December 26, 2017

Mark E. Caprio

Professor of History

Rikkyo University, Tokyo

Anti-Traitor Legilsation in Post-Liberated Southern Korea:

Shifting Borders Separating Social Compliance and Social Transgression

A major problem that occupied societies faced upon liberation in the post-World War II world was identifying which compatriots were guilty of occupation-era collaboration. Korea, upon being liberated after Japan’s defeat, also faced the daunting task of separating the patriotic resistors from the traitorous collaborators. Several factors complicated the successful resolution of this issue. Different from the relatively short European examples, Japan’s thirty-five year occupation in Korea increased dramatically the number of collaborators. The education and training that many of these Koreans needed to successfully collaborate also armed them with the skills that post-liberated Korea required to rebuild its nation-state. Yet retaining experience meant rejecting colonial resistance, which invited friction in southern Korea between those who assisted the Japanese and those who fought colonial rule. This talk will examine the post-liberation switch in which anti-traitor legislation initially designed to punish first colonial-era collaboration was reconfigured to target the anti-Japanese resistor. It will consider the domestic and international processes that led to a defining, then redefining, of “traitor” before finally punishing those deemed guilty of social transgression under the shifting politics of the interwar period separating World War II and the Korean War.