The Korean Ideological Divide in Occupied Japan

Conference: AAS-in-Asia2020 (AAS-in-Asia2020)
Title: The Korean Ideological Divide in Occupied Japan
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