The Korean Ideological Divide in Occupied Japan

Title: 1254 | The Korean Ideological Divide in Occupied Japan
Area: Northeast Asia
Stream: History
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Joel Matthews, Surugadai University, Japan (organizer, presenter, chair)
Yongmi Ri, Hitotsubashi University, Japan (presenter)
Jihye Chung, Tokyo Polytechnic University, Japan (presenter)
Yuki Kosaka, Kansai Gaidai University, Japan (discussant)


The loss of Japan’s overseas colonies with the cessation of hostilities in August 1945 concomitantly heralded Korean “liberation” and the onset of Japan’s “postcolonial” postwar era. However, both Japanese postcoloniality and Korean liberation were neither straightforward nor complete. This panel seeks to interrogate this moment in East Asian history through the ideological divide that emerged within the Korean community in occupied Japan and examine how that divide continued to impact regional geopolitics. The panelists will disrupt conventional narratives of Japanese postwar pacifism and offer nuanced accounts of the Cold War in East Asia. Numerous Korean organizations emerged in the wake of Japan’s defeat, offering support to the estimated two million Koreans residing in Japan during 1945. However, division of the peninsula along ideological lines was quickly reproduced in Japan which often resulted in tension, hostility, and violent conflict between Koreans. Joel Matthews, through an historical analysis of occupation era public safety and crime reports, introduces a series of intra-Korean incidents illustrating how cold war tensions were prevalent within the “liberated” Korean community in Japan from as early as mid-1946. Furthermore, Yongmi Ri’s analysis of immigration control measures targeting Korean residents questions the nascent categories of “nation” and “nationality/citizenship” in postwar/occupied Japan. In particular, within the context of growing tensions between Japan’s Korean communities and the ongoing ideological “threat” from the Korean peninsula, the Japanese authorities and Allied occupiers formulate localized immigration controls with significant consequences for former colonial subjects. Finally, Jihye Chung’s research focuses on visual representations of the Korean War and the ideological divide on the peninsula. Utilizing CIE-USIS visual media archival material, Chung offers an analysis of the increasingly Cold War-infused media landscape in occupied Japan, which not only contributed to debates about Japan’s own rearmament, but also superimposed the geopolitical and ideological divide on the peninsula onto

Panel Abstracts:
Intra-Korean Ideological Conflict in Japan’s Immediate Postwar
Due to the chaotic nature of the first six months of the Allied occupation of Japan, two Korean organizations, the left-leaning ‘League of Koreans in Japan’ (Chōren) and the right-leaning ‘League of Founders of the New Korea’ (Kendō & Kensei) became the embodiment of the divided occupations taking place on the Korean peninsula. While the League of Koreans in Japan was the first and largest Korean organization representing Korean interests in Japan, its connections with communism and communists (both Japanese and Korean) caused it to become the focus of SCAP/GHQ and Japanese surveillance. The League of Founders of the New Korea, on the other hand, associated itself with the American-occupied south of Korea and vied with the League of Koreans in Japan for not only influence over Koreans in Japan, but also for political and economic favor with the Japanese authorities and Allied occupiers. While the onset of the cold war in Japan is generally described in the context of the ‘reverse course’ taking effect from 1947, when considered from the political context of the Korean community in Japan, serious ideological conflict had been occurring since the establishment both Korean organizations in late 1945. This presentation offers an historical analysis of occupation era public safety and crime reports, and introduces a series of intra-Korean deadly incidents that effectively illustrate how cold war tensions compromised both Korean liberation and postcolonial relations with Japan.

Postwar Japanese Immigration Control and the Image of Korean "Illegality"
In the early 1950s, immigration policy measures targeting Korean residents was under the control of SCAP/GHQ and Japanese authorities. In particular, as an ideological confrontation, the Korean War greatly influenced postwar Japanese Immigration policy. Division on the Korean peninsula and outbreak of the Korean War directly influenced the anti-communist precautions taken through immigration control. Korean “illegal” immigrants from the peninsula awakened fears in Japan that it would be inundated with “illegal” immigrants who were spies and subversive activists. When “illegal” immigrants were connected to left-wing movements, such as the League of Koreans in Japan or the Japanese Communist Party, their release from immigration control facilities was disallowed, and they were detained or deported. Conversely, when “illegal” immigrants were connected with “anti-communist” movements they were sometimes exempted from deportation. During this period, the ideological stance of Koreans became a significant factor when determining whether to release or deport Koreans in Japan. This presentation examines how the geopolitical tensions between Japan and Korean peninsula in this period came to frame Japan's border control system through the production of images of Koreans as a "threat" or “illegal.”

Representations of the Korean War in Japanese Moving Images
This presentation examines the representation of the Korean War in Japanese non-fiction moving images in the early 1950s. In the 1950s, with war breaking out on the Korean peninsula and the early influence of the Cold War, Japan was starting to debate about its own rearmament under tense international circumstances in East Asia. In the early occupation period, social systems including the media were reformed in line with the ideal of democracy. However, with Cold War tensions steadily emerging, ideological issues began to influence culture, and this was reflected in the media. In occupied Japan, the CIE (The Civil Information and Education Division) was tasked with the re-education of the Japanese people through various media including broadcast television, radio, newspaper, and films. The CIE/USIS made more than 400 short documentary films to spread the ideals of democracy and pacifism. However, as the conflict of the Cold War intensified, the films were increasingly being utilized as an instrument for influence and propaganda in the cultural Cold War in liberal countries. In this presentation, I analyze the news coverage of the Korean War in visual media such as CIE films and newsreels in Japan, and consider the significance of these images in the broader context of the Cold War in East Asia

This panel is on Friday - Session 02 - Room 9

Go to Room 9