Race for Empire: Koreans as Japanese and Japanese as Americans during World War II

Race for Empire: Koreans as Japanese and Japanese as Americans during World War II

Race for Empire: Koreans as Japanese and Japanese as Americans during World War II

Race for Empire: Koreans as Japanese and Japanese as Americans during World War II

Synopsis

Race for Empire offers a profound and challenging reinterpretation of nationalism, racism, and wartime mobilization during the Asia-Pacific war. In parallel case studies--of Japanese Americans mobilized to serve in the United States Army and of Koreans recruited or drafted into the Japanese military--T. Fujitani examines the U.S. and Japanese empires as they struggled to manage racialized populations while waging total war. Fujitani probes governmental policies and analyzes representations of these soldiers--on film, in literature, and in archival documents--to reveal how characteristics of racism, nationalism, capitalism, gender politics, and the family changed on both sides. He demonstrates that the United States and Japan became increasingly alike over the course of the war, perhaps most tellingly in their common attempts to disavow racism even as they reproduced it in new ways and forms.

Excerpt

I think there was considerable feeling [among Koreans]
that it would be better [than seeking independence] to
join up with Japan, to become Japanese and blend in—
that becoming truly Japanese might be better for the
happiness of the Korean people. … This is certainly not
an unreasonable thought. Even thinking about second
generation Japanese in Hawaii, you know that with
respect to Japan, although it was their mother country,
they swore their allegiance to America. This was a
tremendous thing. the Hawaii Nisei.

Tanaka takeo (former vice governor-general of
Korea), roundtable discussion, “Koiso sōtoku jidai no
gaikan—Tanaka Takeo seimu sōkan ni kiku” (1959)

Racism and its disavowal in total war regimes

Reflecting on her childhood years in early postwar Japan, the pioneering historian and activist Utsumi Aiko wrote in her 1991 contribution to the popular Iwanami Booklet series that she could recall no public memory from that time of the Korean and Taiwanese men who had fought for Japan as soldiers and sailors during the AsiaPacific War. While she remembered those around her struggling to piece together their lives in the immediate aftermath of the war, or simply getting by from day to day, she had no childhood memories of these ethnic and colonial soldiers. “Thus, although the ‘War’ remained in our daily lives,” she wrote, “I had no way of knowing that the Japanese military had drafted soldiers from colonized countries such as Korea and Taiwan. I never imagined that North and South Koreans such as Kim Chae-ch’ang, who had been unilaterally stripped of their Japanese citizenship by the postwar Japanese government and [thereby] had no relief benefits at all, were among those wounded soldiers that [I noticed] in the streets.” While she imagined retrospectively that there must have been Korean soldiers among the wounded or . . .

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