Surviving the Second World War in Manchukuo: memories of Korean experiences of the war in Manchurian farming villages

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When the Second Sino–Japanese War broke out in 1937, it became increasingly important for the Japanese Empire to secure and exploit areas under its colonial control in order to strengthen the imperial forces. Focusing on the memories of the Chaoxian zu (ethnic Korean) peasants in Minle Chaoxian zu Township, Heilongjiang, this article examines how Korean migrant peasants in Manchukuo survived such an exploitative situation. These ordinary people’s memories of the years from 1937 through 1945 demonstrate that some Korean migrants negotiated their power in everyday practice by positioning themselves ambiguously in relationship to the Japanese colonizers and to other colonized peoples. While pressure existed to support the imperial forces by producing more rice, by being submissive imperial subjects, and by speaking Japanese in public, this article argues that these Koreans managed to survive by coping with the colonial circumstances. Their emphasis on daily lives challenges the simplistic binary between the colonized and the colonizer and sheds light on the moments when the weak exercised their power.


This article was originally published in Journal of Modern Chinese History. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

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Journal of Modern Chinese History