Friday, December 22, 2006

The Russo-Japanese War and the Invasion of Korea

One of the more interesting collaborative websites I've seen is the Russian and US governments' "Meeting of the Frontiers", which features a great many primary documents and other texts about the expansion of Russia eastward and the US westward (and their meeting in Alaska). A few years ago I discovered it and found some incredible colour photos of Russia taken in the 1910s. Since then many more photos and documents have been added, including many on the Russo Japanese War (1904-1905). For example, you can find numerous photos (for those taken in Korea, look here), as well as several books:

The Japan-Russia war; an illustrated history of the war in the Far East, the greatest conflict of modern times, by Sydney Tyler. Philadelphia, P. W. Ziegler co. [c1905] can be found here.

The Russo-Japanese war; a photographic and descriptive review of the great conflict in the Far East, gathered from the reports, records, cable despatches, photographs, etc., etc., of Collier's war correspondents: Richard Harding Davis, Frederick Palmer, James F. J. Archibald, Robert L. Dunn, Ellis Ashmead Bartlett, James H. Hare, Henry James Whigham, Victor K. Bulla.
New York, P. F. Collier & son, 1905, can be found here.

These books are available as scanned images, but also can be read as text (generated via OCR, but it's pretty faithful to the source). The latter book is filled with images, however, so it's well worth looking at for its photos. A timeline of the conflict can be read here [dead link; just head to Wikipedia].

I'm intending to do another post[s, as it turned out] about the foreign correspondents who covered the war (Jack London and Robert Dunn, especially) and the Japanese army, its efficiency, and its march through northern Korea. For now I'm just going to look at, as the title above puts it, the Invasion of Korea.


That war would break out between Japan and Russia was, by early 1904, a bygone conclusion, so much so that foreign newspapers began sending correspondents to Japan in early January. On January 23, Korea declared its neutrality. Russia and Japan's need to send troops into Korea was due to other reasons besides their desire to control Korea, as Sydney Tyler explains:
Within the triangle of which Harbin is the apex, of which the [rail] lines to Port Arthur and Vladivostock are sides, and of which the course of the Yalu River is the base, the sphere of immediate military operations practically had to be confined, as the icebound condition of the coast to the west of Port Arthur made a landing in force there impossible till the spring. The necessity of maintaining communications tied the Russian forces very largely to the railway lines. But for either belligerent the helpless kingdom of Korea, which lies south of a line drawn between Port Arthur and Vladivostock, for aggressive operations, afforded the most convenient line of advance. Through Korea Russia could menace Japan, and through Korea Japan could most easily march against Port Arthur. Naturally, therefore, Russia's first care was to mass her available troops on the line of the Yalu, and concentrate reinforcements at Harbin ready to be moved to whatever point might prove the objective of the Japanese attack.
 Map from the Colliers book.
But the command of the sea was the essential condition to attack by land by either combatant. With the Russian fleet masked or destroyed, Japan could choose as a landing-place for her armies any of the numerous ports on the western coast of Korea, and so approach in force the Yalu River, which divides Korea from Manchuria and the Liao-tung Peninsula. With imperfect command of the sea, Japan would have a second resource. She could land her troops at Masampo, separated only by a hundred miles of sea from her own ports, or she could, at a push, land her forces on the east coast of Korea, at Yuen San or Gensan.
Thus the importance of the first naval battles. The best known of the early battles, Japan's surprise attack on the Russian fleet at Port Arthur (just after midnight on Febrary 9), was actually preceded by a smaller, mid-afternoon engagement on Febrary 8 near the Korean port of Chemulpo (present day Incheon), when the Russian gunboat Korietz exchanged fire with the Japanese squadron which had approached the harbour. The Korietz quickly retreated back to harbour, and, along with the larger cruiser Variag, had no choice but to watch as the Japanese began landing troops nearby just after 6pm.

 Japanese troops at Chemulpo

As Tyler continues:
The Japanese took no further notice of the Russian ships until the disembarkation of their troops had been carried out, a process which was commenced immediately and was carried out through the night with great celerity and in the most perfect order. [...] This force belonged to the 12th Infantry Division under General Inouye, and consisted of 2,500 men.

By four o'clock on the morning of the 9th the process of disembarkation had been successfully completed, and the-soldiers had all found their pre-arranged billets on shore. The Japanese squadron then put out to sea once more, and waited for daylight before taking any action. At seven o'clock, however, the captain of the Varyag was served with an ultimatum from Admiral Uriu declaring that hostilities had broken out between Russia and Japan, and summoning him to leave the harbor by midday. Should he refuse to do so, then the Japanese fleet would be compelled to attack the Varyag and the Korietz within the harbor. A correspondent of a London paper who was present on the spot states that the commanders of the other warships stationed at Chemulpo namely, the British cruiser Talbot, the Italian Elba and the French Pascal, held a meeting and drew up a strong protest addressed to the Japanese Admiral against his proposal to attack the Russian vessels in a neutral port.
The Variag taking fire from the Japanese squadron

In the end, the Russian cruiser and gunboat decided to sail out to engage the Japanese, even though they were hopelessly outnumbered and outgunned, facing as they were "two battleships, six cruisers, and twelve torpedo craft." The battle began at 11:30 am, and within an hour a crippled Variag limped back to port. The Variag was set on fire, and, as the Japanese admiral had threatened to attack at 4:00 pm, it was decided to scuttle the gunboat Korietz as well, as Colliers reported:
At precisely four o'clock, two deafening explosions came from the "Korietz" and a cloud of thick gray and black smoke billowed upward. As the smoke cleared on the hissing, boiling water, where the "Korietz" had been, only bits of wreckage and about four feet of her after funnel could be seen.

 The Korietz exploding, captured by a US sailor, whose photo was stolen
by the Japanese photoshop owner charged with developing it.

After this battle, the Japanese landed the rest of the 12th division.

These would be only the first Japanese troops to land at various points in Korea. As Tyler writes,
By the middle of March, as far as can be estimated, at least 80,000 men had landed in Korea ready to advance northwards as soon as the weather would permit.

 The 46th Infantry regiment marching in Taedong, near Pyongyang

The source of all of the troops landing in Korea is also mentioned:
Before the end of February over forty transports sailed from Nagasaki, and a still larger embarkation went on at Ujina, near Hiroshima, where a great force of horse, foot, and artillery were steadily detrained every day and sent on board.
Reflecting on the fact that it would be decades before Japanese troops would leave Korea, I couldn't help but be reminded of the events of 1945 when I read the above paragraph. While Nagasaki had long been an important port and logical departure point for troops leaving for the Asian mainland, the Japanese government had placed the Imperial General Headquarters in Hiroshima prior to the Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895). That war saw Japan acquire land outiside of its traditional sphere of influence for the first time (Taiwan), and ten years later the Russo-Japanese War laid the foundations for Japan's empire, namely the annexation of Korea and the eventual takeover of Manchuria. It's hard not to notice that the cities that proved to be important in the building of their empire also played an important role in the ending of it.

As for how that empire came to be built, it's worth remembering that not all of the Japanese troops marched north. Colliers tells us that
A large force was sent to occupy Seoul, and within two days Japan was in complete control of the most advantageous strategic bases of Korea.
 Japanese troops arriving at Seoul's train station, Feb 12

Tyler writes that
a strong force, under General Inouye, marched upon Seoul, and without difficulty overawed the feeble Emperor and his corrupt Court. [...] The Emperor hastened to congratulate the Mikado on the victory of his fleet, and assured him that in view of Korea's position her satisfaction equalled that of the Japanese. At the same time the Korean local officials were ordered by the central Government to give every facility to the invading troops.
 Captioned "Japanese army entering Seoul through the
great east gate," (though I think it may be Namdaemun)
But a more definite acknowledgment of Japanese supremacy followed. On February 23rd an important agreement was signed at Seoul by M. Hayashi, the Minister of A Japanese Protectorate the Mikado, and General Yi Chi-Yong, the Korean Minister for Foreign Affairs. By the terms of this Protocol, Korea, "convinced of Japan's friendship," undertook to adopt the advice of the Japanese Government in regard to administrative reform "with a view to consolidating the peace of the Orient." On the other hand, Japan guaranteed the safety of the Imperial family and the independence and territorial integrity of Korea.
 Japanese troops in the Japanese quarter of Seoul

Woonsang Choi's "The Fall of the Hermit Kingdom" describes this zeal to support the Japanese somewhat differently. Speaking of the Japanese troops that arrived in Seoul, he wrote
They immediately took possession of the city of Seoul and surrounded the palace. Japanese Minister Hayashi Gonsuke, with the support of the Japanese army, proposed to the Korean government a treaty of alliance with Japan. Yi Chi-yong, Korean foreign minister, and Ku Wan-hui, his councellor and interpreter, were intimidated, but the cabinet resisted the pressure for one week. Finally, they were induced to sign a protocol with Japan on February 23, 1904, by the terms of which Korea practically allied herself with Japan. Korea granted the Japanese transit rights to Manchuria and engaged to give them every possible facility for prosecuting the war.
Tyler describes the treaty further, mentioning that, "encroachment by a third Power, or an internal disturbance [...] could force Japan to occupy strategical points in Korea if necessary." If that sounds like the Japanese military weren't planning on leaving, there were also other projects to keep them busy in Korea. Tyler describes the
granting of a concession to the Japanese under Article 4 of the Protocol, for the construction of the projected railway between Seoul and Wiju, on the Yalu River, while at the same time arrangements were made for the completion of the southern portion of the line between Seoul and Fusan, a port at the southern extremity of Korea.

All the preparations for acting upon this concession had already been made. [...] On March 8th a body of 8,ooo men started work on the line between Seoul and Wiju, and the enterprise was conducted at high pressure, the material being conveyed with all possible speed by steamers from Japan. The value of this railway for strategical purposes will be obvious to anyone who studies the map;[...] The completion of the whole line as far as Fusan would make them practically independent of sea transport for men as well as supplies, except, of course, as far as the narrow Korean Channel is concerned.
The Gyeong-bu line (Seoul to Pusan) was finished on January 1, 1905, while the Gyeong-ui line (Seoul to Sinuiju) was finished on April 3, 1906. The influence of the Russo-Japanese war upon the construction and layout of Korea's train system should be quite obvious.

This agreement, which left Japan able to place troops throughout the country, thus also allowed them to build the means to quickly move those troops about (something that would prove useful in the suppression of the 'righteous armies' a few years later). In addition to this agreement, another agreement in August 1904, allowed the Japanese to place advisers of their choosing in the ministries of foreign affairs and finance. With the end of the war, both Britain and the US gave their assent to Japan's control of Korea, made formal by the protectorate treaty in November 1905. Two years later, Gojong would be dethroned, and the Korean army (such as it was) disbanded. While the invasion of Korea in February 1904 was not where the slippery slope leading to annexation began, it was most certainly the point at which the slope suddenly became very steep.

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Minyeodeului Suda Video Clip

Do read Oranckay's post about all of this.

I'm sure everyone is well aware of the controversy caused by the KBS2 program "Minyeodeului Suda", when, during a performance by an African-American woman, comedian Cheon Myeong-hun pranced around the stage wearing a rasta wig and began chanting “sikameos, sikameos,”, which, as the Marmot tells us, is a reference to a black-face routine made famous by another Korean comedian. For those not in the know, The Marmot's post about it can be found here, while the Metropolitician's reaction (with many links to his previous posts putting the event in context) can be found here. He also has a petition demanding an apology from the network which can be signed here.

I tracked down the program on emule and edited it down to the essential 1:12 clip showing the performance of the song and uploaded it to Youtube. Here it is (you'll need to turn the sound up, for some reason):

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

One degree of separation for all

A co-worker asked me before I left work today, "Did you hear about the porn actress English teacher?"
"Oh, so you know all about this then."
"About...what exactly?"
"Oh, you don't know? She worked with Julie*."
"Really? She worked at Superenglish Academy*?"
[* obviously fake names]

Turns out the Korean teacher busted for starring in porn videos filmed in Canada worked (until last week) at my former employer's academy (where a former co-worker also works). As may be already clear, the porn star on staff was fired immediately, and her name removed from the school's webpage, which was just one of the measures taken as the media attempted to visit the school or bombard it with phone calls. Obviously, for the entire staff, the answer to any question is "I don't know." I feel bad for my former boss, who would certainly be much happier if there wasn't a porn star on staff putting the school at the center of a media circus. While I could see a number of the students' fathers suddenly taking a keen interest in meeting with their childrens' teacher as being a good thing for the school, I think Korea has a ways to go before people will accept porn stars as public servants; it's not Italy, after all. [This quip would work much better if hakwon teachers were actually public servants, but whatever.]

It seems the Ministry of Information and Communication has lifted the block on her overseas website (it wasn't viewable a few days ago - I'm assuming it was the MIC). A search with her stage name makes it clear that this woman has gotten a lot of exposure (ahem) on various overseas websites, so there are numerous chances for Korean netizens to view her work. While I imagine this may all be very embarrassing for her, what may be even more embarrassing is her exposure by netizens in Korea.

Curious to see what the netizens had been able to dig up about her, I searched for her real name, and found a cached page posted on a message board yesterday (it's been removed since then) which is little frightening due to how much personal information it contains. As her cyworld address is revealed at the end of the post, it is the likely source of the information, which leads us to one of the more obvious lessons that the netizens can teach us (if the dog poop girl hadn't already brought it to the world's attention): In cyberspace, anyone can be a single degree of separation from anyone else, depending how many digital crumbs they scatter about. It took a half hour conversation with someone who had met this woman for me to learn a few details about her, but it only took whoever found her cyworld page a few minutes to cut and paste private details of her life and post them all over the internet. Too many digital crumbs allow netizens to make a meal out of you.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Good sports

Kim Deuk-gu
January 8, 1959 – November 18, 1982

Watching an old fight film last night
Ray Mancini vs. Duk Koo Kim
the boy from Seoul was hanging in good
but the pounding took to him
and there in the square he lay alone
without face, without crown
and the angel who looked upon
she never came down

As usual, one of my posts is set off by something that catches my attention and then I proceed to track down as much information about it as possible. I have to say, I never thought I'd be posting about a boxing match, but it's all due to a song by Sun Kil Moon, Mark Kozelek's latest band, titled "Duk Koo Kim". Sun Kil Moon is named after a Korean boxer named Sung-Kil Moon, and when asked about two obvious dead boxers written about on their album "Ghosts of the Great Highway", Kozelek replied
There are actually more mentions than that: Pancho Villa was a Filipino boxer who died in the 1920s; Sal Sanchez; and Benet Paret, who was killed by Emile Griffith in the '60s. Sonny Liston also died relatively young. And Duk Koo Kim, as well. Boxing has been a fascination of mine for about 10 years now. I never thought any of these guys would find a way into my songs, but they all died young and tragically, and deserve the tribute. Their lives were very colourful, so it's easy to write about them.
Listening to this song led me to try to find out more about Kim Deuk-gu. My first introduction to him had been, like most people, through the 2002 Korean film Champion.
Director Kwak Kyung-taek was a teenager when he saw this fight on TV. Like many Koreans who lived through that era, the event left a strong impression on him, and years later he decided to make a film in memory of Kim's determination and courage. "That was during an era when Korea was trying desperately to escape the poverty of the 60s and 70s, to cast off our reputation as a third world country," Kwak says. "For Koreans who remember him, Kim represents the last image of that generation and their hunger to succeed."
Having seen the movie before, I decided to have a look on emule and see if there were any video files of Kim's last fight, against defending lightweight world champion Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini. There were, in fact, several files floating around, and screenshots from the actual fight follow. What's interesting are the differences between the actual fight and how it was portrayed in the film. For example, let's compare the film version of Kim (played by Yoo Oh-sung) and actual footage of him, for example, before the fight begins:


Kim Deuk-gu


Ray Mancini

Did anyone else notice that they seem to have switched outfits? I have no idea why this change occurred, and I'm often confused by filmmakers who change details of recent history that has been filmed, when a visual record of the event still exists. It's not an important detail, true, but I still find it a bit odd.

The details of the fight come from Wikipedia's entries on Duk Koo Kim and Ray Mancini, as well as this article about the fight by Vaughn "Bigboscoe" Featherstone (from whom most of the match commentary is taken), who writes that
Having won 17 of 18 fights, Kim was assigned the number one ranking by the WBA against World Champion Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini although the caliber of competition he (Kim) had faced was nowhere near the Championship level that most challengers would have had to have in order to receice such an opportunity. Mancini was a rising star who had just come off two spectacular victories over World class fighters. Many saw Kim as undeserving and way over his head having fought only one fight outside his native South Korea with a 8th round TKO over Tony Flores in the Phillipines.
Mancini and Kim met in an arena outside Caesar's Palace on November 13, 1982.

While it is obvious that the crowd is cheering for Mancini, Kim does have a small contingent of vocal supporters in the audience, who are often caught on camera cheering and waving Korean flags.

Kim had to lose several pounds before the fight to make the weight (135 pounds), and may have been dehydrated.

Tragic Triumvirate: Kim, referee Richard Greene, and Mancini
Through all of the media ridicule, the fight turned out to be very entertaining with Kim proving that he was a worthy challenger regardless of what his lack of big fight experience showed. Throughout the first 12 rounds, Mancini and the southpaw Kim went toe to toe landing big shots with neither fighter taking a step back.

Myself, as I viewed the fight, I thought that throughout most of it both men appeared to be evenly matched, with Mancini having a slight edge. Whenever he seemed to have the upper hand, however, Kim was usually able to match him, finishing the 8th round, for example, landing a series of blows to Mancini's head. By the the 10th round, however, the fight began to tilt in Mancini's favour.

At the start of round 13, Mancini charged Kim and battered him with a barrage of unanswered punches. Referee Richard Greene could have very well stopped the fight because of Kim's lack of defense. However, the round shifted midway through as Kim began to pound Mancini inside. What began as a one-sided round for Mancini ended up being closer than anyone could have expected. Walking back to his corner after the 13th round, Kim looked battered but not yet ready to pack it in.

This is dramatized in the film:

However, is it just me, or does Kim, in the film, look far more battered than he did in real life at that moment? Kim did not appear to be bleeding in the actual video of the match, and, as described above, Kim seemed to regroup after a rather sustained pounding by Mancini. In fact, it seemed to me that, had the bell not rung ending the 13th round, Kim might well have inflicted some more damage, as he seemed to have momentum behind him at that moment. However, in the film, there is no hint of this regrouping by Kim. He is simply beaten mercilessly, and then wanders around the ring, dazed for several seconds (rendered in slow motion) before sitting down in his corner. This bears little resemblence to how Kim actually acted in the last few minutes of his conscious life, but I guess it seems much more dramatic and tragic.
Round 14 began with both fighters charging out to center ring and looking to land a surprising shot. As Kim feinted a left hook, Mancini stepped to his right and countered with a left-right hook combination. Kim threw a two left hooks to the body. Mancini landed a chopping right hand that caught Kim flush on the bridge of the nose followed by a vicious left hook to the chin. Kim wobbled defenseless. Mancini then followed with another right-left hook combination with the straight right that sent Kim reeling backwards and flat on his back.
This all took place in six seconds.

Kim rose with the assistance of the ropes but was in no shape to continue.
Minutes after the fight was over, Kim collapsed into a coma, and was taken to a hospital. Emergency brain surgery was done there to try to save his life, but that effort proved to be futile, as Kim lost his life 5 days after the bout, on November 18.
Mancini went to the funeral in South Korea, but he fell into a deep depression afterwards. He has said that the hardest moments came when people approached him and asked if he was the boxer who "killed" Duk Koo Kim.

Unfortunately, the tragic effects of the fight affected others beyond Kim and Mancini:
Referee Richard Greene committed suicide months after the fight, while Kim's mother did the same four months later. Mancini had a tough time continuing his career. Although he eventually stepped back into the ring, he was never the same fighter going 4-4 in his final 8 bouts. Possibly, had Greene stopped the fight in the 13th round, Kim may have lived. But hindsight is 20/20 and who knows? Kim's fateful injuries may have already been acquired. What could be described as eerie, Kim wrote on his hotel room's mirror, "Kill or be Killed."
An image of the fight made the cover of Sports Illustrated weeks later under the title "Tragedy in the Ring", and Kim Deuk-gu's death ended up (inadvertantly) changing the sport of boxing, as title bouts were shortened from 15 rounds to 12 rounds, and more health checks were introduced.

Ray Mancini and Champion director Gwak Gyeong-taek

I can't imagine what Mancini's experience at the funeral must have been like, or what the media reaction to his visit here would have been at the time (a few newspaper front pages about Kim's injuries after the fight can be found here). He did act as an advisor on Champion, however, (and reflected upon the fight and its effect on him, briefly recounted here and here), which seems like a very conciliatory thing to do on both the director and Mancini's part.

As I imagined the reaction in Korea at that time to the fight, another seemingly tragic sports moment came to my mind - when Son Gi-jeong won the gold medal in the marathon at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, but was unable to celebrate his victory as a Korean, as Korea was under Japanese control at the time. Several photos of Son during that marathon, as well as other parts of his life, can be found here. You might compare those photos with the one the Donga Ilbo published:

Notice anything missing?

As wikipedia tells us about that article,
One of Korea's domestic newspapers, Dong-a Ilbo, published a photograph of Sohn at the medal ceremony, but had altered the image to remove the Japanese flag from Sohn's uniform. This act so enraged the Japanese regime that it imprisoned eight persons connected with the newspaper and suspended the publication's operations for nine months.
And this was during the more 'liberal' phase of Japan's control over Korea, and an example I should have mentioned here. At any rate, in August of this year a ceremony was held in Yokohoma to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Son's gold medal. At the ceremony,
Former Olympian and winner of the 1953 Boston Marathon, Keizo Yamada, said he decided to take up the marathon after watching Son's performance in Berlin. ''He was my idol,'' Yamada said with tears in his eyes.

Son made contributions to the world of South Korean sports after the war, and made efforts to improve relations between Japan and South Korea through sports.
Son's son, Jong-in, said, ''I want the young generation to understand the history of the past and hope Japan and South Korea build a bright future upon it.''

I think that Keizo Yamada's idolization of Son is fascinating. Son did not just win glory for Korea, as is remembered today, he won glory for Japan, and, from Yamada's words, it seems Japanese people respected and even idolized him for it, which says interesting things about the intersection of sports and nationalism, wherein even 'problematic' ethnicity can be erased (witness the media circus in Korea after Hines Ward's performance in the Superbowl this year). But whereas Son tried to bring Korea and Japan closer through sports, and his son hopes for a brighter future between the two countries, it seems sports these days which involve Korea and Japan seem to invite a desire to create nationalist-fueled rivalries between the two countries.

A recent example of this would be the winning of the Bompard Figure Skating Trophy by Korean figure skater Kim Yu-na in Paris (you can watch her performances here and here). As the Chosun Ilbo tells us,
She scored 184.54 points in the fourth round to beat her Japanese and U.S rivals Ando Miki (174.44 points) and Kimmie Meissner (158.03 points). Kim became the first Korean figure skater to win the title.
A good background article on Kim by the Joongang Ilbo can be found here; it reveals that, as of early 2005, her country had done next to nothing to help her, and that her considerable training costs (hell, her current coach is Brian Orser) and transportation/entry costs for competitions have been born by her family. Yet when she won the World Junior Figure Skating Championship earlier this year, the media went wild:
Figure skating princess Kim Yu-na (16) on Friday accomplished a brilliant feat in Korean figure skating history by capturing the crown in the 2006 ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championship in Ljubljana, Slovenia. This is the first major win for a Korean since the sport was introduced here 111 years ago.
In the lead up to the competition she just won, the Chosun Ilbo had an article titled "Korean Skater Up Against Massed Japanese Force", which, while true (Japanese skaters have been doing very well in figure skating for the past several years), seems to be putting a nationalist slant on the competition. While I could say, "The Korean media, putting a nationalist slant on a sporting event? Never!" it would only be fair to point out that this would describe media responses in many countries, and TV shows in both Korea and Japan have looked at (and propagated, of course) the Kim Yu-na / Mao Asada rivalry that exists in the minds of the media and netizens, but which may not exist in the minds of the two atheletes (other than in a "I want to win" sort of way).

This photo may be enough to make some ultra-nationalists froth at the mouth, but I have to say I'd much rather see this photo plastered on subway station walls and displayed at protests than photos of two teenaged girls run over by a tank...

Friday, November 24, 2006

"Three Generations" update

I made an error or two in my "geohistorical guide" (as Owen aptly describes it) to Three Generations, so I'll point them out here. The main error is that I misunderstood where the exact location of Jingogae was (I was off by a block or two). I've since changed the post, since the way it's structured, allowing the reader to wander down long lost streets, doesn't really allow for an update at the top along the lines of "Oh, I messed up on this and found some new photos," and then adding them to the top of the post. I've instead inserted the new photos into the 'geographical narrative' of the post, so I thought I'd leave the original text and photos that I changed here. Below is the original map I made.

On this map is my mistaken location of Jingogae / Bonjeongtong. This is what I initially wrote:
Now Jingogae... hmmm. I've heard several different explanations of where Jingogae was. One book (and a few websites) say that it was located between (and south of) what is now Chungmuro 1-ga and Chungmuro 3-ga. Other sources link it simply with modern day Chungmuro (which is essentially the same thing). It seems Jingogae was the area, but was also the name of the street (Chungmuro), but the street had another name as well - Bonjeongtong. The area was also known as Honmachi in Japanese, but I've seen some sources call the street that as well. In this article (which is well worth a read) about colonial Myeong-dong, Andrei Lankov describes Honmachi as being Myeong-dong, and not Chungmuro, which is different from what I've read. At any rate, at that time, Jingogae was the center of the Japanese settlement in Keijo.
I was put off a little by the discrepancy between my and Lankov's findings (especially considering he would have likely been looking at contemporary sources) - and of course I was mistaken, something I realized when I saw this photo of the post office taken from the top of the Mitsukoshi department store, with the entrance to Jingogae at the far right:

This photo, and a few others I used, where provided (via links) to me in the comments to the original post - big thanks to Mika. As I write in the updated post: "Now, initially I'd thought Jingogae was the street known today as Teogyero, but I've since come to realize that was not the case, mainly due to the picture above and from the part in the book where Gyeong-ae and Sang-hun ride in a hired car from Anguk-dong to Yeongnakjeong, turning west towards Namdaemun, and when arriving at the "entrance to Jingogae", they headed for the restaurant named Cheongmokdang, which I've already described." The route described above can be seen in bright red on this map, heading from north to southwest:

I also added that "I don't know the exact location of Bacchus, of course, but in the novel it is described as being "at Samjeongmok on Bonjeongtong". From what I've read, it seems sam (ie. "3") jeongmok corresponds with Chungmuro 3-ga, and so that is where I've located it on the map above."

I also add the photo below, which "is likely taken from the roof of the Mitsukoshi department store, and in it we can see the bank of Korea, at left, and the post office, at right. The advertising tower/billboard next to the post office is for a Japanese skin care product called "laitcream", more information about which can be found here (hat tip to Mika). If you were to continue straight up Namdaemunro, instead of following the curve, you would end up in the aforementioned Suha-dong, where Deok-gi lived."

Below is a view of the entrance to Jingogae from the ground, with the edge of the post office clearly visible. This corresponds with the above photo of the post office and the entrance to Jingogae.

I also changed the photo of the bank of Korea, mainly because the new photo corresponds with the point of view of a person viewing the post office from the northwest and then turning to face the bank (yeah, I'm picky, but I also like the new photo better). Below is the old one.

Anyways, I just thought I'd make clear what I had changed in that post, while trying my best not to interfere with the flow of that post. I hope this is helpful.

Oh, I just thought it would be interesting to see, after I commented in my last post about the misattribution of photos, how the framing or cropping of photos can really confuse people. Look here, for instance:

Now, it seems clear that these photos were all taken at different times from slightly different vantage points, but it's not until the last photo, with more room and lack of zoom, so to speak, that you can be 100% certain of the location.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The contribution of misattributed photos to shoddy arguments

After my last post, I became curious about finding more photos of Seoul during the colonial period, and as a comment had directed me to a Japanese website with a great photo of Seoul, I decided to try to find some Japanese web pages with colonial era photos. I managed to find this site, which seems to exist in various forms and is mirrored in a few spots in Japanese cyberspace.

A quick look at these pages (here and here), however, will reveal a series of photos you may feel you've seen before. Almost every photo in this Occidentalism post 'proving' how backwards Korea was before the Japanese colonial period (including the before and after shots of Namdaemun with the red Hanja written over them) can be found there. In addition, this page, showing Korean copies of Japanese products, features many of the same photos found in the post "Koreans - Original?", which I find a little humourous considering it's just a cut and paste of photos from Japanese websites, which I would hardly consider to be original (More blatant would be the use of Tokyo University education professor Fujioka Nobukatsu's work exposing fabricated WWII-era photos - compare the originals (here and here - sorry, they're cached) with these posts (here and here) - which make no reference to the original source). And lastly, speaking of uncredited original sources, I wasn't surprised to read, over at Scott Bug's website, that Occidentalism had Kushibo and Nora Park's similarities pointed out to him by someone else. When I originally read the expose, I thought, what with the variety of sources and the convincing proof, "How did he pull that off?" Now I know - another unattributed source. You'd think that leaving a "hat-tip to reader" for a juicy scoop like that (even if the source wished to remain anonymous) would just be common courtesy.

But I digress...

Now, as I mentioned, most of the photos that make up the post that introduced me to Occidentalism, The Japanese Administration of Korea, can be found here and here (and of course, I posted a counterargument to many of the single-sentence assertions made in that post quite some time ago). As this post is essentially a cut and paste job, translating revisionist photo collections from Japanese websites into English, it's quite interesting to look at the originals and see what a shoddy product Occidentalism's readers were sold.

When I first saw this photo of Tokyo in that post, I couldn't help but wonder where in Tokyo it was and when it was taken (even though it says the 1850s). A few months ago I came upon a photo of Edo and thought it looked familiar. I soon realized that the "1850s" Tokyo photo that appears in "The Japanese Administration of Korea" is in fact the far left section of this panoramic photo of Edo (click to enlarge):

Now, this wikipedia entry tells us that it was taken by Felice Beato in 1865 or 1866, and that it shows daimyo residences (there's a cleaned up and colorized version here). One would assume that the feudal lords of Japan would probably be living in a rather upscale part of Edo, if not one of the richest parts of the city, housed as they were in 'lavish residences.' So an appropriate comparison would be one of the richest areas in Seoul, say, near Kyongbok Palace and the areas where many government ministers lived.

Of course, this is not the comparison Occidentalism chose to make. Instead we're given the photo below with a caption reading "The center of Seoul, Namdemun, Circa 1880. Thatched buildings and shops." Besides the obvious point that a gate along the wall surounding the city can hardly be called the center of the city, there's another problem with this photo - it's actually looking southward, out of the city. As there was really only one long road approaching Namdaemun from either side at that time it's easy to compare the two sides. Look at the 3rd and 4th photos on this page - the 3rd is the photo below, looking south, and the 4th is Namdaemunro, which runs northeast. You can't mix them up, so this photo is actually, again, looking out of the city (into an area where merchants and the lower classes lived):

Any doubt about this is removed by the photo above. A quick glance makes it clear that it is the exact same view as the photo above (they're likely taken 20 or so years apart). This site, where I found it, labels it (via autotranslation) as an example of the what Seoul looked like during the Japanese period, the implication being that the Japanese improved the area a great deal. What's humorous about this is that the photo above could not have been taken any later than mid 1911, because the street from Namdaemun to Seoul Station was widened at that time (and made twice as wide as it appears in this photo - as this view of the same street taken in the 1920s makes clear). The fact that there are streetcar tracks on the street makes clear that it could only be looking south, as the other smaller streets that radiated out from Namdaemun didn't have streetcar lines on them until after 1911.

To restate things, then, one of the richest areas in Edo is being compared to a poor area outside of Seoul's city walls. It really isn't difficult to demonstrate that Seoul was not as developed or wealthy as Tokyo was; the use of such an unfair comparison shows either a desire to mislead, or a complete ignorance of the cities being compared.

A look through this Japanese webpage reveals numerous folk customs and superstitions. Two of these photos were used in "The Japanese Administration of Korea". This one, showing the sole of a bare foot with writing on it, is followed by this discription: "Before the Japanese introduced medicine in Korea, Koreans would cure Malaria by writing their names on their feet." One of the errors in this description is that it was not the Japanese who introduced modern medicine to Korea, but western missionaries (I wrote about the experiences of missionaries in Pyongyang in the 1890s here, for example).

We're then shown this photo:

It's description: "Pre-Japanese era Korean medicine. This childs parents are trying to cure this childs disease by throwing away this straw doll. Various diseases could be ‘cured’ by this ‘method’. The average Korea lifespan at this time was around 24 years old. Thanks to Japanese investment in medicine and nutrition in Korea, the lifespan went up to nearly 50 years old by the end of WW2."

Yes, while the missionaries may have introduced modern medicine, the Japanese would have had the means to allow for the treatment of far more people, especially through innoculation. Introducing water systems in the cities, as well as other sanitation programs, also would have done a great deal to help increase lifespans. Despite this, I doubt that the bulk of the population who lived in the countryside, where education and health facilities were often lacking, would have seen the same benefits those living in cities did. The ignorance of those from the country and their mistaken views of 'modern medicine' are well illustrated in Kim Yu-jeong's mid 1930s short story "The Scorching Heat" (scroll down to find the pdf). In it, a man, whose wife has had a miscarried fetus caught inside her for months, believes that they will be paid by the hospital to study her strange condition. Instead they are laughed at, and the woman chooses to die rather than be 'cut open'. The story makes clear how alien (and terrifying) the hospital seems to them.

It might, however, also be worth examining the phrase "Pre-Japanese era Korean medicine." First of all, the pictures shown above, are, in fact, shamanic or folk traditions, and are quite different from Hanyak, which is derived from the Chinese medical tradition. As Paul S. Crane describes in Korean Patterns,
In addition to orthodox Hanyak, there are "people's remedies" and women practitioners who specialize in driving out evil spirits, which are believed to cause disease. By beating drums, burning incense, and chanting holy incantations, these sorceresses, or mudang, attend the sick.[...] These "people's remedies" are not a part of formal Hanyak, but are part of the treatment one may receive in the villages from unlicensed practitioners.
Second of all, these photos are not pre-Japanese at all. A look at this website introduces us to the photos of Murayama Chijun (I keep needing to change the character encoding on that site to Korean (EUC-KR); also, the thumbnail links don't work). Murayama took numerous photos of Korean rituals and traditions in the 1920s and 1930s, and in the chapter "Spirits in Daily Life", the photos used in the Occidentalism post are clearly seen. Call me old fashioned, but I don't think using photos of pre-modern superstitions taken 15 to 25 years after Japan began administering Korea does much to prove that Japan spread the benefits of modern civilization throughout Korea. To go further, it's quite possible that the situation of the ignorant couple that Kim Yu-jeong described in his story was the norm in many parts of the country during the colonial period, especially considering that the "people's remedies" Paul S. Crane described were still relatively common in the 1950s and 1960s.

And a quickie about this photo:

It's labeled as being Pyongyang, but, as the photo below makes clear, it's actually a photo of Namdaemunro in Seoul, and is likely taken from the top of the Mitsukoshi department store. The giveaways are the Bank of Korea building on the left, and the central post office on the right.

The above mistakes illustrate one of the weaknesses of the internet age, especially regarding photos. Often, once a photo is posted somewhere with a mistaken caption, it just gets passed on and on throughout the internet, as the same photos are reused on countless different sites. Historical photos are especially prone to this, and the Occidentalism posts I described above using Fujioka Nobukatsu's work exposing fabricated WWII-era photos should get more publicity - the Korean and Chinese sites using them do themselves and their readers no favours by using false 'proof' (even in ignorance) to support their points of view (no more than Occidentalism does).

Also, close-minded nationalists (in this case a group of Korean netizens) aren't doing anyone any favours by shutting down the discussion of viewpoints they don't like - case in point (I just noticed this a moment ago) organizing a campaign to target Gerry Bevers' employers in order to force him to stop writing about Dokdo. It goes to show the ire that can be raised by a person who uses lots of attributed sources and who can actually make a strong argument - something rarely seen during Occidentalism's first year.

Oh, as this pertains to the last two paragraphs, some may find it interesting: A set of stamps apparently released in 1954, the year South Korea seized Dokdo. As for another Korean government project regarding Dokdo, do read this fascinating comment over at the Marmot.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The 'Three Generations' Keijo walking tour

[Another Update: A Korean blogger has numerous posts on this same topic. I've posted links here. Also, I've fixed the map so it's readable!]

[Update: I've made some corrections and additions to this post, which are pointed out in detail here. This post has been amended to account for these corrections, though the original text which was changed can be found in the post I just linked to.]

I recently read (or devoured, really, as it only took two days) Yom Sang-seop's Three Generations, which was originally published serially in the Chosun Ilbo between January 1 and August 17, 1931. It was eventually published in book form in 1946. To see what it looked like in the Chosun Ilbo on the first day of its publication (and for more information), do check out Antti's post about the book upon the publication of the English translation last year.

A lot could be said about the book, but for now I'll just focus on an aspect of it that caught my attention - the geography of colonial Seoul, known then as Keijo, and the different place names which are sprinkled throughout the book. While many of the names of buildings (the post office, the bank of Korea, the train station) and area names (Hyoja-dong, Samcheong-dong, Suha-dong) are still the same, it took awhile to find information about many other places mentioned in the book, as their names have changed. Below is a map I cobbled together (made using a 1946 US military map of Seoul) which locates every place name mentioned in the book.

As you'll notice, the above map is also useful because it has the streetcar lines on it, as well as major buildings; and though it may seem that a map made 15 years after the events of the book may not be as useful, it's worth remembering that the most recent Japanese map that was used in making this one was from 1937, which means the city looks as it did only five or six years after the publication of Three Generations.

At any rate, I dug around and found numerous photos from the colonial era, and thought they would be helpful in helping establish a sense of place for Seoul in that time period. Using the map above and the photos below, we can walk down streets the characters of Three Generations frequented. In my descriptions there may be mild spoilers, however. As well, if I've made a mistake, feel free to let me know - with 30 or 40 locations, it's possible to get confused.

Let's start with the most obvious landmark - Namdaemun.

In the photo above, we're looking north-east. Let's, for a moment, turn around and face south. The view is not so different from today:

Above, of course, we see Seoul station, where Deok-gi embarked for (and returned from) Kyoto. It's also on (or near) this street that Sang-hun's church and Deok-gi and Gyeong-ae's elementary school were located. Deok-gi remembered that as children they would walk up this street towards Namdaemun, until Gyeong-ae turned west and walked towards Bongnaegyo.

Above is Bongnaegyo (known today as Yeomcheongyo), which in the Chosun period crossed a stream called Manchocheon, which the Japanese called Ukcheon (and which now lies under concrete). It appears in the photo above (facing west) that the bridge at that time crossed the train tracks north of Seoul Station as well as the stream. Keep in mind that Gyeong-ae didn't actually cross the bridge on the way home, but would have turned right and walked northwest up to Migeun-dong (near present day Seodaemun station). Pil-sun would have also walked to and from her job at a factory in Yongsan along that same street, passing in front of Seoul Station on her way to or from her home in Hongpa-dong (near Dongnimmun) . It would have been near here that Deok-gi and Byeong-hwa ran into Pil-sun on her way home and ate at a noodle restaurant.

Anyways, let's return to Namdaemun.

In the picture above, taken from Namdaemun, we are looking northeast. The neighbourhood we see directly in front of us is Bungmi Changjeong, present day Bukchang-dong. It is here that Gyeongae lives with her mother and daughter (and where a tense scene involving an apparent police stakeout takes place). On the left we can see City Hall. We, however, are going to follow that streetcar turning to the right...

...and walk up Namdaemunro. At the end of the street the central post office is visible:

It was here that Deok-gi went to check to see if the telegrams had actually been sent. To the right of the post office (the building faces west) is the entrance to Jingogae. Facing the post office as we are, we need only turn around to see the bank of Korea:

The bank of Korea faces the Mitsukoshi department store:

The Mitsukoshi department store (present-day Shinsegye department store) was opened in October 1930, two months before the first installment of the novel appeared in the Chosun Ilbo, and so it isn't mentioned in the book. In the photo below, looking south, we can see the post office and the Mitsukoshi department store.

The photo above, taken from the same vantage point, looks southwest towards Cheongmokdang restaurant (far left) and the Bank of Korea. Cheongmokdang was one of the earlier western restaurants in Seoul, which served alcohol on the first floor and coffee and western food on the second floor (or so it says here). It is to the second floor that Gyeong-ae brings Sang-hun, and has her first meeting with Maedang and Ui-gyeong. Near these buildings is the entrance to Jingogae. Before heading there, let's look at the bigger picture:

This photo is facing southeast. City hall is clearly visible at bottom left, as is Taepyeongno, which runs south towards a just-out-of-sight Namdaemun. At center-right is, again, Bungmi Changjeong, and if we follow the street running from in front of city hall (the 'X') towards the top of the photo, it ends at the post office. The back of the bank of Korea and the Mitsukoshi department store are also visible. If we follow the street running east from city hall (present day Euljiro, then known as Hwanggeumjeong) just beyond the picture frame, we would come to Euljiro 1-ga, and it is just northeast of this intersection (essentially kitty-corner to the present-day Lotte department store) that Suha-dong lies, which is where Deok-gi's (or his Grandfather's) house is.

Let's return to the area between the post office, the bank of Korea, and the Mitsukoshi department store. The photo below is likely taken from the roof of the Mitsukoshi department store, and in it we can see the bank of Korea, at left, and the post office, at right. The advertising tower/billboard next to the post office is for a Japanese skin care product called "laitcream", more information about which can be found here (hat tip to Mika). If you were to continue straight up Namdaemunro, instead of following the curve, you would end up in the aforementioned Suha-dong, where Deok-gi lived.

If we look at the vista in the photo above and pan right, we would have the view seen in the photo below (also taken from the department store roof).

Again, above we see the post office, but next to it, on the right, we see the entrance to Jingogae, where many events in the book take place. Below is a view of the same entrance from the ground, with the edge of the post office clearly visible.

Now, initially I'd thought Jingogae was the street known today as Teogyero, but I've since come to realize that was not the case, mainly due to the picture above and from the part in the book where Gyeong-ae and Sang-hun ride in a hired car from Anguk-dong to Yeongnakjeong, turning west towards Namdaemun, and when arriving at the "entrance to Jingogae", they headed for the restaurant named Cheongmokdang, which I've already described. Jingogae was the name of the area, but was also the name of the street, which was also known as Bonjeongtong (and known as Honmachi in Japanese). In this article (which is well worth a read) about colonial Myeong-dong, Andrei Lankov describes Honmachi as being Myeong-dong, and the street running east from the post office's southern edge does indeed run through the southern part of Myeong-dong today (while technically being within Chungmuro 1 ga to 3 ga). At any rate, at that time, Jingogae was the commercial and entertainment center of the Japanese settlement in Keijo.

It is here where Bacchus, the bar where Gyeong-ae works, is found. I don't know the exact location of Bacchus, of course, but in the novel it is described as being "at Samjeongmok on Bonjeongtong". From what I've read, it seems sam (ie. "3") jeongmok corresponds with Chungmuro 3-ga, and so that is where I've located it on the map above. This area, and certainly the bar, play a large part in the story. Many characters in the story (Byeong-hwa and Sang-hun, especially, but also Deok-gi and Gyeong-ae) head to this area's bars, cafes and restaurants to eat or drink. Keep in mind, however, that these are all Koreans (the younger generation of whom were all educated in Japanese) heading out to drink in the Japanese quarter. One almost gets the feeling that the area may have been like present day Hongdae or Itaewon, where Koreans and foreigners mingle, except that at that time, it was the foreigners who ran the show, and the book describes the kind of confrontration that inevitably occurred, as well as its aftermath at a police station:
Upon arriving at the station, the policeman who had brought them in became even more overbearing. He listened to what the two Japanese men had to say, but he addressed Byeong-hwa and Sang-hun in a menacing tone and refused to hear them out.

Another policeman noticed Gyeong-ae. "Isn't she the girl at Bacchus?" He smiled at her and said snidely, "You'd better be more careful when you fool around with men."

Gyeong-ae was furious. She didn't expect to be treated well in a place like this, but never before had she been shown such disrespect. It pained her to think how she had become the laughingstock of these policemen largely because she was Korean and worked at a bar. She knew, however, that this was no place for her to talk back.
Luckily, since independence from Japan, Korean police stations are now free from such racism. Okay, maybe not. (The torture that is displayed in the book, along with the racism, is also displayed in this case.)

At any rate, in one scene, Byeong-hwa and Gyeong-ae are discussing the fugitive activist Pi-hyeok while walking west in Jingogae, and decide to slip down a side street and walk towards Myeongchijeong, which, of course, is present-day Myeong-dong:

They soon make their way to Hwanggeumjeong (Euljiro) and go their separate ways. Gyeong-ae decides to go to the Junganggwan (cinema), which stood where the Jungang Cinema stands today (near Myeong-dong cathedral). Later, she hires a car and goes to Anguk-dong to snatch Sang-hun from a party at Maedang house, and, turning south in front of Changdeok palace, they make their way south until they turn west, towards Namdaemun, at a place called Yeongnakjeong, which is present day Jeo-dong (on a smaller street that runs north/south between Euljiro 2-ga and 3-ga).

Above is Yeongnakjeong. From here (facing south), they turn towards Namdaemunro, coming onto that street at the entrance to Jingogae and facing Mitsukoshi department store, beside which is the aforementioned Cheongmokdang restaurant, where several characters conclude their night.

More action takes place elsewhere, of course. This photo shows numeous locations that appear in the book:

Above we can see the Government General building and the remains of Kyongbok palace. To the palace's left, we see a street running north to Hyoja-dong, which is just to the left of the northwest corner of the palace. It is here that the Samhaejin grocery store, run by Byeong-hwa and Pil-sun's family, is located, and it proves to be an important location in the latter half of the book. It might be worth noting that from the streetcar on his way there for the first time Deok-gi notices "the Japanese stores that had sprouted up along the street since the 1929 Joseon Fair." To the right side of the palace, across from the southeast corner of the palace, is Gan-dong, (present day Sagan-dong) where Ui-gyeong lives. Just north of there is Hwagae-dong (present day Hwa-dong), where Sang-mun lives. North of there, of course, is Samcheong-dong, which appears in the same chapter as Chuseong-mun. Though there seemed to be no street behind Kyongbok palace, it seems you could walk, somehow, behind the palace, and to do so you had to pass through a gate (or gates) such as Chuseong-mun, which was in the palace's northwest corner. It is here, on their way back from Samcheong-dong, that Byeong-hwa and Pil-sun's father have a run-in with Jang-hun's thugs. After that, a nearby hospital at a medical school becomes important. The hospital, pictured below, is on the other side of Junghakcheon, the stream that once ran southwards along Gyeongbokgung's east side.

One day, looking out from the front of the hospital, Pil-sun notices Gwanghwamun.

Gwanghwamun was moved to the eastern wall of the palace in 1916, and stood in front of a stream that ran southwards into Cheonggyecheon. Pil-sun, while she was looking out the window, notices Deok-gi crossing a bridge to come to the hospital, which is likely the one seen in both pcitures above.

Here we see the Government General, with a streetcar line which turns north to Hyoja-dong. Sang-mun and Gyeong-ae have a conversation at one point while walking towards us, and then turning south to walk to Hwangtohyeon (present day Sejongno intersection). At the time, Gyeong-ae lived just behind what is now the Sejong Cultural Center, in Dangju-dong. Prior to walking in front of the Government General, they walk from Hwagae-dong (northeast of Gwanghwamun) out towards the eastern gate of the palace, which Yom Sang-seop mistakely identifies as Yeongchumun (which is the western gate). From his description of their walk, he must be describing the east gate Geonchunmun, and not Yeongchumun. Anyways, if you were to walk away into the distance of the picture above, you would end up at Anguk-dong:

This photo looks north from what would now be near the entrance to Jogyesa temple. In front of us is Anguk-dong, where Maedang House is located, and where Gyeong-ae is taken to a Chinese restaurant to be confronted by some of Jang-hun's thugs. This is probably one of the few ground level pictures here of a Korean neighbourhood, and many of the main characters live in this area.

That covers most of the locations (or at least those I could get my hands on). One last thing I came upon - in the photo of Namdaemun below, on the horizon at far right, you can see an odd shaped tower, which is tall and narrow.

I'm quite certain it's this:

The advertising (?) tower above (any Japanese readers care to translate it?) stands along a street in Sogong-dong, which would place it near the present-day Lotte department store. I know there was at least one of those in Pyongyang as well, but I'd be curious to know if there were more of these in Seoul; they're rather massive for their time, aren't they?

[Note: the answer to this question can be found in the comments, and has already been referred to above. Also, the tower in the photo of "Pyongyang" did not exist, as it is actually a photo of Seoul, as I discussed here.]