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The Division of Korea

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The division between North and South Korea happened after the conclusion of World War II, and it ended the Japanese rule, which had been in effect for 35 years. The United States and the USSR each took control of one half of the former country of Korea, with the USA taking the south and the USSR taking the north. The two countries attempted to negotiate towards the goal of a unified Korea, but failed. As a result, elections were held in the south portion in 1948, supervised by the United Nations. The winner was Syngman Rhee, who was a noted anti-communist. Meanwhile, in the north, Kim Il-sung was named leader by Joseph Stalin.

The Republic of Korea and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

South Korea became the Republic of Korea and North Korea became the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and both governments claimed that they were the official government of the entire Korean peninsula. This eventually lead to the Korean War, which began in 1950. Korea had previously been unified for centuries, and the sudden division was viewed as extremely contentious right away by both governments. It was also seen as temporary. After the governments were established, and before the official start of the war, both sides engaged in various conflicts along the dividing border. The forces of North Korea eventually took it a step further by invading the south. The UN immediately intervened with a force led by the USA.

While North Korea’s forces were in the South, they attempted to unite Korea under their regime. Initially, the intervention from the UN was supposed to restore the border, however, both Syngman Rhee and General Douglas MacArthur agreed that North Korea’s forces had ruined the border concept entirely. MacArthur further said that he wanted to pursue uniting Korea, not just driving the North back to their territory.

The Korean War

North Korea’s forces were able to take over 90 percent of the South’s territory before being attacked by US forces. The North’s forces were driven from the South, and then South Korean and UN forces crossed the previous border. Before this happened, China warned that it would get involved if the South tried to take over the North. As the North had attempted to do, the South also tried to unite Korea with its occupation. However, China finally intervened, as it said it would, and drove the South’s forces back into their own territory.

By 1951, the 38th parallel had become a fairly stable front line for the ongoing war, but both sides began to consider peace. Syngman Rhee wanted the war continue until the South won, but the North’s side wanted an armistice. After three years, both sides eventually signed the Korean Armistice Agreement, which created the Korean Demilitarized Zone. Rhee did not accept the agreement and continued to lobby for uniting Korea by force.

Present Day Korean Relations

North and South Korea have remained in technical conflict since the Korean War, which never really ended in a final sense. Both governments have continued to claim ownership of the Korean peninsula, and negotiations between both countries have generally failed to produce any results towards unification, or even full peace. Military confrontations have continued as well. North Korea is largely supported by China in the present day as the USSR no longer exists. South Korea is still strongly supported by the United States and its allies.

In 2018, some progress was made as the North’s leader Kim Jong-un met with the South’s leader Moon Jae-in. The leaders met in the DMZ and signed the Panmunjom Declaration to end military activities at the border.

The Assassination of Empress Myeongseong

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The Assassination of Empress Myeongseong

Empress Myeongseong, popularly known as ‘Queen Min,’ was assassinated by Japanese agents on October 8, 1895.  Myeongseong was 43 years old at the time of her demise. The plot to kill the empress was masterminded by Miura Goro, the then Japanese minister to Korea. The Russian ministry of foreign affairs kept the records on the assassin and revealed them publicly in 2001.

The Assassination of Empress Myeongseong

The records included a testimony provided by King Gojong, as well as several accounts given by witnesses to the killing. Also, the documents comprised of a report sent to Lobanov-Rostovsky by Karl Ivanovich Weber. Back then, Lobanov-Rostovsky was the foreign minister of Russia, while Karl was a diplomat at the Russian embassy in Seoul.  According to the account of Seredin-Sabatin, a Russian eyewitness, several Japanese agents and servicemen from the Hullyeondae army went into the royal palace and killed Queen Min. Afterwards, the assassins defiled the corpse in the north wing of the palace. The witness was an employee of the King of Korea.

After the killing of the Empress, the father of King Gojong, Daewongun, returned to the palace. Later on, King Gojong abandoned the Gyeongbokgung palace for the Russian consulate on Seoul. The king governed the Korean empire form the Russian embassy for almost a year. This period is referred to as the Korean royal refuge at the Russian legation.

 

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Koiso Kuniaki

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Koiso Kuniaki

Koiso Kuniaki was born in April 1, 1880 in small city called Utsunomiya Japan. He was a Japanese army general and prime minister during World War ll

Here’s a little bit about his history

In 1990, he graduated from the Army Academy at the top of his class.

Koiso went on to become Chief of Bureau of Military Affairs, and in 1932 he became vice-minister of war.

Later on, he took over and became commander of the 5th division and Chief of Staff Kantor Gun.

Kanto Gun was a military operation in China.

From 1935 to 1938, he was a commander in Chief. His role as a commander involved directing military operations in Korea.

In 1939 and 1940, he served as a minister to oversee affairs in Hiranume and Yanal respectively.

At the beginning of World War II, Koiso returned to Korea where he took over the role of governor-general.

In 1944, when the fall of Tojo cabinet happened, he was entrusted with the country’s prime minister position to pursue his war effort.

In April 1945, he resigned when the US troops landed in Okinawa. He was sentenced to life in prison because of his association with war crimes.

Koiso Kuniaki

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Koiso Kuniaki is a Japanese legend who was born on April 1st, 1880 in Utsunomiya, Japan. He is remembered for serving Japan as its Prime minister and army General during the World War II. Koiso Kuniaki graduated as the top army graduate of his class in the army academy. He exited the army academy in 1900. He later proceeded to the Army War College to cement his military skills. At this time, Koiso Kuniaki served in one of the most active positions during the Russo-Japanese War.

Koiso worked very hard in all the positions he held. His passion for serving his country was evident right from the time he was in the war academy. He scaled up the ranks, and in 1930, Koiso received an appointment to become the Chief of Bureau of Military Affairs. He worked on this task for close to two years. During his time as the Chief of Bureau of Military Affairs, Kuniaki ensured that all military matters were taken seriously by both the government and the military body. He streamlined various military departments for efficiency.

Author=毎日新 / Source = 毎日新聞社編『明治・大正・昭和・平成歴代宰相 下巻』(毎日新聞社、2004年)

In the year 1932, Koiso Kuniaki was appointed to be the vice minister of war. As the vice minister for war in Japan, Koiso helped in strengthening the military position of his country. He ensured that all the soldiers and other military personnel received the necessary support from the government and the general public. He also enforced discipline and hard work among the military bodies.

Koiso Kuniaki was appointed as the commander of the 5th division. Koiso Kuniaki was also nominated to become the Chief of staff of Kantogun that was tasked with military operations in China. He became the Commander in 1935 and served for three years until 1938. His duty as the commander was to direct military operations in Korea. The government of Japan and Korea highly appreciated his work. Koiso was a real military tool.

At this time, Koiso Kuniaki had acquired extensive experience and expertise in military operations. He had grown into a resource. The whole department depended on his tactics and innovations. His skills could not be matched with anyone else in the entire region.

Koiso Kuniaki later became the minister of overseas affairs during the Hiranuma of 1939 and Yonai of 1940 cabinets. In the two assemblies, Koiso was considered as the best-suited person to guide and enlighten the country about the military affairs. He was among the most famous people in the cabinet.

共同通信 / Kyodo News

Koiso Kuniaki returned to Korea at the onset of the World War II and served as the governor-general of Korea. He performed his duties as the Governor-General with passion and love for the people. He utilized his extensive skills in leadership and governance that he had acquired in his previous positions.

Later, after the fall of the Tojo cabinet in the year 1944, Koiso received an appointment to be the Prime Minister. His appointment was aimed at tasking him with the duties of propelling the war effort. Koiso proved to be equal to the task when he started consolidating various military issues. He had a plan to make the army stronger than he found it.

The U.S military arrived in Okinawa in 1945. Following the landing of the U.S troops, Koiso chose to resign from the duties of the Prime Minister. The U.S army trailed him and captured him. He was then convicted of war crimes and received a life sentence. Koiso Kuniaki died on November 3rd, 1950 while serving a life sentence in Tokyo. It was suspected that prison conditions and aging accelerated his death. Koiso will remain to be remembered.

Emperor Showa

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The 124th Emperor of Japan, Emperor Hirohito reigned from December 25, 1926 until his death in 1989. Born Michinomiya Hirohito on April 29, 1901, Emperor Hirohito was only 15 years old when he was crowned a prince. He was the first crown prince to travel abroad to study in Europe. When he returned to Japan in 1921, Crown Prince Hirohito was named regent when his father, Emperor Taisho, became chronically ill in 1921. He then became the acting ruler of Japan because his father’s health was failing.

 

As regent, Crown Prince Hirohito automatically became the new emperor upon his father’s death. Emperor Hirohito was his official name while serving as emperor of Japan. As with tradition, Emperor Hirohito was renamed after his death. The name Emperor Showa was given because it was the name of the era of Emperor Hirohito’s reign. Showa was a name Emperor Hirohito had chosen for the time he reigned which can be roughly translated to mean “enlightened harmony”.

 

Emperor Showa married Princess Nagako in January 26, 1924. Princess Nagako was a distant cousin of Emperor Showa which was the tradition. They had seven children together, two boys and five girls. Their oldest son, Akihito, was eventually crowned a prince. Later, Crown Prince Akihiot broke a 1,500 year tradition of marrying within the family by marrying a commoner.

 

Emperor Hirohito, or Emperor Showa, ruled Japan during the Second Sino-Japanese War which led into World War 2 (WW2). He was considered a controversial leader during this time period. Japan was already considered one of the great powers when Emperor Showa, started his reign. It was one of only four permanent members of the League of Nations and was recognized as the ninth largest economy in the world. Following WWII, many leaders were prosecuted for war crimes. Emperor Showa was not prosecuted and his involvement remains controversial still today.

 

Under his reign, Emperor Showa became the commander-in-chief of the Japanese armed forces. He was also considered the highest spiritual authority as emperor. Instead of being charged with war crimes, MacArthur made a deal with Emperor Showa to implement a new Japanese constitution. This agreement also required the denouncement of the practice of imperial divinity.

 

Following the end of WWII, the United States continued to occupy Japan until 1952. During this occupation, the United States worked to transform Japan so that the sovereignty would lay with the people through a constitutional monarchy instead of the emperor. When the American occupation withdrew, Japan experienced a rapid economic growth period which Emperor Showa reigned over. The 64 year reign of Emperor Showa was the longest imperial reign in the history of Japan.

 

On January 7, 1989, Emperor Showa died of cancer of the small intestine at the Aoyama Palace in Tokyo. His funeral was an international event attended by such leaders as the President of the United States George H. W. Bush and the French President Francois Mitterrand. He was buried in the Imperial Mausoleum in Hachioji. He was succeeded by his son Akihito. Emperor Showa had remained an active figure in Japan up until his death.

The Goryeo Dynasty

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The Goryeo Dynasty was the last in Korea shaped by Buddhist’s after the political influence of 1000 years. It was established during 918, the Later Three Kingdoms united it in 935 and the Joseon Dynasty replaced the Goryeo Dynasty in 1392. During the end of the ninth century the Three Kingdoms of Korea lost control over the local lords. Gyeon Hwon, Yang Gil, Gi Hwon and Gung Ye led the country through the rebellion and civil war. Hubaekje was established by Gyeon Hwon and Hugoguryeo by Gung Ye. They were the Later Three Kingdoms along with Silla. As a lord of Songak, Wang Geon joined Taebong, established Goryeo and overthrew Gung Ye in 918. In 935 Goryea annexed Silla and in 936 defeated Hubaekje. The first king of Goryeo was Wang Geon.

 

Gwangjong was the fourth king and made numerous laws to strengthen the central government including the 958 freeing of the slaves. Gyeongjong was the fifth king and Seongjong the sixth. The northern border was ravaged during the Goryeo-Khitan Wars between 933 and 1019. Goryeo’s central government was in complete authority when Munjong became the eleventh king. The importance of civilian leaderships was emphasized by the later kings over the military. In 933, 800,000 Khitan troops invaded the northwest border of Goryeo. The withdrawal of the Khitan ceded the territory east of the Yalu River and the alliance with Song China ended. Goryeo then built a fortress in the northern territories.

 

A coup was led by General Gang Jo in 1009 against King Mokjong. Military rule was established when the king was killed. The Khitan attacked again in 1010. Gang Jo died while blocking the Liao invasions. The Khitan attacked for the third time in 1018. General Gang Gamchan destroyed the dam when the Khitans were crossing and most of the army drowned. The entire Khitan army was annihilated by a massive attack led by General Gang.

 

The House of Yi married into the family of the seventeenth king and gained more power than the king. This led to a failed coup in 1126 by Yi Ja-gyeom. This weakened the monarchy and a civil war ensued among the nobility. The Goryeo nobility was divided in half when a move to Seogyeong was proposed by Myo Cheong in 1135. Myo Cheong could not persuade the king to move, rebelled, failed and was executed.

 

Yi Ui-bang and Jeong Jung-bu overthrew the crown in 1170. King Myeongjong took power and king Injong was exiled. General Kyong Taesung came to power in 1177 He attempted to purge corruption and restore the monarch’s power but died in 1184. He was succeeded by a cruel and corrupt Yi Ui-min. In 1197 he was assassinated by Choi Chungheon. The Choe house ruled for 61 years as military dictators. Goryeo was invaded in 1231 as part of the campaign to conquer China. Choe Chung-heon began fighting back in 1232 and in 1259 sued for peace. Gojong ordered the Tripitaka Koreana be recreated after the destruction of the invasion of 1232. This took fifteen years and the scriptures were housed in Haeinsa.

 

The dictator Choi was assassinated by Kim Jun in 1258 and the military dictatorship was over. A peace treaty was then established. King Gongmin lost interest in the state affairs after his wife died in 1365. The rule went to Sin Don for six years until a court official killed him. General Choe Yeong established an invasion campaign in 1388 and Goryeo fell in 1392. The Joseon Dynasty was then established. Buddhism declined due to corruption during the second half of Goryeo. This eventually led to the three teachings by the Korean Buddhist monks.

Comfort women stories. What actually happened

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The Comfort women stories from World War 2 have echoed throughout the world. The hardship and suffering that they faced during their days in the Comfort Women brothels has made a mark in world history.

Comfort Women served in military brothels before and during World War II. Comfort Women is a translation of the Japanese “ianfu,” which is a common euphemism for a prostitute. Though estimates on the number of women who took part in the brothels vary, they begin at 20,000 women. Stories of Comfort Women were revealed in different military and humanitarian reports after the war concluded.

 

There is a general lack of documentation, which keeps an exact number of Comfort Women from being determined. The Asahi Shibum, a Japanese newspaper, once published that the number of Comfort Women was over 100 000, which was redacted when it was discovered to be erroneous. The number likely refers to the number of women who started to work in the civil labor corp. as nurses and cleaners during the war.

 

Comfort Stations were found in many of the places occupied by Japan. Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaya, Taiwan, The Dutch East Indies, and Timor all had Comfort Stations. According to many testimonies, women from agricultural villages and with no educational opportunities were recruited by local brokers. The brokers, also called middlemen, then trafficked the women to locally owned brothels, so that they could provide “comfort” to soldiers during the war. When the war started, the brokers used conventional methods like newspaper advertisements to recruit women.

 

Kimiko Kaneda

Kimiko Kaneda was a South Korean Comfort Woman. She was half Japanese and half Korean, but she ended up living with her uncle in Korea. Kaneda’s father was a priest who was arrested for defaming Japanese shrines. At age 16, Kaneda worked as a housemaid in Seoul. She became addicted to opium after being sent to work as a Comfort Woman in Zaoqiang, which got her sent back to Seoul in 1945. The following is a part of her story transcribed from a video:

 

Forced to become a comfort woman


How did I feel? I felt as if we were taken here to be killed. I could not but weep. No one talked. All were weeping. That night we slept there and in the morning we were put in those rooms. Soldiers came to my room, but I resisted with all my might. The first soldier wasn’t drunk and when he tried to rip my clothes off, I shouted “No!” and he left. The second soldier was drunk. He waved a knife at me and threatened to kill me if I didn’t do what he said. But I didn’t care if I died, and in the end he stabbed me. Here (She pointed her chest).”

“He was taken away by the military police and I was taken to the infirmary. My clothes were soaked with blood. I was treated in the infirmary for twenty days. I was sent back to my room. A soldier who had just returned from the fighting came in. Thanks to the treatment my wound was much improved, but I had a plaster on my chest.”

“Despite that the soldier attacked me, and when I wouldn’t do what he said, he seized my wrists and threw me out of the room. My wrists were broken, and they are still very weak. Here was broken…. There’s no bone here. I was kicked by a soldier here. It took the skin right off… you could see the bone.”

 

At the time, prostitution was legal in Japan. Since it was legal, the system of Comfort Women was invented to prevent battlefield conflicts. This would reduce hostility from native populations in occupied areas. After the war ended, Japan issued formal apologies that aimed to compensate Comfort Women monetarily (2015 Comfort Women Agreement).

The History Of The Joseon Dynasty

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The Joseon Dynasty

The Joseon dynasty, also known as the Yi Dynasty, was the last of its kind in Korean history. It is also the longest-serving dynasty in Korea, having lived on for over five centuries. The dynasty was formed by Yi Song-gye. Its capital was located at Hanyang, presently known as Seoul. The Kingdom drew its name from the state that had established authority over the Korean peninsula in the past.

The Joseon Dynasty

Yi was close to the bordering Ming dynasty in China. As a result, Ming considered Joseon as a client to his kingdom. Due to the high indolence of Chinese culture at the time, Joseon borrowed its governance model form Neo-Confucianism.

The first change implemented by the Yi dynasty was the redistribution of land parcels which was previously controlled by a chosen few in the leadership. The kingdom was also supportive of scholarship, with the most remarkable achievement on this front being the introduction of the Korean alphabet, known as Hangul.  Later on, Yi introduced a bureaucratic system of administration.

Jan attacked Korea in 1592. Despite assistance from Chinese forces, the Japanese prevailed over the Koreans. This caused the loss of several valuable assets as well as the weakening of the kingship. The country, however, had fully recovered from the effects of the invasion by the beginning of the 20th century.

Korea isolated from international relations until very late into the 19th century. In 1876, the country signed the Treaty of Ganghwa after insistent pressure from Japan. The Joseon dynasty ended in 1910 after Japan seized Korea.

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Assassination of Queen Min

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At a time when all the world’s eyes and ears are on peace talks with North Korea, it is interesting to note the Korean Queen Min’s assassination back in 1895 is still of interest and trending online. “Part of the reason why there is so much interest in Empress Myeongseong is this popular ‘Queen Min’ was killed by stabbing with a knife. The a new conspiracy theory today in 2018, good Queen Min was murdered by “a band of ruffians” said to be both Koreans and Japanese; while famed historian Clarence Norwood states in his book, “Hulbert’s History of Korea,” that the Queen’s assassin was believed to be linked “by the Japanese minister to Korea.”

Queen Min was a political power player

The detailed history of King Lojong and his wife, Lady Min or Queen Min, is very interesting in wake of current peace talks between North and South Korea and nearby Japan. While Japanese history states that there’s always been “cultural tensions between Korea and Japan,” the Japanese government has refused to confirm if, in fact, one of his government officials played a role in the infamous 1895 killing of Korea’s beloved queen. In fact, it is well-known in Korea’s national history that Queen Min was heart-broken after her own child, Wnja, passed away just after giving birth back in 1871. In response, the queen became “more political,” states Korean history texts “because Queen Min wanted to help King Kojong with his rule when it involved issues impacting Korean women and family members.”

Politically savvy Queen Min remembered

There are many fans of Queen Min in both North and South Korea today. For example, there are very exciting stories from that period in Korean national history that speaks of “corruption” and how a political upheaval, in the “Kapsin Year 1884” that resulted in the Royal Mins being removed from power until good Queen Min helped expose corruption in Seoul that the queen linked to Ch’ing China’s negative influence. This newly promoted history of Korea from the 19th century speculates that it may have been someone from China and not Japan who actually committed the stabbing of the queen. Still, the jury is out on who killed Queen Min because the government officials in China and Japan both are keeping mum, or quiet, about who may have assassinated this rising “Queen of the Korean People.”

Overall, there will continue to be theories about who killed Queen Min because “we live in a heated political time when leaders in China and Japan do not want to admit to anything that will upset their Korean allies who trade goods with them,” explained Korean historians in various college history texts of Asia in the 19th century. The consensus is Queen Min’s killer “may have been known to the queen and even the king,” while it is truly difficult today, some 123 years after Queen Min’s killing to known exactly who did the deed in a country where such violence is not soon forgotten.

History of Family Law Revision in South Korea

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On July 17, 1948, Article 9, Paragraph 1 of the South Korean Constitution read as follows: “All citizens shall be equal before the law and there shall be no discrimination in political, economic, social or cultural life on account of sex, religion, or social status.”

 

As forward-thinking as that was at the time, the reality for most Korean women was very different. Many of the cultural influences that poured into Korea over the next five decades would serve to prevent women from being free to function in their world without some type of male representation. The “traditional” gender roles were enforced then in much the same way as they are now, through family, education, religious beliefs and organizations, and the media at large.

 

The cult of female chastity that grew out of the ideal social states taught by Confucianism added to the problem of what is now termed “gender equality.” Confucius taught that a woman’s prime virtue was obedience, especially to men. Even into the 1990s, Korean women’s fight for equality was raging.

 

Two larger elements of Korean family law were even more damaging than the idea of a prime virtue: that of the legal family “head” system and the inability to marry a person with the same last name.

 

Surnames were once held to high importance because they showed, at a glance, the world at large where the family came from. This was more important during the Feudal Age (from the 1300’s) than they are today. Women are now permitted to chose whether they will take their husband’s last name or keep their maiden name. The new system allows women to pass their maiden names onto their children, should they choose. Children are permitted to accept their step-father’s last name should their mothers remarry. This is more inline with Western cultural thinking than older ideals. Adopted children may now be named with the surname of their adopted parent(s), allowing ties to their biological families to be legally broken.

 

Women were not allowed to remarry until six months after losing a spouse, regardless of the reason for the loss. In the case of remarriage, only the father of any children was permitted any rights regarding the children and their choices of which parent with whom they preferred to reside.

 

The legal family head system, or hojuje, was introduced into Korea through Japan in the late 1890s. This method of record keeping only permitted men to head families and affected how children inherited their surnames. Even more, however, this system discriminated against women in a larger way by ignoring the plain language guaranteeing that all Koreans are equal under the law.

 

By consistently defining a family as one headed by a man, women were stripped of their identity as rational adults. Starting in the 1960s, women called for changes to their country’s laws and began fighting for what was finally accepted in February 2005: a full revision of the Civil Code that eliminated many elements that forced women to be viewed by the culture at large as lower class citizens.

 

In conclusion, women in South Korea have waged a long uphill battle to gain the rights laid out in their own country’s constitution. Throughout the modern era, women around the world have fought this same battle: to be recognized as human beings in their own right and not children with no other abilities than to obey the patriarchy.

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