Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Trauma in Colonization

During over three decades of Japanese colonization, the Korean citizens experienced much hardship and struggle.  For the men, the Japanese government forced then to be laborers and soldiers, fighting and risking their lives for Japanese causes. Japanese women suffered a worse fate as they were forced to serve in military brothels and live a life of servitude for the Japanese men.  Socially, the Korean identity was lost and replaced with ideals and beliefs of the Japanese.

When Japan entered World War II, they needed more soldiers to fight their war and more laborers to keep up their workforce.  As such, it was estimated that about “450,000 forced laborers were sent to Japan” to perform hard work with minimal pay.  For the farmers, Japan confiscated their land and forced them off the premise, only to give the acres to Japanese citizens who immigrated to Korea. The Korean women also became victims of the Japanese as they were used as the so-called “comfort women who served in Japanese military brothels. Modern historians estimated between 10,000 and 200,000 of comfort women were used by the Japanese.  What made the act more appalling was that, according to testimonies, there were numerous cases where Japanese officials and local collaborators kidnapped the women for these jobs.  Furthermore, recruiting poor rural women for sexual slavery under the guise of offering factory employment was rampant under the Japanese rule.

Perhaps what made the Japanese colonization more atrocious was the destruction of evidence.  Even in modern day, Japan is notorious for their role in changing history books in order to alter their actions/behaviors during various wars throughout history.   With that said, during their colonization of Korea, the Japanese government intentionally destroyed official records regarding comfort women. Japanese inventory logs and employee sheets on the battlefield showed some documentation of government-sponsored sexual slavery. In one instance, names of known comfort women were traced to Japanese employment records. Currently, the South Korean government is investigating hundreds of cases on these lists. (3)  As evidenced, during the reign of the Japanese rule, Korean people lost their most basic rights and suffered while serving the mother country.  

Oppressed people, naturally, will find the courage to unite against their oppressors.  Thus, after years of suffering, some groups began to revolt against Japanese Imperialism. In March 1919, an Anti-Japanese demonstration attracted so many supporters and became so chaotic that the Japanese national and military police could not contain the crowds.  The army and even the navy were called in to quell the revolution. What ensued were several reports of Japanese atrocities. In one incident, the Japanese police in the village of Jeam-ri Hwaseong herded everyone into a church, locked it, and burned it to the ground. They even shot through the burning windows of the church to ensure that no one made it out alive. Many participants of the March 1st Movement were subjected to torture and execution.

These outrageous and merciless events deeply affected the Korean people’s livelihood. For the women, the memories of serving as ‘comfort women’ and of sexual abuse left them psychologically traumatized. Though the physical pains could be cured, the psychological nightmares casted a shadow and many could never completely restore their lives.  Yet despite these unfortunate consequences, Japanese colonization did leave some positive imprints onto the Korean culture.  Most notably was the laying the infrastructure and raising the literacy rate among citizens as the Japanese constructed schools and hospitals.(4) These foundations could possibly influence the Koreans’ strong beliefs in education, a belief that is still prevalent in the Korean society today.

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