Sunday, April 21, 2019

Of pontoon trains, comfort concerts, and headers

There was an interesting article in the Korea Times the other day by Amanda Price titled "The Japanese who fought for Korea's freedom." It details a number of Japanese academics and other figures who opposed Japan's imperial expansion into Korea. It's well worth reading, though one photo - posted below in its original form - raised my eyebrows, since it was incorrectly captioned "Japanese soldiers carried alarming amounts of ammunition through The Independence Gates." I was already familiar with this photo, having posted it here before (13 years ago), but I had also recently come across it in its originally-published form in Colliers magazine (issues from the time of the Russo Japanese War can be found here). It was neither taken in Seoul, nor was it of ammunition. Below is the photo and its original caption:

The floats, built in sections, were carried by one pack-train of the engineers' column, the beams and flooring by another. Before the war, the Japanese Intelligence Office sent skilled engineers, disguised as coolies, through Korea and Manchuria to make detailed measurements of the width, depth, current, and tidal force of every stream which an invading army might have to cross. The Yalu was the most important river to be surveyed in this way, and the data were used to construct, at Hiroshima, complete pontoon bridges for the crossing, so that the material was ready to be carried with the army when the advance began. In brief, the Japanese prepared the Yalu crossing to measure, months beforehand, and when the bridges were needed they were flung into position without the slightest waste of time, labor, or transport.

I also decided to change this blog's header for the first time in a decade or more (from this image I took 12 years ago of apartments going up south of Magok Station) to this one, from the August 3, 1975 issue of Sunday Seoul. After the promulgation of Emergency Decree 9 by Park Chung-hee in May 1975, this entertainment magazine - little different from ones you would find today - suddenly began publishing photos of "comfort concerts" held for Korean troops that it had clearly been pressured (if not outright ordered) to organize. (The next issue mentioned guitarist / singer / songwriter Shin Joong-hyun and his band the Yeopjeons were going to dress up more in the future after their hit song Mi-in (beautiful woman) had been one of 130 songs banned in June and July as part of the government's crackdown on decadence.) All in all, the image represents the militarization of almost every aspect of life under Park's Yusin regime.

My first header was of a branch of a cherry blossom tree. The other day I was on Gaehwasan, which overlooks Gimpo Airport, and saw this stand of cherry blossom trees just outside the airport, and quite close to Gaehwa Station. It took a moment before I realized it must be a nursery for cherry blossoms. I imagine it would be worth a visit. Perhaps next year.

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