Saturday, March 24, 2007

History of Korean War Criminals

Some of the coming week's readings deal with the issue of collaborators. From our readings on Japan's colonial legacy on Korea's economics last week, the difficulty of separating Korean society from imperial Japan is apparent, and thus the issue of how you define 'collaboration' and 'treason' is a complex problem. The flip side of this complexity is the issue of Korean war criminals -- mainly those who worked as prison guards in Southeast Asia. Hankyoreh recently had two articles on this issue:

The complicated history of Korean war criminals
Convicted of war crimes during WWII, 80-year-old Korean tells his story

They are great complementary readings to our readings on collaborators. Were they 'collaborators' of the Japanese military? Should they have been exempted from trials on the ground that they are Koreans? As I posted a while ago, a commission of the Korean government decided to clear 83 of 148 Koreans convicted of war crimes last November.

Besides the problem of how Korea's contemporary politics deals with this issue, there are many interesting historical facts that are worth further investigation. In "The complicated history of Korean war criminals", the author explains that convicted Koreans were sent to the Sugamo Prison in 1950, and they hoped to be released after the San Francisco Treaty in 1952, but "the Japanese government maintained that since the imprisoned Koreans were Japanese citizens when sentenced, they still had to carry out their full terms. This position was confirmed in turn by the Japanese Supreme Court." Korea was in the middle of the Korean War, but it is bizarre to me that the Japanese government and court thought they had the power to decide.

The article also mentions:
"The convicted war criminals united to form a group in the hopes of living well through mutual assistance. In 1960, the group, named Dongjinhoe (moving forward together), jointly formed a taxi company in Japan to secure their livelihood. Though they demanded compensation from the Japanese government beginning in 1956, their appeals fell on deaf ears, and the Japanese government declared their claims void under the terms of the 1965 treaty normalizing relations between South Korea and Japan."
The history and function of Dongjinhoe sound like a very interesting topic to explore. As this posting in Frog in a Well by Owen Miller also speculates, Dongjinhoe (同進会) sounds veery similar to Iljinhoe (一進會), which is usually known as pro-Japanese collaborators' organization.

No comments: