Serious content warning: linked articles contain extensive discussion of violence, war and rape. There are also graphic images of dead bodies in some. If that makes you feel down,
This post will mainly have articles from Wikipedia and the Global Nonviolent Action Database. Both of these sources contain flaws but are very comprehensive and accessible. If you know of a better article to use as a substitute feel free to comment it or message me about it.
Discourse around South Korea and Japan tends to get really, really messy. I recently had a lot of arguments with US hegemony supporters who argue that South Korea and Japan represent huge successes of US hegemony (I think the word hegemony is more appropriate than imperialism, but anyway). So, I'd like to cover to some ground, both looking at the positive social struggles to study from these two countries, and the brutal acts of state violence within both and some overlooked issues. Enjoy!
- During the Korean War, there was an absolutely awful US bombing campaign of the North (nly link about North Korea for the sake of sectarianism, PM me if you want articles that I think show what North Korea is really like), US army massacres (maybe more) and plenty of bad shit done by South Korea. Why these things are overlooked baffles me.
- South Korea was a dictatorship from 1945 to 1987 (barring 1960-1961) and mass protests in 1987 successfully forced down the government. They weren't the first either.
- South Korea has a lot of workers protests, I can't really be bothered to list them all but you should be able to find some on libcom and the nonviolent database. List any others in the comments!
- In the 1950s, farmers and students protests blocked the construction of a new US air force base in Japan. An example where the people actually won against hegemony!
- There were significant protests in Japan against US military bases. Also a riot in Okinawa!
- One of the largest protest movements was the opposition to a civilian airport led by local leftists and residents. Although it failed it's still interesting to read about.
- Japan had huge (but sadly ineffective) protests against sexism and economic inequality in 2018 and 2019.
- Okinawa is a territory that should be free from Japan and Japan is kind of a colonial state until this day.
I'm about to sleep so I can't be bothered writing summaries for these and I'm copy pasting from this post I made:
- 1953: Tachikawa air disaster
- 1954: Daigo Fukuryu Maru
- 1955: Yumiko-chan incident
- 1957: Girard incident
- 1959: Okinawa F-100 crash
- 1964: Machida F-8 crash
- 1965: Philippine Sea A-4 incident
- 1977: Yokohama F-4 crash
- 1992: Murder of Yun Geum-i
- 1995: Okinawa rape incident
- 1996: Padilla car crash
- 1998: Eskridge car crash
- 2002: Yangju Highway incident
- 2002: Michael Brown Okinawa assault incident
There's also the fact that it was just exposed that US military bases in Okinawa contaminated drinking water for 450,000 people and they ARE NOT INVESTIGATING IT WTF!!!
In discussing US hegemony, people will use WW2 to defend it. Now, this leads to some spicy discourse, since we can bring up shitty things done by the Allies, but this is also what fascists do. So there is some debate over if it's even worth talking about. I think it is, since people are inevitably going to find out about bad things done by the Allies, who do you want to be the ones telling them about it, socialists or fascists? Anyway, here are the two worst things the Allies/USA did to Japan that are almost never discussed.
tl;dr key points
- The Korean War was absolutely monstrous and South Korean and US conduct was despicable. The most destructive action was the bombing campaign which destroyed 85% of North Korea's buildings. You read that right. It was so intense that within a year schools and hospitals were forced into underground bunkers, dams were being blown up nearly causing massive famine and POWs described the entire country as a snow-covered wasteland. It was hell and some have even argued it constitutes genocide.
- South Korea wasn't a happy little democracy after the Korean War, but was a fairly brutal dictatorship up until 1987 where mass protests forced it out.
- The war against Japan and subsequent military occupation had a lot of really bad shit - maybe that's just war but like, holy shit. If we want to ever dismantle US hegemony we need to be able to counter the myth that the USA was a noble force that saved the world during WW2, and while I prefer what came after to what the Nazis had planned, we should still be willing to present criticism of Allied actions and try to dominate the discussion so neo-fascists cannot.
- US military presence in Japan and South Korea is extremely controversial within those countries due to horrific crimes by soldiers, pollution issues and civilian deaths. These issues are virtually unknown in the west and USA.
I will make a better version of this post one day, this was a rough one I did quickly. Let me know if there's anything else to do quickly!