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.