A Korean Tragedy

by fulltimestudent 32 Replies latest jw friends

  • fulltimestudent

    A Korean Tragedy.

    The Back Story. 4. Russia, Japan and Korea. (continued)

    Above all, from the viewpoint of this discussion, the Qing Empire renounced all influence in Korea, but Russia, not Japan that won immediate influence in Korea. There was a Korean political group that wanted to allow stronger Japanese influence, but a stronger group wanted more Russian influence. The King even ruled Korea from the Russian Embassy for a period. This was something that the Japanese could not tolerate. The Japanese government offered a compromise to the Russians. The Russians could have Manchuria and Japan would have Korea. The Russians refused they wanted an all-year naval base in Port Arthur (Now called Dalian again).

    After negotiations broke down, the Japanese navy made a surprise attack on the Russian Eastern fleet in Port Arthur, destroying most of the Russian ships. That was the commencement of the Russo-Japanese war. The Tsar sent a second fleet from Europe. The Japanese navy waited in ambush and destroyed that fleet too.

    The war hung on until a peace was negotiated by American President Theodore Roosevelt in the so-called Treaty of Portsmouth.

    For the first time in modern history (from a western viewpoint) an Asian nation had humiliated a European nation in a war. It was difficult for some to accept.

    Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany was warning of a ‘yellow peril,' and that Japan and China would unite against Europe.

    "Twenty to thirty million Chinese, supported by a half dozen Japanese divisions, led by competent, intrepid Japanese officers, full of hatred for Christianity—that is a vision of the future that cannot be contemplated without concern, and it is not impossible. On the contrary, it is the realisation of the yellow peril, which I described a few years ago

    And Japan? Japan gradually absorbed Korea, and in a few years declared it part of Japan

  • fulltimestudent

    And that brings us to the modern period and some very dark times in Korea.

    But before we get to the time period in which many of us have lived, there is one more incident to consider. That incident raises a question. Did the USA sell out the Koreans to Japan?

  • fulltimestudent

    A Korean Tragedy.

    The Back Story: 4. Russia, Japan and Korea … and now the USA

    Did The USA sell out the Koreans to the Japanese?

    Let’s look back in history for an answer.

    The USA had mediated an end to the Russian-Japanese war, and during the negotiations (at some point) the US Secretary of War, W.H.Taft and the Japanese PM Katsura Taro had a chat about other issues and ..

    "...The two concluded the secret Taft-Katsura Agreement, in which the United States acknowledged Japanese rule over Korea and condoned the Anglo-Japanese alliance of 1902. At the same time, Japan recognized U.S. control of the Philippines."

    Quoted from a document prepared by the (previously mentioned American, "Office of the Historian.")

    Link: https://history.state.gov/milestones/1899-1913/japanese-relations

    Why would the USA have had wanted the Japanese government to recognise American control of the Philippines?

    That was because as the Spanish Empire collapsed at the end of the nineteenth century, the USA had bought Guam, Puerto Rico and the Philippines from Spain for the sum of twenty million dollars. The problem was that freedom fighters in the Philippines had refused to accept that transaction, and had fought the American occupation forces. The American Army used tactics similar to those developed in the American Indian wars, and some 126,000 American troops had slaughtered some 16,000 Philippino soldiers and contributed to the death of at least 200,000 civilians.

    Why was the USA interested in discussing their invasion of the Philippines with Japan? Because Japan had won control of Taiwan from the Chinese in the 1890's and many thought that the Japanese were also interested in the Philippines. The Taft-Katsura Agreement set out both nations interests and essentially set out a Japanese agreement to Imperial America’s takeover of the Philippines.

    What did the Japanese get in return? In return the Americans recognized that Imperial Japan could take over Korea.

    Were the Koreans sold out? What do you think?

    From 1910 to 1945 Korea became part of the Japanese Empire.

    Darker tragic events loom closer.

  • Bungi Bill
    Bungi Bill
    What did the Japanese get in return? In return the Americans recognized that Imperial Japan could take over Korea.

    fulltimestudent, thanks for posting that - certainly a fact that is otherwise kept very quiet!

    The whole business could be placed under the heading of "Great Power Politics" - something that is certainly not unique to the Korean Peninsula. In other places - such as Western Papua - the victims get ignored and the matter quietly forgotten about. For a variety of reasons, though, not the case with Korea; where it periodically comes back to bite the participants on the backside!

  • fulltimestudent

    A Korean Tragedy.

    The Back Story: 4. Russia, Japan and Korea

    Japan Colonises Korea.

    This was a complicated and difficult time. Yes, Korea (particularly the North) became industrialised, but it was also a time of a great and brutal repression. I've had to leave a lot out, otherwise I'd still be reading and writing.

    Japan Colonises Korea with consequences.

    Japan and Gt. Britain had signed an alliance in 1902, which recognized their respective ‘interests.’ For Britain it was China, and for Japan (primarily) Korea. After the defeat of Russia and an agreement with the USA, Japan was in a position to move quickly to take control of Korea.

    This was a complicated and difficult time. Yes, Korea (particularly the North) became industrialised, but it was also a time of a great and brutal repression. I've had to leave a lot out, otherwise I'd still be reading and writing.

    A cartoon from that period.Britain and Japan shake hands

    On November 17, 1905 Ito Hirobumi, with a Japanese military escort entered the royal palace, threatened the King (Kojong) and his ministers and demanded that they accept a draft treaty the Japanese had prepared. The Koreans refused. Japanese soldiers arrested the PM, others went to the Foreign Ministry Office and returned with the official Korean seal and affixed it to.t the draft treat.

    That Treaty transferred authority for all Korean foreign relations to the Japanese foreign office. Gradually all Korean administrative departments were brought under Japanese control.

    But Koreans did attempt resistance in various ways, some even committing suicide as a form of protest. “Righteous armies,” began armed resistance. But ultimately, the Japanese won, by 1910 they had killed over 17,600 insurgents. There were other forms of protest. Various organisations were formed with the goal of promoting or preserving Korean culture, however any movement that was deemed by the Japanese Colonial government to be too successful was usually closed down. A network of informers were employed by the police to watch for dangerous trends. Japanese migration was encouraged and Japanese officials given preference for promotion. The Colonial government built hundreds of new schools, but taught Japanese language as the “national language.” Korean could only be taught as a second language. It became difficult for Koreans to progress past primary school. (Only 5% of Korean students managed to gain education to a higher level). Land-use surveys were used to identify the most valuable land which was often made available to Japanese investors. A rapid industrialization program was often co-ordinated with Japanese industry in Manchuria.

    World War 1, primarily a European war, fought over control of global resources caused widespread disillusionment among Asian nationalists. Foolish decisions by the victors, (i.e. Britain and France) such as taking control of Syria, Iraq and Iran and amazingly in China, by their attempt to reward Japan for Japan's wartime support, by giving Shandong Province to Japan, caused so many Asian patriots to look elsewhere for their freedom. So in China, Sun Yatsen asked the Comintern to advise him leading to a tense alliance with the small Chinese Communist Party. Future leaders in Indonesia, - (Soekarno), Vietnam - (Ho Chi Minh), Myanmar – Aung San) all turned to Communist thought and/or support in their struggles to thrown off Imperialist enslavement. That occurred in Korea also, which shared a border with the new USSR, to those patriots socialism offered an alternative path for those who sought freedom from the Imperialist powers.

    In 1918 a Korean Socialist Party was founded. And in the USSR, a Korean Communist division was founded. Of course, some hopes were dashed when separate groups fought each other. The Japanese government in Korea was concerned with these groups and often arrested members of such groups.

    In the 1930s the Japanese succeeded in gaining control of all of Manchuria, and campaigned in Korea for active, patriotic support. Many Koreans were encouraged to move into Manchuria, and formed the basis for the Chinese-Koreans of today, Others were moved to Japan’s home islands and their descendants still live in Japan (and interestingly, strongly support North Korea). By 1944 more than 4 million Koreans may have been living and working outside Korea,

    In spite of Japanese repression, there were still some armed groups engaged in a guerilla war with the Japanese. Kim Il-Sung is thought to have led one of those groups. Life would have been difficult for these groups. Japanese harassment never stopped, they would always have been on the run, often with little food or weapons. It was in those circumstances that Kim Il Sung developed his Juche philosophy that today guides the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea. Eventually, the Japanese were able to repress most of the armed guerilla groups. Some like Kim Il Sung took refuge in Soviet Siberia. Kim was given a commission in the Russian Army, a very strong force guarding against a Japanese invasion of Russian territory. Its noteworthy that in two armed incursions by the Japanese Kwantung Army into Soviet territory, the Russian army repelled them.

    Next. Korea is divided.

  • fulltimestudent

    August 15, 1945, the day that WW2 ended was met with jubilation throughout Korea. All Koreans must have thought that now, at last, they could shape their own destiny. But the interaction of great powers meant that once again, national aspirations would be thwarted.

    But before we can see that development, we have to understand events in the last few weeks of the war. Events that had a profound influence on Korea.

    In the various meetings of the Allies in that war, the leaders of the USA (Roosevelt) and the UK (Churchill) requested the USSR (Stalin) to declare war on Japan and so open land war in Eastern Asia. Stalin agreed to do so, but only once the Russians had pushed the Germans out of Russia, Stalin kept that promise and once the European war ended, the Russians started a huge arms build up in Siberia.

    Pause here and think of Kim Il Sung, now a Russian Army Officer, but once part of a guerilla war against the Japanese. During those years, he and his group would often have gone hungry and always without enough arms to do more than make sporadic raids on Japanese posts. I suggest that as he saw train load after trainload of tanks and guns arrive from western Russia, that sight would have made a deep impression on him. He likely concluded (because he could not see the equivalent USA/UK response) that a centralised state was the way to go.

    On August 9, 1945, the Russians declared war and swept into Japanese occupied Manchuria in a classic two pronged pincer movement. A third force commenced moving from Soviet Sakhalin into Japanese Sakhalin and southward, only stopping at the narrow strait facing Hokkaido. Other Soviet forces moved through the Kurile Islands.

    Within 2 weeks the soviet forces were in Korea.

    If you wonder how that final thrust of the war was executed, watch this version of events made for Russian Television.


    Or, if you feel you cannot trust a Russian account, you could reads this account by and American Army officer, LTC David Glantz:


  • Old Navy
    Old Navy

    Aye, the Koreans were sold out then and remain so today. So long as the Puppet Government of South Korea toes the line imposed by America it will be permitted a level of prosperity and freedom. But should it defy support of American Hegemonic Ambitions, chaos will return. The People of all of Korea have suffered perhaps more than any others on Planet Earth.

  • fulltimestudent

    Sorry for delays, but this project turned out to taker more time than I anticipated.

    Anyway before i go on I thought I'd post a few images of the Russian invasion of Manchukuo (The Japanese name for the puppet state they created in North China). I have the impression after a couple of days searching that the number of images on the web have increased. A few years ago, I spent a year at Sydney University studying Korean history, and I did a presentation on the invasion, and found few images. OK, maybe I'm just better at searching these days, or maybe there are more piks. I now have nearly 20. I will only post a few, if anyone has a specific interest, send me a pm and I'll send you more. So here are five I've selected. I should note that often the details are sketchy (to say the least) - I would not use many of them in an academic exercise, but OTOH I have little reason to doubt that they are what they claim to be.

    This is a getty image, apparently sourced from some Soviet source. It is claimed to be a pik of a Russian column driving into Manchuria.

    Here's pik that's captioned as Soviet troops with Chinese civilians. No information as to what city. Note the Chinese man holding a flag of the then Republic of China (i.e. the GMD).

    This pik is claimed to be of a Soviet tank entering Dalian (right down to the south end of the Liaoning Peninsula - a long way from the start point). It would have to be late in the drive, just before the Japanese surrender.

    Japanese soldiers surrendering to Russian troops. No information as to where and the date.

    And the last image is claimed to be of Soviet troops in Korea. No information as to precisely where, or the date. There's little doubt that it is a Russian troop formation. There clearly acting casually, so its likely taken after the Japanese surrender. It would be great to know how far south they were.

  • cofty

    Thank you. Interesting stuff and great pics.

  • fulltimestudent

    The speed with which the Soviet armies crossed Manchuria was in contrast to the American experience in their invasion of Okinawa. On Okinawa, the Japanese defenders resisted with a dogged fierceness, and the horrific battle lasted from April 1 to June 22 in 1945. It is claimed by some observers that it was the strength of the Japanese resistance on Okinawa that influenced American strategists to think of using their newly developed atomic weapons to force Japan to surrender, reasoning that whatever casualties that weapon caused, would surely be less than the casualties that both the Japanese and American sides would suffer in an invasion.

    So why then did the Russians succeed in their lightning drive across Manchuria and into Korea? I would appear that the formerly very strong Kwantung army occupying Manchuria had been greatly weakened by troop and equipment withdrawals, so that by 1945 the Kwantung army was only a shadow of its former fighting ability. If that was the case, and it appears a logical explanation for the speed by which the Russians were able to cross Manchuria, then the American strategists should perhaps have given consideration to planning an invasion of Japanese occupied China.

    As for Korea, it does not seem that the Americans had at any point given much thought to the post-war future of Korea. At the Cairo Conference between the Allied powers, in December 1943, it was agreed that Korea should become free and independent “in due course.” It appears however, that Roosevelt’s “due course” could have been a long (40-50 years) trusteeship. Korea was discussed again in the 1945 conferences in Yalta and Potsdam, and a final resolution was achieved at the Moscow conference in December 1945. A four power trusteeship would govern Korea for up to 5 years and an American-Soviet Joint Commission would work to establish a “unified provisional government for Korea.” As far as is generally known, the American administration had given little thought to how all this may work in practice. That shall become clear.

    And apparently little thought was given to what the Korean people may have thought or wanted. And what Koreans themselves wanted was soon to become very clear.

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