Lydia N. Yu Jose’s article, “The Koreans in Second World War Philippines: Rumour and History,” is interesting in that she devotes considerable interest in establishing something that is not true
(Yu Jose 2012). It reminds me of something from Lee Sigel’s work. When he told people he researched magic, he was asked, “Real magic?” He replied no, just tricks and illusions. So, Sigel said, “real magic” refers to the magic that actually is not real, while “the magic that is not real” refers to the magic that actually is real, slight of hand tricks and illusions. Jose is concerned with the rumor she expresses in English as “The Koreans committed more atrocities than the Japanese in Second World War Philippines.” She devotes considerable efforts to establishing that in fact this rumor is in wide circulation in the Philippines, using anecdotal evidence, evidence from a national high school essay contest, and a survey of a total of 225 students and 137 public and private high-school teachers, of which about 75% responded (Yu Jose 2012, 329). Yu Jose finds that in the works by historians, there is not a unequivocal rejection of this rumor, either; those that reject it argue simply that there were too few Koreans actually in the Philippines during the Second World War to have “outdone the Japanese” in terms of atrocious behavior. Therefore, having established that in fact the rumor is widespread, Yu Jose turns to archival evidence to attempt to either dislodge it or confirm it.
First, Yu Jose attempts to determine the number of Koreans operating in the Philippines during the Second World War through archival materials in the National Archives Administration in Washington, DC, using materials related to the US Military Commission in Manila and Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers’ Legal Section. Wading through reports concerned primarily with prisoners of war in the Allied POW camps, Yu Jose estimates that around 600 Koreans were captured, and the majority of these were attached as civilians to the Japanese Imperial Army (Yu Jose 2012, 333). It is noteworthy, however, that “prison guards [of POW camps]” was a civilian position, and it was later testified that most of the prison guards were Koreans (Yu Jose 2012, 334). Of the 600 Koreans, however, only 13 were tried by the US Military Commission in Manila, and two found guilty of war crimes and sentenced (Yu Jose 2012, 333).
One Korean who played a leading role, and was one of the two convicted of war crimes, was Lieutenant General Shikoku Kou; Kou oversaw POW camps in the Philippines from March 1944 to January 1945 (ibid). It was for crimes against POWs that Kou was tried and convicted. Yu Jose considers the cases of three other Koreans who were tried, but they provide little support of a wide number of “atrocities,” with the one other convict having been found guilty of killing a civilian under orders. Hence, despite the persistence and widespread distribution of the rumor, Yu Jose ultimately finds it is unsubstantiated by the historical record.
Yu Jose, Lydia N. 2012. “The Koreans in Second World War Philippines: Rumour and History.” Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 43 (02): 324–39. doi:10.1017/S0022463412000082.by