Weeks 4 + 5 (reposted)
What do you think prompted so many Koreans into direct action against Japanese colonial rule? How much of it do you think was the language of the March 1, 1919 Declaration of Independence, and how much were other factors that Shin mentions? Answer this question by thinking about what might prompt you into actions at some moments and not at others. Have you ever felt compelled to act in ways that surprised you?
As per the example discussed in lecture, the Korean people faced a plethora of exploitive actions as a result of Japanese colonial rule, that spurred them to take direct action. When looking at Taki Seilhi, we see that imperialists took over huge areas of fertile land in Korea, so as to provide raw materials for Japanese plantations. This, in turn, meant that many Korean tenant workers had to work as cheap labor in factories. This illustrates just one example in which the Japanese imperialism utilized both social and economic factors in order to further oppress the Korean people, using the system of capitalism to justify an unjust hierarchy.
This is why the language in the Declaration of Independence was so important. This document created powerful, radical language that gave voice to the anger that the Korean people felt as a result of imperialst oppression. This document gave a platform to the concerns that the Korean people felt under Japanese rule, and bolstered patriotism so as to resist the Japanese. In a situation that bred fear and uncertainty in the face of oppression, the language in this document provided something to fight for, and rally around. In my own life, this is why I believe speaking up is so important. Speaking up about injustice can often help others gain the sense of community and confidence to raise their own voices. It’s a rallying point, that helps strengthen any resistance against an injustice.
Why do you think Kawashima insists on focusing on the suppression of Korean workers in Japan by the Soaikai, a Korean welfare organization in his piece? What questions does his analysis raise about the way we might think about both the Taki Seihi strike and the love story between Mr. Kim and Matsuo Shina discussed in the lecture? What are ways that you might think about their relationship beyond the its representation as an inter-racial love story as stated in the newspaper account?
Kawashima’s focus on the suppression of Korean workers by the Soaikai provides important context into the extent of the suppression taking place. The Korean organization, Roso, was made by Koreans, for Koreans, in order to unionize and fight labor discrimination. However, the state sponsored Soaikai emerged as a supposed welfare organization, and generated more support as opposed to Roso, convincing workers to join this organization. This organization began to function as a “preventative police”, and was allowed to operate outside of the scope of their duties, with the backing of the state. Eventually, this came to represent a force that aimed to police Korean people so as to ensure peace in Japan. This came on the back of racists stereotypes, and it is clear to see how this example illustrates the oppression faced by the Korean people.
When looking at the Taki Seihi strike, it raises the more general question — how can a group resist oppression in the face of state power? How can they overcome radicalization in order to undermine the authority of an exploitive power. Further, looking at Mr. Kim and Matsuo Shina’s relationship through this lens, I can see beyond the label of an inter-racial relationship. Despite the different interpretations of the intended effect of the newspaper story, it is clear to me just how defiant of a relationship it was. To have stood up to racial stereotypes and cultural norms in that way is such a true example of resistance in the face of state oppression.
The idea that both Liang Qichao and He Zhen developed their politics while away from the China, and then, despite similarities in what they were reading and the questions they were asking regarding nationalism/modernity, had divergent understandings of nationalism is fascinating to me, My parents grew up in India, a place of both centralized practices and a vast number of vastly different cultures, so I myself have always questioned the homogenization of Indian culture, and my own perspective as an American citizen. This particular section of the course has allowed me to narrow that framing to East Asia — I’m curious and eager to understand how outside influence, different cultures, different genders/socioeconomic status/access change how people see themselves and their country in the context of a global, modern world.