Week 5 and 6 Discussion

Angela Lee
3 min readMay 7, 2021

“Why do you think Kawashima insists on focusing on the suppression of Korean workers in Japan by the Soaikai, a Korean welfare organization in his piece? What questions does his analysis raise about the way we might think about both the Taki Seihi strike and the love story between Mr. Kim and Matsuo Shina discussed in the lecture? What are ways that you might think about their relationship beyond the its representation as an inter-racial love story as stated in the newspaper account?”

Throughout Ken C. Kawashima’s “The Obscene, Violent Supplement of State Power: Korean Welfare and Class Welfare in Interwar Japan,” there is a noticeable characteristic where the Soaikai is seen as a rival group that challenges the Roso, “the largest Korean Communist labor union in Japan … expressing anger and frustration toward an unemployment [favoritism]” (Kawashima 465–466). This of course details tensions between the Koreans and the Japanese, but what is interesting to note is that the Soaikai was led by Korean workers as well which implies working Japanese-Korean relations within this Kawasaki Soaikai incident.

Soaikai and Roso are labeled as opposing groups, but despite both being Korean-led organizations there is an implied support for the Soaikai as seen during the arrest of both groups during the Kawasaki Soaikai incident where members of the Soaikai were noted to be released soon after (Kawashima 467). Supporting the Soaikai also fosters Japanese privilege over the Koreans, and this is reminiscent of Gilmore’s concept of racial capitalism where one’s racially discriminated status dictates the system of economy. The economic means of exploiting the Koreans to the point the Japanese “[tear] Korean populations in Japan apart” is also reminiscent of the case in Honolulu were East Asian populations were labeled as competitors to native Hawaiians while the US became economically stronger (Kawashima 468).

Kawashima’s piece in relation to the Taki Seihi strike provides further insight that media can manipulate the details of an event or relationships. I think even within Kawashima’s work we see a bias in favor of the Soaikai’s policing nature against “unruly Koreans”. The newspaper account of Mr. Kim and Matsuo Shina appears to be in support of a stable inter-racial relationships, but in reality we can’t confirm the identity of their relationship and this story was only beneficial for the Japanese (self-determined) reputation.

“What do you think are some of the impacts of being labeled as spies, or national traitors by the state and military for internal relations within Okinawan society? How do you think this impacted Okinawans’ treatment/views toward Korean women who were brought to the islands as “comfort women” beginning in 1941?”

Being labeled as “spies” would increase tensions between the Okinawans and the rest of the Japanese population in addition to encouraging or tempt the Okinawans to abandon their historical ties to be equally accepted in society. Okinawans were prevented from having an equal presence, to the point Okinawans were at risk of being killed, and the misleading discrimination reduced the Okinawans as below the Japanese. As stated in Ichiro Tomiyama’s “Spy,” this put a lot of pressure on the Okinawans and their identity meant one that was equally threatening as if in battle. The Japanese became the ideal, capitalist superiors that the Okinawans strove to conform to; a “movement as the Other within the Self that had to be eradicated” (Tomiyama 8).

Simultaneously, Korean comfort women struggled living under these same conditions. Tomiyama gives an account of a textile company who stated, “If they will work cheaply, it is all the same to me whether they are Cheju islanders or Ryukyuans” (Tomiyama 6). To the Japanese, both groups were seen as equals, and it is also likely the Okinawans share the same perspective. It is also likely that the Korean women were seen as competitors for finding employment in which case it is similar to the established rivalry between native Hawaiians and Chinese laborers in Honolulu. Once again, the concept of racial capitalism reemerges where the Japanese benefits the most from exploiting Okinawa’s resources as its own following its annexation and “disposal of the Ryukyus” (2).