look at the photo accompanying the Kyunghyang Sinmun article might suggest that "racial discrimination" existed, however:

I'll discuss this more later, but it's pretty easy to read the lines "BLACK BLACK BLACK" and "Go back to cotton field"
on the placards.

A Kyunghyang Sinmun article from July 13, 1971, published this photo of one of the clubs taken the "investigation into the rampage."

The shops soon re-opened, but the Korean residents now faced a new problem, as this July 14, 1971 Korea Times article reveals:

The article again brings up the "meant to clash with white soldiers" explanation, but undermines this by quoting an owner of one of the clubs as saying, "As soon as the black soldiers set foot inside, they began destroying everything in sight. It seemed to be planned in advance." It also brings up the effects of the "off limits" decree, with business owners worrying about the lack of customers.

The next day, the Korea Times published the following report about another disturbance:

Interesting that this incident in Dongducheon is reported as having started when "a Korean boy jeered at a Korean girl walking with an American soldier," something which helped set off a similar incident in 1995. A Donga Ilbo article from a day earlier had published this photo:

Both the Korea Times and Donga Ilbo (as well as the Kyunghyang Sinmun) describe 200 soldiers as being involved in the incident. A Stars and Stripes article published on the 16th refutes this:

"Highly exaggerated" press reports? Who could imagine such a thing?

Needless to say, the question of why these events - especially the race riots - occurred, and how they changed the way in which the Korean government and the US military dealt with relations in the camptowns, cannot be quickly answered. In the next post, I'll look at Stars and Stripes' coverage of the Anjeong-ri riot and Katherine Moon's analysis of these events.


Gary Norris said...

Thanks for the research on this. Looking forward to more of your digging on the subject.

Would be interested to learn how US military handled the situation. Race relations in the military at this time were very troubled.

For example, how did the US government and military leaders speak to the Korean government about such events. More interesting to me than the obvious use of the press to mitigate a public embarrassment and Korea's bigotry is the way the US would use this as a means to mitigate it's own problems. Know what I mean?

wetcasements said...

Really interesting.

Let's see, 1971 -- the writing was on the wall for the American occupation of Vietnam, Nixon was one year away from sending operatives to break into the Watergate Hotel, the rest of SE Asia was a complete mess, and race relations in the US military were at an all-time low. Also, at least in Vietnam, heroine abuse was rampant.

What a hell of a strange time.

matt said...

Gary Norris:
As I'll talk about more next time, the main result was the joint Camptown Clean-up Campaign, which is looked at in depth by Katherine Moon in her book 'Sex Among Allies.'

The Nixon Doctrine certainly plays a part in all of this. Oh, and here's a 1967 article about the first drug bust of a US soldier by Korean police after the SOFA came into effect - for heroin.

Dominic Gilliam said...

This wasn't the only incident Anjeong-ri had. There was a similar one in 1975 between Black Soldiers and the Korean which shut the village down 2-3 days. Racial prejudice towards blacks were definitely on a high scale. Alot of that I attributed to ignorance on the Koreans and prejudice brought over by the good ol' US of A.