Dialectics of Protest Past and Present: A Reconsideration of Postwar Zainichi Activism

Robert Del Greco, assistant professor of Japanese studies, Oakland University

Teaching East Asia

In Postwar Japan thousands of newly liberated Koreans took to the streets to agitate for the release of political prisoners, the right to run Korean-language schools, and reparations for their forced labor during wartime, among other causes. By September 1949 the US occupation and Japanese government would see the protestors as dangerous subversives who were in the thrall of communist ideology. When police occupied the headquarters of the "League of Koreans in Japan" and forced that organization to disband, the government took a rhetorical position that is familiar today: holding large groups responsible for the isolated violence of a few, emphasizing the dangers posed to police by protestors, and fixating on protests' damage to property and business operations. With the aim of better understanding protest movements worldwide, and also the tactics deployed to delegitimize them, this presentation explores the parallels between Korean activism in Postwar Japan and protests currently playing out in the United States.

Sponsored by East Asian Languages and Cultures

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