Anarchism in Korea — Chapter 1 : Beyond Independence: The Dawn of Korean Anarchism in China

By Dongyoun Hwang

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Revolt Library Anarchism Anarchism in Korea Chapter 1

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Research Interests: Radicalism and Nationalism in Twentieth-Century Eastern Asia, The Guomindang Leftists in the 1920s, Wartime Collaboration in China during the Pacific War. (From:

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Chapter 1

1: Beyond Independence: The Dawn of Korean Anarchism in China

Anarchism had already been introduced to Koreans exiled in China before 1919.[47] But it was only after 1919 that anarchism was viewed as a suitable principle for the construction of a new Korean society, as well as for their country’s independence. Needless to say, the Russian Revolution of 1917 first greatly impacted Koreans in China and elsewhere, as it generated their strong interest and desire in socialism, including anarchism. At the same time, anarchism was also considered by many Korean exiles in China in the wake of factional strife within the independence camp, especially those in the Korean Provisional Government in Shanghai, established as a direct outcome of the 1919 March First Movement; the ongoing internal conflicts within the government and among the independence activists nurtured an antipolitical aura among many Koreans in China, which laid the groundwork for them to distrust politics, and thus also for their interest in anarchism, because of its disdain of politics and political movement. They were in dire need of a guiding principle for their united activities for both independence and anticolonialism. Anarchist repudiation of the nation-state at the same time led to the foundation for a regional alliance and solidarity among anarchists, paving the way for their transnational joint activity for a cosmopolitan world. This regional and transnational aspects of anarchism, as well as the negation of the state, may explain why many Korean anarchists had a rupture with the Provisional Government, at least until the late 1930s and early 1940s when, as I demonstrate in chapter 4, some anarchists shifted their prime priority to national liberation and even decided to participate in the government to form a united national front against Japanese imperialism and render it a precondition to liberate Korea and then construct an anarchist society afterwards.

The growing interest of China-based Korean independence activists in anarchism and their subsequent reception of it in the late 1910s and early 1920s resulted most importantly from their increased opportunities to have contacts with anarchist ideals and principles that were introduced to them through their encounters with Chinese anarchists and readings of anarchist writings available at the time in China, either in original Chinese text or in translation. In particular, their potential exposures to anarchist literature available in China in Chinese by 1920, which was, according to Arif Dirlik, “unmatched in scope and comprehensiveness by any other social and political philosophies of European origin,”[48] as well as their direct associations/interactions with Chinese anarchists and their organizations, played a crucial role in their growing interest in and acceptance of anarchism. As Peter Zarrow adds, the years “from the New Culture Movement of the mid-1910s to about 1925” were “the heyday of Chinese anarchism,” during which “a good deal of organizational activity, especially anarcho-syndicalism, as well as ideological refinement” were visible.[49] With the abundance and richness of anarchist literature and increased anarchist activities through organizations, Korean exiles were exposed and then converted to anarchism, finally joining and/or cofounding many anarchist organizations together with Chinese and other Asian counterparts, not to mention publishing many anarchist journals jointly or independently.

Becoming Anarchist in Beijing

Many sources demonstrate the increased contacts and interactions after the March First Movement of 1919 between Korean exiles/radicals and Chinese anarchists, which marks the dawn of Korean anarchist movement in China.[50] While the Provisional Government of Korea was established in Shanghai, many Korean radical exiles seemed to concentrate in Beijing as well as Shanghai for their activities for independence movement. Some had even gone to south China, especially Guangzhou. One of the earlier such cases can be found in the publication of an anarchism-oriented journal titled The Light (Guangming in Chinese and Gwangmyeong in Korean), first published in Guangzhou on December 1, 1921. The Light was the only journal published jointly in the early twentieth century with the collaboration of Koreans and Chinese, albeit most of the articles it carried were written by Chinese.[51] It was not a Korean anarchist journal per se, but nevertheless carried some anarchism-oriented articles, for example, in its inaugural issue. The author of an article in the issue titled “The Future of the Light Movement,” propagated mutual aid with a prediction that “the future of the Light Movement lies within the world of freedom, equality, universal love, and mutual aid.”[52] In another article titled “The Light Movement in China and Korea,” the author of it asserted that the revolutions in China and Korea aimed at achieving a social revolution, for China, having gone only through a political revolution (i.e., the 1911 Revolution), still had to be under the rule of and pressure from the warlords.[53] It is safe to say that by the early 1920s, a fraternal alliance between Chinese and Koreans against Japanese aggression had become a commonly shared agenda of both Korean exiles in China and Chinese intellectuals. In the process of making an alliance, Korean radicals accepted anarchism in those Chinese cities with help from Chinese anarchists; Korean radicals’ associations and interactions in various forms with Chinese anarchists and their organizations surely prompted the interest and ultimate reception of anarchism among them. However, not only through personal relationships with Chinese anarchists but also through readings on socialism and anarchism, Korean exiles/radicals in China were also increasingly drawn to anarchism, enticed initially to its principles like mutual aid and social transformation based on freedom and equality.

Among the first Korean anarchists in China was Shin Chaeho (1880–1936), a prominent Korean historian, journalist, and writer. Along with other Korean radicals in China, Shin had already published a journal in Shanghai called New Greater Korea (Sin daehan), basically an anarchism-oriented journal,[54] for about four months between October 1919 and January 1920, in which socialism and anarchism were introduced and discussed. Although it is not clear if he was physically in Shanghai around that time, Shin also published a monthly journal called Heavenly Drum (Cheon-go), also in Shanghai in classical Chinese, between January and July 1921. This monthly journal was, in its orientation and content, not anarchist but carried articles written both by Koreans and Chinese, on the issues of mutual aid, and also promoted the Korean-Chinese alliance. For example, in its third issue, published in February 1921, there was an article on Kropotkin’s death in January of the same year, written by Shin himself with his pen name of Nammyeong, which introduced Kropotkin’s idea of mutual aid and praised Kropotkin’s personality.[55]

Shin had long had interest in anarchism, but became an anarchist only in the early 1920s, preferring “direct action” in the course of Korea’s independence and revolution. Despite his long-held interest in anarchism, it seems Shin became an anarchist through his good relationship with some prominent Chinese anarchists like Li Shizeng (1881–1873), a Paris Chinese anarchist and one of the key members of the Guomindang (GMD, the Nationalist Party of China), and Cai Yuanpei (1868–1940), both at Beijing University. Li as a professor at Beijing University provided Shin in 1918 with a place to stay and an access to the Complete Library in Four Branches of Literature (Sigu quanshu), at the same university, to assist Shin’s study of prehistoric Korean history. And according to a Korean source, around the time Shin was indulged and interested in reading the writings of Liu Sifu, commonly known as Shifu and called the “soul of Chinese anarchism,”[56] Shin was also deeply influenced by what Kropotkin stated in his An Appeal to the Young. Kōtoku Shūsui’s (1871–1911) many writings, particularly On the Obliteration of Christ (Kirisuto Massatsuron),[57] must have impressed Shin as well. At his trial later in 1929, after being arrested by Japanese police, Shin even testified that he had understood that Kōtoku’s anarchist works were the most “reasonable” ones for the understanding of anarchism.[58] Not only through personal relationships and associations with Chinese/Japanese anarchists, but also through the readings of their writings on anarchism, both original and in translation, Korean exiles in Beijing like Shin were increasingly drawn to anarchism and became acquainted with other Asian anarchists.

In addition, Shin’s friendship with Yi Hoeyeong (1867–1932), often called “the pioneer of Korean anarchism,”[59] must have been a factor as well for his acceptance of anarchism. Yi had exiled to China in 1910 with his five brothers for independence movement and had been in Beijing with Shin as exiles, having a wide range of relationship with many Korean expatriates, including anarchists such as Yu Ja-myeong (1894–1985).[60] Yu, born in Northern Chungcheong Province in Korea, was known as “the best [anarchist] theoretician of the time.”[61] After participating in the March First Movement of 1919 as teacher of a school in the city of Chungju, Yu moved to Shanghai and became a member of the Provisional Government of Korea in Shanghai. He seemed to be interested in socialism at the time but rejected communism because he believed that the most urgent task for Korean people was national liberation, not class struggle or class liberation.[62] His range of activities was wide: as an anarchist he participated in the Righteous Group (Uiyeoldan), a terror-oriented Korean anarchist-like group in China, and in the formation of the United Society of the Eastern Oppressed Peoples (Dongfang beiyapo minzu lianhehui) in Wuhan in 1927;[63] and as a teacher Yu taught briefly at Dawn Advanced Middle School (Liming gaoji zhongxue) and Lida College (Lida xueyuan) in 1930. In China in the 1930s, Yu would become a central figure in the formation of the national front.[64] Yu along with Kim Wonbong (1898–1958),[65] leader of the Righteous Group, requested Shin Chaeho to write the famous “Declaration of the Korean Revolution” (“Joseon [Chosŏn] hyeokmyeong seoneon”), which Shin penned in January 1923 and is now believed to be a sign of his conversion to anarchism.[66]

The case of Yu Rim (1894–1961) illuminates a constant move of Korean anarchists from and to Korea and even within China. Yu moved to Manchuria in 1919 for independence movement and became soon an anarchist, interacting with Shin Chaeho and others in Beijing but at the same time possibly with Sichuanese Chinese anarchists between 1922 and 1925, when he was a student at National Chengdu University in Sichuan Province. After participating in the Wuchang Uprising and the Guangzhou Uprising in 1927, Yu returned to Manchuria where he organized the United Society of All Korean People (Hanjok chong yeonhaphoe) with Yi Eulgyu (1894–1972) and Kim Jongjin (1900–1931) in 1929. In November of the same year, he sneaked into the Korean peninsula to help establish the Korean Anarcho-Communist Federation (KAF, Joseon gongsan mujeongbu juuija yeonmaeng) with his comrades in colonial Korea. After being prisoned for his anarchist activities in Korea, he returned to Manchuria and then moved to Chongqing where he joined the Provisional Government of Korea in the name of a united fight of all Koreans against the Japanese.[67] According to his loyal disciplines, Yu was the most important Korean anarchist in the history of Korean anarchist movement, since he not only endeavored unflinchingly to embark on the anarchist movement in colonial Korea before 1945 at the risk of his life when he crossed the border between Manchuria and Korea, but also because he consistently understood the importance of promoting a mass movement and educating of workers and peasants in realizing anarchism before and after 1945.[68]

Yi Jeonggyu (1897–1984), one of the most active Korean anarchists in 1920s China, just like other Korean exiles, began his career as an independence activist and converted later to anarchism. Unlike many Korean anarchists in China, he was first exposed to and become interested in socialism in Tokyo when he was a student at Keiō University in 1918.[69] When the 1919 March First Movement occurred, Yi returned to Korea at once and then left for Shanghai in April 1919, where he immediately participated in the Provisional Government of Korea there, representing the Province of Chungcheong, his home province. Until he was arrested and brought to colonial Korea for trial by Japanese police in October 1928, he had conducted his anarchist activities in China. According to his own recollection, Yi had been attracted by the news from Russia about the Russian Revolution and initially had a plan to go to Russia from China. Changing his plan, however, on his way to Russia at the end of 1921 to attend the Far East University in Chita, because of a rumor he heard about a potential danger of losing his life as a result of factional strife among Korean communists at the time, Yi decided to stay in Beijing. There he met Yu Ja-myeong and Chinese anarchists such as Li Shizeng and Cai Yuanpei, who gave him a chance to continue his education at Beijing University where he was enrolled as a sophomore in the Economics Department. The two years in Beijing from 1921 to 1923 were a “very important period” to Yi in formulating his ideas and personality, particularly in launching his life as an anarchist for the cause of independence and anarchist society.[70] Explaining how he had thrown himself to the divine cause of independence, Yi later stated that “living a life to fight for liberation of the fatherland was the one thing we the [Korean] youth only could do and felt proud of,” when they had to stay and live in China as exiles.[71] Yi must have accepted anarchism in regard to his national goal for Korea’s independence. In China he used to be called “the tip of a writing brush” (pilbong),[72] meaning that he had a sharp theoretical understanding of anarchism, while Yi Eulgyu, his elder brother who converted to anarchism in China as well, used to be nicknamed and known as “Korea’s Kropotkin” at that time for his extensive knowledge of anarchist “theories” and his cogency.[73]

To many Korean anarchists in China like Yi Jeonggyu, establishing their own organizations was the first task, and they had two simultaneous goals in organizing themselves: independence and building a new society in Korea based on anarchist ideals and principles, for both of which they first looked for alliance with their Chinese counterparts and actively engaged in the latter’s activities. One earliest such a case comes from Yi Jeonggyu’s association with Chinese anarchists and Esperantists. According to a police report of the Beiyang warlord government in Beijing, dated June 5, 1922, the Association for the Study of World Language (i.e., Esperanto) in China (Shijieyu xuehui) had just held a meeting over tea, days before the report was composed. The purpose of the meeting was to welcome a Japanese “communist” (sic) and two Koreans, Yi Jeonggyu and Yi Byeonggyu (probably Yi Eulgyu). A Chinese representative of the Association delivered a welcoming address, in which he explained to the attendees the current situation of the “Chinese anarchist party” (Zhongguo wuzhengfu dang) in various locations in China.[74] This was followed by Yi Jeonggyu’s response. Yi, thanking the Chinese present, stated that all Koreans wished to recover Korea’s national sovereignty and land, and thus strove for national liberation without any fear of sacrificing themselves. Yi then briefly expressed his hope that youths in China, Japan, and Korea could be united to move forward. At the meeting it was decided, according to the report, that those present from the three countries would get permission from their respective comrades to look into the possibility of convening a conference for all, at one place.[75]

About a year after the meeting, Yi Jeonggyu collaborated with a Chinese man named Chen Kongshan to set up Beijing Special School for Esperanto (Beijing shijieyu zhuanmen xuexiao) and was appointed as a faculty member at Dawn Middle School (Liming zhongxue) attached to the Special School. Chen was allegedly an alumnus of Beijing University with Yi, who entered it in 1922.[76] In September of 1923, Yi also participated with Chen Weiqi (or Chen Weiguang) in a project proposed by a Chinese anarchist with surname of Zhou, which schemed to move about fifty Korean peasant families from Korea to Hanshui Xian in Hunan Province in China, to construct an ideal farming village together with Chinese peasants there. The project was intended to have them cultivate ginseng together to increase their income. Although it failed because the Zhou family was scattered around as a result of the internal warfare in Hunan, the proposed project is highly praised by Korean historians as “the first experiment that attempted to build an ideal society in farming villages in the history of Korean anarchism.”[77] The failed project could be included in the history of Korean anarchism, mostly because the underlining goal of it, to build an ideal society in rural villages by increasing farmers’ income, was to be revived again and again by Yi, among others, even after 1945.

Besides participating in the anarchist activities of Chinese comrades, Yi Jeonggyu also interacted in Beijing with many other radicals and anarchists such as Lu Xun (1881–1936), a pen name of Zhou Shuren, who was one of the most influential figures in Chinese literature; Zhou Zuoren (1885–1967), Lu Xun’s brother and a well-known writer and essayist; and Taiwanese anarchist Fan Benliang (1897–1945). The latter deserves special attention. Just like Yi, Fan used to be a study-abroad student in Tokyo, where he had converted to anarchism. He had moved to Beijing where he organized the New Taiwanese Anarchist Society (Xin taiwan ansha), and launched its journal called New Taiwan (Xin taiwan) in Beijing in December 1924, which became a newspaper beginning with its third issue on March 1, 1925.[78] Fan’s name appears quite often throughout the history of Korean anarchist movement in 1920s China as one of its main non-Korean comrades.

In addition to Fan, Vasilij Eroshenko (1889–1952) was one of the most important anarchists Yi had met and interacted with in Beijing. Eroshenko was a blind Russian poet and anarchist who visited China in the early 1920s, and delivered his cosmopolitanism to the Chinese audience and possibly Korean exiles and anarchists in China, as well.[79] In fact, what Eroshenko talked to Yi about the situation in Soviet Russia under Lenin’s rule convinced Yi that anarchist principles, not those of the Soviet-style communism, must be used to achieve social revolution.[80] When he became aware of then–Russian situation from Eroshenko, Yi probably recalled what he had heard about the rift among Korean communists in the early 1920s over the funds given to them from Lenin and their bloody factional fight, which stopped him from taking a trip to Chita in Siberia. In fact, Eroshenko was instrumental in not only introducing anarchist ideas to Korean anarchists in China, particularly in Beijing, but also to giving Korean radicals the sense of what Leninist communism in the Soviet Union looked like. An example, in this regard, is the case of Jeong Hwaam who, just like others in China, heard from Eroshenko about the political realities of Soviet Russia after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, such as the purge of anarchists there. Jeong was one of the Korean exiles in China who converted to anarchism through his interactions with Eroshenko, among many others.[81] Yi and Jeong were the ones who were ultimately convinced of the value of anarchism through their interactions with other anarchists in Beijing, and accepted it as the principle most suitable for Korea’s independence and social transformation.

In pursuing the above-mentioned project to build an ideal farming village in Hunan, Yi Jeonggyu widely solicited support from other Korean exiles in Beijing. One of them was Yi Hoeyeong, who had worked with many Korean exiles and anarchists, including Shin Chaeho, Yu Ja-myeong, Han Yeongbok, and Bak Seungbyeong, all of whom published with Yi an anarchism-inspired journal called Heavenly Drum in 1921. According to a Korea source, in December 1922, Yi Hoeyeong was in search of a principle that he thought could answer the question of independence and its related problems, for which he met with not only Koreans such as Yu Ja-myeong, Yi Eulgyu, and Yi Jeonggyu, but others as well, including Lu Xun, Eroshenko and Fan Benliang. His search for an answer to the question of independence must have stopped when he found anarchism, which is quite obvious from his statement about what had enticed him to it. Yi Hoeyeong allegedly explained later in 1925 that “I don’t think I have consciously become or converted to be an anarchist. From a contemporary perspective of thoughts, my idea and plan for the realization of Korea’s independence are coincident with those of anarchism.”[82] Yi had met with a wide range of radicals and independence activists, including the ones listed above. In fact, it is believed that there were no Korean independence activists in Beijing who didn’t drop by Yi Hoeyeong’s residence in Beijing.[83] It seems that Yi Hoeyeong surely was impressed with Yi Jeonggyu’s project and anarchist ideas with regard to the proposed ideal farming villages in Hunan. Indeed, it is said that Yi Jeonggyu’s role was decisive in converting Yi Hoeyeong, who was persuaded by the former about the goal of anarchism and thus accepted it in later 1923.[84] Discussing with many kinds of independence activists and radicals, including Chinese and Taiwanese, Yi Hoeyeong finally chose anarchism for his own answer. The national goal, of course, was the key that drew him to anarchism.

Yi Hoeyeong was one of those who frequently proposed that Korean anarchists must participate in the movement of Chinese anarchists and vice versa; he saw making close connections between the two movements through reciprocal cooperation so crucial.[85] This proposed interactiveness between Korean and Chinese anarchists remained of importance until 1945, as we will see in chapter 4, and at the same time explains the existential conditions Koran anarchists faced in China. In other words, from the Korean anarchist perspective, their cooperation and alliance with Chinese comrades was simply necessary and even essential, first, for their survival as political refugee and, then, for the effectiveness of their independence activities, but, most importantly, for the implementation of their shared anarchist ideals in a foreign soil. Anarchism with its cosmopolitan messages and principles, to put it blatantly, allowed Korean anarchists to emphasize an alliance with other anarchists beyond their national boundaries, which in turn was imperative to seek safety in their activities in China. In this sense, to call Yi Hoeyeong “the pioneer of Korean anarchism” is an interesting indication of the coming trajectory and transnational character of Korean anarchism in China in the 1930s and ’40s. Their deep, shared belief with other anarchists, especially Chinese, that without a social revolution no political changes in both Korea and the world could be made, was to play a crucial role in having them transcend their national and, even in some cases, regional boundaries for, first, an independent Korea and, then, a better world.

Next, Jeong Hwaam explains how he converted to anarchism in China, which vindicates the importance of national consciousness and the popularity of socialism in general as the most important two motives for Korean anarchists to accept anarchism in China. Jeong, one of the leading Korean anarchists in China before 1945,[86] recalls two elements that attracted the Korean exiles in China, including himself, to anarchism: their resistance to Japanese imperialism in order to secure independence, and their adoration for “communism,” with the emphasis on the former. He was particularly attracted to anarchism because of his “instinctive nationalist impulse” to resist Japan, and became convinced that “the final goal of the anarchist movement” was “the overthrow of Japanese imperialism” and “independence through resistance against Japan [hang-il].”[87] Jeong also discussed with other anarchists such as the Yi brothers (Yi Eulgyu and Yi Jeonggyu) and Yu Ja-myeong, finding a “non-theoretical ideology” (sic) for the independence movement to clarify “the objectives of [Korean] nation-building.”[88] It was at this moment, I think, that anarchism began to be read and understood by these theoretically equipped Korean anarchists, not just for the goal of independence but with reference to a new society after independence. Nevertheless, as Jeong recalls, to him anarchism “sounded good anyway at first,” more emotionally than theoretically.[89] As their activities in the ensuing years demonstrate, however, he and others were not deaf at all to the universal messages with the theoretical implications anarchism delivered to them, such as freedom, equality, revolution, democracy, development, and so on. As I mentioned in the Introduction, Jeong was also drawn to anarchism as a result of his increased awareness of the universal problems under capitalism.

Indeed, with their growing interest in and acceptance of anarchism, Korean exiles and radicals in Beijing now began to organize themselves and engage in various activities, chief among them involving organizations and publications for the cause of both independence and anarchism. The Beijing Branch of the Black Youth Alliance (BBBYA, Heuksaek cheongnyeon dongmaeng or Heise qingnian tongmeng), presumably the first Korean anarchist organization in China, was allegedly organized in the early 1920s, but didn’t publish its own journal. Not many facts are known about it and its membership, but it seemed that the BBBYA could have possibly been organized by Shin Chaeho.[90] And next, sponsored by Chinese anarchist Cai Yuanpei, Zhang Ji (1882–1947), Li Shizeng and Wu Zhihui (1865–1953), the Black Flag League (BFL, Heukgi yeonmaeng or Heiqi lianmeng) was organized at Beijing Minguo University in October 1924 by some Korean anarchist students like Yu Seo (or Yu Giseok, 1905–1980) and Sim Yonghae (Sim Yeochu, or Shen Ruqiu in Chinese, 1904–1930) with participation of Chinese such as Ba Jin (1904–2005) and Xiang Peiliang.[91] The BFL, a product of the like-minded Korean and Chinese anarchists and of their joint activities, had its own journal titled the Eastern Miscellaneous (Dongfang zazhi), published in Chinese. Some of the Korean anarchist students such as Yu Seo and Sim Yongcheol (Sim Geukchu, or Shen Keqiu in Chinese, 1914–?), Sim Yonghae’s younger brother, organized a group for the study of Kropotkin later in September of 1926, and began to exchange their unknown journals with other anarchists groups.[92]

Here, Yu Seo’s activities draw our special attention in terms of intense interactions between Korean and Chinese anarchists. Yu, born in the Province of Hwanghae in Korea, left for China in 1912 and became a Chinese citizen in 1916, after his family had moved in 1913 to the city of Yanji in Jilin Province of China. Believing that “the life of a person who has lost the country (wangguo nu) is more miserable than that of a dog in the house of death,”[93] he readily participated in both anarchist and Korean independence movements in China. In 1925 he promoted the establishment of the Society of the Masses (Minzhongshe) with Chinese anarchists. And probably due to his relationship with Lu Xun, whose short story titled “A Madman’s Diary” (Kuangren riji) was translated by Yu in Korean, when there was a debate with Marxists led by the Young Chinese Anarchist Federation (Xiaonian Zhongguo wuzhengfu zhuyi lianmeng), later in 1928 Yu, in defense of anarchist literature against Marxist literature, participated in Shanghai in the publication of Chinese anarchist literary journals, Contemporary Culture (Xiandai wenhua), Popular Culture (Minjian wenhua), and Cultural Front (Wenhua zhanxian), contributing articles to them with other Chinese anarchists such as Mao Yipo (1901–1996) and Lu Jianbo (1904–1990), and advocating the “literature of the masses” (minzhong wenxue). According to Sim Yongcheol, Yu once plotted an assassination of Chiang Kai-shek with Chinese anarchist Wang Yachu (1897–1936) in January 1933, after the “Shanghai Incident.”[94]

Evidence of the intimate interactions in China between Korean and Chinese and other Asian anarchists could be found further in the case of the Sim brothers. Sim Yonghae, a young Korean anarchist who was fluent both in Chinese and Esperanto, and was murdered by Japanese military in Manchuria in 1930, once worked as an editor for the National Customs Daily (Guofeng ribao), published by Chinese anarchists such as Jing Meijiu (1882–1959), as publisher, and Hua Lin (1889–1980), as editor-in-chief. Sim made the newspaper’s editing office his workplace and home as well and shared it with Chinese anarchist Suofei and two Japanese anarchists whose surnames were Sano (probably Sano Ichirō) and Matsumoto, respectively. Sim and the Japanese anarchists shared the idea of “Great Unity” (datong), believing that “All under Heaven [tianxia] comprises one family and the whole world [sihai] is full of whole brothers.” Not only did they share the cosmopolitan idea, but they worked together. For example, Sim translated Matsumoto’s article titled “The so-called Rebellious Koreans” (Suowei ‘bucheng xianren’) into Chinese, which was subsequently carried in Sea of Learning (Xuehui), a supplement of the National Customs Daily.[95] The Sea of Learning Society (Xuehuishe), which published Sea of Learning from October 1922 to 1924, was an important base for Chinese anarchists and had extensive connections with not only Chinese but also other anarchists, creating a relatively huge influence on the latter.[96] Sim and the Japanese anarchists must have been associated with the Society, given their consensus that the only enemy was Japanese imperialism.

Sim Yonghae also published Korean Youth (Gaoli qingnian) in the winter of 1924, to which prominent Chinese anarchist Ba Jin contributed his writings.[97] Sim’s younger brother, Sim Yongcheol, confirms the close relationship between his brother and Chinese anarchists. He recalls that his brother, in addition to Yu Seo, worked closely with Chinese anarchists such as Ba Jin, Shen Zhongjiu (1887–1968), Wei Huilin (1900–1992), and so forth to publish the biweekly magazine The Masses (Minzhong) in Shanghai in 1925.[98] According to Yu Ja-myeong, Ba Jin also was befriended by Sim there, as well and later acquainted with Yu Seo through Sim.[99] Sim Yongcheol became friends with Fan Benliang and Lin Bingwen (1897–1945), Taiwanese anarchists who throughout their presence in China worked closely with Korean anarchists on many occasions. Sim Yongcheol also recalls that he had once studied and made friends in China with a Vietnamese student whose Chinese name was Yuan Xingguo, who, Sim later realized, was a younger brother of Ho Chih Minh.[100]

After having some experience with small and sporadic organizations and publications, Korean anarchists in China, in an effort to organize themselves, finally gathered in Beijing to establish the Korean Anarchist League in China (KALC, Jae jungguk joseon mujeongbu juuija yeonmaeng) in April 1924. It included almost all Korean anarchists active in then-China as participants, such as Yi Hoeyeong, Yu Ja-myeong, the Yi brothers, Jeong Hwaam, and Baek Jeonggi (1896–1934), all of whom were expatriates also working for Korea’s independence in China. Not much is known about the KALC’s activity but many have testified that it published its organ Justice Newspaper (Jeong-ui gongbo in Korean or Zhengyi gongbao in Chinese),[101] supposedly the first Korean anarchist newspaper published in China. The newspaper has not survived and only fragmentary information about it is available today. Yi Hoeyeong was its editor-in-chief, and among the frequent contributors to it was Shin Chaeho who, for unknown reasons, didn’t join the KALC itself but obviously partook in its newspaper works. The basic stance of the newspaper was to criticize the “wrong ideas” for Korea’s independence, mainly led and employed by the Korean nationalist independence camp in China, represented by the Provisional Government of Korea in Shanghai, which had functioned as the legitimate exile government of Korea since 1919. The newspaper’s criticism was also directed toward the factional strife within the nationalist camp and the Provisional Government itself. Bolshevism, of course, was another target of the newspaper’s criticism. In addition, the newspaper insisted on the cooperation and coalition of various Korean independence groups in China, on the basis of the anarchist “spontaneous alliance” principle. Due to the shortage of funds, it is said, after publishing its ninth issue, the newspaper was discontinued.[102]

Although no issue of Justice Newspaper is available now for the current study, the comments of Yi Hoeyeong, its editor-in-chief, at about the time of its publication, regarding a future Korea after independence may help us to understand the newspaper’s vision of a postindependence Korean society. In his conversation in 1926 with Kim Jongjin, a young Korean anarchist then active in Manchuria, but who was to be murdered there later in 1931 by Korean communists at the age of thirty-one, Yi is said to have stated that:

It is expected that the internal political structure [of Korea] after independence should definitely avoid the concentration of power and that a local autonomous system, based upon the principle of decentralization of power, would be established and, at the same time, the central political structure, drawing upon the alliance of the local autonomous bodies, would be constructed.[103]

And the “economic system [of the postindependence Korean society] should be managed by the society,” Yi added. “Since anarchism, unlike communism, does not require uniformity, anarchism, while maintaining its basic principles, can be accommodated to [Korea’s] custom or tradition, and cultural or economic situation,” Yi further contended.[104] In sum, the newspaper under his editorship probably propagated spontaneous alliance as the main principle to construct a new Korea and the unity of all independence movement organizations in China, not to mention anti-Bolshevism along with its critique of factionalism in the Korean nationalist camp in China.[105] What is most revealing is Yi’s openness to an understanding of anarchism for its “Koreanized” practice. As it will become clear in this study, the general anarchist principles adopted earlier but subsequently Koreanized or localized were to be of importance in the practice of anarchism among Korean anarchists in China, even after 1945.

It might be possible to locate some other factors that might have had some “influence” on the KALC’s activity and its newspaper’s vision for a new Korea. According to some Korean sources, the members of KALC frequently met and maintained a relationship with a group of Chinese anarchists such as Li Shizeng, Wu Zhihui, and Cai Yuanpei.[106] The former two were the well-known core members of the Paris Chinese anarchists who were “modernists,” fetishized science, called for a cultural revolution, and favored “universal education,”[107] while the latter was one who “shared some of the philosophical premises of anarchism and its vision of a cosmopolitan world.”[108] Given their long relationship with Korean anarchists that would in fact continue until the 1940s,[109] it is quite possible that their version of anarchism was shared and possibly considered by Korean anarchists in shaping their version of it, which was the case as I demonstrate in chapter 4. The KALC anarchists also frequently met and interacted with other anarchists such as Vasilij Eroshenko and Fan Benliang. Of importance were not just their encounters and meetings but their possible engagement in the discussions of anarchism and the vision of a future world, as well as of the problems of their respective nation and the world with their solutions. Eroshenko particularly has been known as the one who converted many Korean exiles in China to anarchism, and Fan, probably sharing many concerns and problems as a colonized people with Korean anarchists, consented with his Korean comrades and they took actions together. These Korean interactions with other anarchists and their possible influences on Korean anarchists’ understanding of nationalism, anarchism, and the world problems, let alone their joint actions, cannot be treated lightly. There is no clear, direct evidence that shows that the influence from Chinese and other anarchists on Korean anarchists was decisive or formative in the latter’s conversion to anarchism, but it is revealing that many Korean exiles accepted anarchism in Beijing in the early 1920s through their various interactions with other anarchists in the course of their quest for Korea’s independence. More important was the nationalist direction of Korean anarchism they seemed to set at its inception, which had longer and more lasting impacts than they initially thought on the history of Korean anarchism.

Experimenting Anarchist Ideals Jointly in Shanghai

Since the turn of the twentieth century, Shanghai as a breeding place of Chinese revolutionaries and reformers had already made “the Tokyo-Shanghai connection,” posing a threat to the Qing dynasty, while Tokyo was a base for their revolutionary/reform activities.[110] For example, in Shanghai radical literary figures from China and Japan frequently met at Uchiyama Bookstore (Uchiyama shōten), run by Uchiyama Kanzō (1885–1959), who had vague but “longstanding [sic] sympathy for the left,” and there also was the Gongfei Coffee Shop, where “leftwing [sic] Chinese and Japanese writers and cultural types frequently congregated.”[111] Shanghai in the 1910s was “readily becoming a breeding ground for subversive types from both” China and Japan.[112] This trend continued and was even strengthened after the Russian Revolution of 1917, and the arrival in Shanghai in 1920 of the representative of the Communist International (Comintern), George Voitinsky (1893–1953). With the formation of the alliance in 1924 between the GMD and the CCP under the sponsorship of the Comintern, Shanghai became a place where many kinds of radicals gathered from all over the world. By the early 1920s, Shanghai played a role as a node of the transnational network of radicals in Eastern Asia. Under the situation the “wind” of anarchism also blew in Shanghai to Korean radicals and exiles, as anarchist Yi Honggeun (1907–?) recalls.[113]

Huaguang Hospital (Huaguang yiyuan) in the French Concession of Shanghai, established and run by Chinese anarchist Deng Mengxian, served from the early 1920s to the 1930s as a place for communication and contact not only among Chinese anarchists such as Ba Jin, Mao Yipo, and Lu Jianbo, but also among all other East Asian anarchists, including Yu Ja-myeong who became acquainted there with Sano Ichirō, who used his Chinese name Tian Huamin,[114] as well as with Ba Jin, Mao, Lu, and Deng.[115] The encounter between Yu and Ba Jin, in particular, developed later into a short story about Yu, written by Ba Jin. As Olga Lang notes, Ba Jin’s short story titled “A Story of Hair” (Fa de gushi), published later in 1936, “deals with Korean rebels (most probably anarchists), their struggle against the Japanese, and the relations between Chinese and Korean revolutionaries,” and was primarily based on Yu and his activities.[116] Deng had established a good relationship with Japanese anarchists since his study abroad in Japan and had provided his private hospital as a place of contact and communication for anarchists. According to historian Kim Myeongseop, the hospital was to host the Eastern anarchist convention later on June 14, 1928, at which the representatives from six countries decided to establish the Eastern Anarchist Federation (EAF, Dongfang wuzhengfu zhuyizhe lianmeng).[117] Other than Yu, many other young Korean anarchists in Shanghai such as Kim Gwangju, Yi Gyeongson, Kim Myeongsu, and An Usaeng were among those who used to drop by Deng’s hospital.[118] In the case of Jeong Hwaam, he had a chance to meet Japanese anarchist Shiroyama Hideo (1901–1982) there, with whose help Jeong was able to develop a plan with Yi Jeonggyu later to threaten the then-Japanese consul general and a consul in Shanghai, whose surnames were Yatabe and Shimizu, respectively, to expose their corruption and humiliate them. Japanese anarchist Akagawa Haruki (1906–1974), who deserted from the Japanese army, and Take Riyōji (1895–?) with whom Jeong became acquainted also at the hospital, took part in this plan, albeit it ultimately failed. Yi Jeonggyu, Akagawa, Shiroyama, and Take were all arrested by Japanese police, charged with the crimes of blackmailing and intimidation, and Yi was brought to colonial Korea for his trial.[119] In addition to Deng’s hospital, it is said that there was a bookstore in Shanghai, run by Chen Guangguo, which also functioned as a place for book exchanges among anarchists and for contact and communication for all anarchists.[120]

In addition, Shanghai was where the Provisional Government of Korea was established in 1919, and served as the center of its activities until the Japanese invasion of the city in the 1930s. As Kim San stated, it was quite commonplace to see Korean exiles heading to Shanghai and working for and with the Provisional Government, sometimes turning to radical thinking and thus taking various anti-Japanese violent actions, independently or in tandem with the government or other radicals there.[121] The latter case was the Society of Taiwanese and Korean Comrades (Taihan tongzhi hui), organized in 1924 in the French Concession in Shanghai. There also was an anarchism-oriented journal published three times a month by the Equality Society (Pingshe), a radical society organized by Sichuanese anarchist Luo Hua (1899–?); Taiwanese radicals such as Peng Huaying, Lin Yaokun, and Zhang Xiuzhen; and Korean radicals such as Tak Mucho, Yeo Unhyeong, and Yun Jahyeong. Luo was the key figure who led the establishment of the society and the publication of its journal, Equality (Pingping), the goals of which were, among other things, the accomplishment of mutual aid of mankind and the opposition to proletarian dictatorship and the Russian Revolution. Carried in the journal, first published in April 1924, were the articles that contained its criticism of Japanese colonialism and its advocacy of Korean independence, and the writings of Chinese anarchists, for example, by Lu Jianbo. The significance of the publication of Equality is that, although not a Korean anarchist journal, it was the earlier product of the collaboration and joint publication activity in Shanghai of three East Asian radicals, including anarchists.[122]

By late 1924, Yi Jeonggyu had moved to Shanghai from Beijing and was hired there as an apprentice at a British-owned foundry, but soon was fired for his activities for a labor union and a labor school he helped to open. A year after he was reemployed by Shanghai Tramway Company, where he again attempted to organize a labor union. On May 30 of the year, Yi participated with his Taiwanese friends from Shanghai University, such as Wong Zesheng and Zhuang Hongshu, and Chinese anarchist Mao Yipo, in the general strike in the wake of the May 30th Movement in Shanghai. Possibly due to these activities, it seems Yi had to bear the hardships of life in Shanghai without a job or under Japanese surveillance. As a solution to the hardships in life and to get away from his extreme and dire situation, he began to translate many anarchist books and works for publication. It is unknown who the publisher was, but included in his translations for publication were, according to Yi, Kropotkin’s Law and Authority and Anarchist Morality, and some pamphlets that contained the writings by Bakunin, Malatesta, and Elisée Reclus.[123]

One of the joint activities Shanghai-based Korean anarchists participated was the educational experiments of Chinese anarchists in Shanghai. It was unthinkable for them to do so without sharing their anarchist ideals with their Chinese counterparts. Lida College (Lida xueyuan) provides the first case in this regard. Lida College was established in Shanghai by Hunanese anarchist Kuang Husheng (1891–1933), and was operated for about ten years from the early 1920s until the Japanese attacked Shanghai in 1932.[124] As “the immediate precedent for Labor University in Shanghai” (see below), it became “an esteemed example for many of what an institution for alternative education could accomplish.”[125] Its main offices were located at Jiangwan in Shanghai, where no anarchists were hired. However, the faculty at the Department of Rural Village Education (Nongcun jiaoyuke) of the senior middle school of Lida College were all anarchists. Wu Zhihui and Li Shizeng, two prominent GMD anarchists, had supported Lida College, because of which the funding for the college came also from the Department of Education in the GMD, and anarchists were hired to teach in the department. And it was since then that the department became a gathering place for all anarchists, because of which Yu Ja-myeong remembered Lida College as “a home [bogeum jari] for anarchists.”[126]

Among Korean anarchists, Yu Ja-myeong was hired to teach agriculture and Japanese language in the department where students received an education that combined education and productive labor including poultry farming, beekeeping, and fruit growing.[127] Although similar to Shanghai Labor University in its educational goals and method, Lida College nevertheless was an independent and autonomous educational institution, free of the GMD influence. In fact it was quite the opposite to the Labor University in terms of its curricula; it was open to criticism of Sun Yat-sen’s Three People’s Principles (Sanmin zhuyi) and no worship of Sun was practiced among the faculty and students, therefore.[128] According to Korean sources, some Korean anarchists attended Lida College as a student. One of them was Yi Gyuchang (1913–2005), a son of Yi Hoeyeong and a member of the League of Korean Youth in South China (LKYSC, Namhwa hanin cheongnyeon yeonmaeng) in the 1930s, although he later recalled that he did not believe he learned much there.[129] Later, according to Jeong Hwaam, Lida College was to become a base of Korean anarchist activities in Shanghai, particularly the LKYSC (see chapter 4), at least until the Japanese occupation of Shanghai in 1937.[130]

Another educational experiment Korean anarchists joined was the opening and operation of Shanghai National Labor University (Shanghai guoli laodong daxue), although it is difficult to say to what extent they were involved in the establishment and operation of it. Shanghai Labor University was a national university funded by and under the control of the GMD. The university, often abbreviated as Laoda, was “a Chinese instance of socialist experiments with alternative education that have sought a means to the creation of socialism through the integration of labor and education.”[131] Yi Jeonggyu, one of the Korean anarchists who participated as a “guest” in 1927, in Laoda’s opening from the beginning, also recalls that the importance of Laoda needs to be understood in relation to the Movement for Self-Defensive Rural Communities in Quanzhou (hereafter Quanzhou Movement; see more on it below). According to Yi, Laoda as an educational institution was assigned its responsibility to teach students how to organize urban workers through theory and practice in order to raise them as new urban leaders, while the Quanzhou Movement was responsible for organizing and raising the ability of rural villagers in Quanzhou.[132]

Both Shen Zhongjiu (1887–1968), “one of the anarchists instrumental in founding”[133] Laoda, and Wu Kegang (1903–1999) invited the Yi brothers to join them as guest members for the preparation of the opening of Laoda. Yi Jeonggyu accepted a faculty position there as lecturer but didn’t have a chance to teach there, for he soon had to leave Laoda to join the Quanzhou Movement.[134] Among other Korean anarchists, Jeong Hwaam recalled that he also used to go to Laoda and studied “labor issues” there,[135] although it is unclear if he was enrolled as a student or just went there to study. Other than Korean anarchists, some Japanese anarchists also partook in Laoda. Iwasa Sakutarō (1879–1967) had arrived at Laoda in May 1927, and was opposed to the idea of establishing Laoda with the GMD funding, and so on, along with Chinese anarchist Lu Jianbo and Mao Yipo. Iwasa ultimately joined others, just like the Yi brothers and other Chinese anarchists, from the earlier stage of planning and founding Laoda.[136] According to Japanese anarchist Yamaga Taiji (1892–1970), Iwasa taught the French Revolution at Laoda, while Ishikawa Sanshirō (1876–1956) taught courses on socialism.[137] And Yamaga himself was in charge of teaching Esperanto, which was a requirement at Laoda.[138] Although it was a national university under the GMD’s auspices, the faculty members there were international in terms of their origins and backgrounds; such important anarchists from Korea and Japan, let alone prominent Chinese anarchists, as well as some French anarchists were invited to join as its faculty. Yi Jeonggyu, a participant, remembers that Korean anarchists used Laoda as a place for communication among them and at the same time turned it into a base for their contact and communication with their Chinese comrades.[139] These functions and international aspects of Laoda apparently left an impression on a Korean anarchist that the “representative brains of Far Eastern anarchists” had gathered and taught at Laoda.[140]

With their increased interactions and growing relationships in Shanghai, the establishment of the Eastern Anarchist Federation (EAF) was planned. But the place and date of its establishment are still unclear, although, as I mentioned above, historian Kim Myeongseop contends that Huaguang Hospital was the venue of its inaugural meeting in 1928.[141] Neither is it clear if it was actually established and in operation. It is safe to say, nevertheless, that the establishment of the EAF with regional anarchists as its members had already long been discussed and even decided but possibly deferred until 1928, since the aforementioned tea meeting of anarchists in Beijing in 1922 at which the Yi brothers were present, due possibly to Ōsugi Sakae’s murder in 1923 in the aftermath of the Kantō earthquake in Japan.[142] The time of the EAF’s formal establishment in 1928 coincided with the Laoda’s opening and the Quanzhou movement, when Chinese anarchists maintained quite good relations with the GMD and received various supports as well from it, let alone that there were many Asian anarchists present in China, particularly in Shanghai. Unfortunately, very limited information about its inaugural meeting and no materials about the EAF are available for the current study.

From some fragmentary information we now know that Shin Chaeho represented Korean anarchists at the inaugural meeting of the EAF, per the request from Taiwanese anarchist Lin Bingwen.[143] Decided at the meeting were that the EAF’s headquarters would be placed in Shanghai and that it would build a network of anarchist organizations by establishing connections with their counterparts in other countries in the region. Among other Korean anarchists, Yi Hoeyeong, unable to attend but congratulating the establishment of the EAF, sent in his writing titled “Korea’s Independence Movement and the Movement of Anarchism,” in which he explained that the genuine liberation movement in Korea was that of anarchism, and Koreans’ anarchist movement itself was a genuine national liberation movement. And he proposed that all anarchist comrades present at the inaugural meeting support the Korean liberation movement actively. It is said that his writing was adopted as a resolution at this meeting. The EAF seemed to propagate the transnational idea that described its struggles as an effort “to establish an ideal society” that “does not remain partially or within a specific location.” In other words, its struggles “must not be stopped by nationalist sentiment [kokka deki kanjō] and the idea of national borders [kokkyō no seishin] but rather transcend the national borders.”[144]

The EAF published its journal The East (Dongbang in Korean, Tōhō in Japanese, and Dongfang in Chinese), and its first issue seemed to come out on August 20, 1928. In addition, The East was presumably published in three East Asian languages (Korean, Chinese, and Japanese),[145] although it is not clear if there were three different editions of the journal using each language respectively or if their languages were used in one edition of it. In celebration of its publication, Yi Jeonggyu also sent his painting in Chinese ink (mukhwa) to be carried in the journal’s inaugural issue.[146] Although no issue of it is available today, it is said that Yi Jeonggyu also contributed to the first issue an article titled “To Inform Eastern Asian Anarchists” (Dongbang mujeongbu juuija ege gohanda), in which he called for solidarity and a rally of “Eastern Anarchists,” as well as for the revolution in Korea. At the meeting Yi was also appointed in absentee to serve along with Akagawa, Mao Yipo, and Wang Shuren as secretaries of the EAF. After the conclusion of the meeting, Shin Chaeho returned to Beijing and conspired with Lin Bingwen, who was working at the time at Foreign Exchange Section of Beijing Postal Management Department, to raise funds for the EAF by printing 200 counterfeit foreign notes. Their plan was foiled, and they were arrested in Taiwan by Japanese police and died in prison.[147]

While collaborating with other anarchists for various joint activities, including the EAF and Laoda, Korean anarchists in Shanghai organized the Korean Anarchist Federation in China (KAFC, Jae jungguk mujeongbu gongsan juuija yeonmaeng) in 1928, and expanded their publication activities. First, the discontinued Justice Newspaper was revived as a journal and renamed the Conquest (Talhwan), named after Kropotkin’s The Conquest of Bread, with its first issue published in Shanghai in June 1928.[148] The revived journal allegedly continued to publish its issue until 1930, when it stopped publishing after its seventh issue. Its first issue and a supplementary to it are available today. It is not clear why the latter was called supplementary to the former rather than its second issue. And the KAFC’s Korean name could be translated as the Korean Anarcho-Communist Federation in China, but somehow in its official English name, which appeared on the first page of the journal’s first issue, the word Communist was dropped. It could be because of the conflict and mutual rejection between anarchists and communists at the time, in addition to the GMD’s anticommunist stance. According to a Korean source, although difficult to confirm its reliability, the renamed journal of the KAFC might have been published in three languages—Korean, Chinese, and Japanese. The same contemporary source also claimed that its issues used to be delivered to many in different places in the region to reach out to its readers in Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Manchuria, as well as to other places within China.[149]

Named after Kropotkin’s book though, the title in Korean of the journalof the KAFC explains that the main goal of the KAFC and its publication was to “retake” (talhwan) Korea’s independence that had been lost to the Japanese and give back their lost country, Korea, to “the oppressed class of the Korean masses.” What it actually advocated, however, was, according to its first editorial in the first issue, not just the retaking of Korea’s independence from Japan but also the retaking of “the civilization of a capitalist class and, then, return[ing] it to the whole masses” of the world. “By doing so,” the editorial continues, “the capitalist society will be replaced with a new society founded upon the principles of freedom and equality that guarantee the autonomy of the producers.” This was, in addition, “in order to retake the masses and their possession now under the control of a compulsory power, to restore the true life of human beings, and to provoke a spontaneous surge of the masses,” for all of which the journal rejected the existence of government, including the “soviet government,” capitalism and capitalist class, private property, and “power, no matter what rules and forms it has.”[150] The character of the Conquest was revolutionary and radical in its nature and vision. Besides the goal, the first issue of the Conquest, published on June 1, 1928, placed two slogans on its cover page that read “Throw a Bomb to God” and “Eradicate All Kinds of Capitalism,” and carried an article by Heuk-no (pseudonym, literally black slave) on the situation and hardships of Korean peasants in the Maritime Province of Siberia. Two Korean translations were included in it; one was of Kropotkin’s An Appeal to the Young, and the other of anarcho-syndicalism. On the final page of its first issue, it introduced in English some Korean anarchist activities in both Korea and China.[151] Critiques of capitalism and the socioeconomic situation it had created were evident throughout the supplementary issue. According to the anonymous author of an article that appeared in the supplementary issue, titled “The Principles of Revolution and Retaking,” the majority of the people in the contemporary society were not able to live a satisfactory and free life under the social conditions of the time. Pain and hardship had been rather added to their life and, at the same time, the state of oppressions and lack of freedom had increased, rendering “Revolution” a slogan for the twentieth century. Accordingly, revolution appeared as a hope for those who stood up against oppression and suppression, but it had “degenerated,” “stagnated,” and “corrupted” due to the lack of any concrete methods for the masses to realize the hope. This, the author of the article claimed, necessitated a righteous organization and strategies based on a principle, that is, spontaneous alliance, to “retake” freedom and the fettered rights and economic conditions from the capitalists and the rulers in whose hands power had been concentrated.[152]

The basic premise of the Conquest, that is, “direct revolution of the masses,” was in accordance with the aforementioned Shin Chaeho’s 1923 “Declaration of the Korean Revolution.” Yi Jeonggyu, using his pseudonym Ugwan and contributing his article to the supplementary issue, titled “The First Voice of ‘The Conquest,’” unequivocally explained that what the masses needed to retake was not only their fatherland but the conditions for their own survival and living, such as land, house, and freedom. For the substantial and conditional losses Yi encouraged the masses to retake what had been lost to both the Korean rulers and to Japanese. After a successful “retaking,” the masses would become the owners of the country, which, according to Yi, was a condition for a new Korea that would turn out to be an anarchist-communist society.[153] Yi was making it clear that an anarchist revolution, to which he and other Korean anarchists had been devoted as of 1928, was embracing its social goal as well as the national goal of independence. Historian Oh Jang-Whan correctly argues that the general focus of the supplementary issue was not only on the retaking of political liberation of Korea but also on a “biological” liberation (i.e., physical survival) of human beings from social institutions such as regulations and order, and from the socioeconomic contradictions ubiquitous in the Korea society under capitalism.[154]

With two slogans on its front page, “Let’s retake all the deprived freedom” and “Let every person become the owner of freedom we retake,” the supplementary issue to the first issue also included an article, translated in Korean, by a seeming Russian anarchist named Pasarov. It is impossible to identify who this Russian-named anarchist was, for there is no further information available about the person. This alleged Russian anarchist asserted in the article that, since “a genuine communism does not come from the state” and “happiness does not come from exploitation,” an ideal society be organized from the bottom up, drawing on the spontaneous alliance principle, and that the society maximize its guarantee of welfare for its all constituencies. Pasarov, therefore, came to conclude that the “nation-building movement” exemplified by the Soviet Union had been “nothing but a fulfillment of their [the communist vanguard’s] capitalism that makes the state [their] puppet.” Consequently, the Russian anarchist, argued, the social revolution led by a party of the few (i.e., the vanguards) in Soviet Russia ignored people’s will and thus wouldn’t be beneficial to the people.[155]

The Conquest is a good example that demonstrates Korean anarchists as of 1928 underscored a social revolution bent on anarchist principles and made it their ultimate goal, rather than just independence. It also indicates the transnational aspect of Korean anarchism in its understanding of Korea’s colonial conditions not just as a national issue but rather as part of the world problem under capitalism. It is also transnational in term of its universal messages as well as the wide range of news and information it carried, in addition to its authorship. Besides The Conquest, according to historian Yi Horyong, there had been a Korean anarchist journal, published already in early 1920s Shanghai, called News on Struggles (Tubo), which carried the slogan on its cover page, “It is a sin to be submissive to compulsory power.” It advocated the accomplishment of social revolution via direct action of the masses, Yi notes.[156]

The above-mentioned examples, among others, help us see a certain range of mutual inspirations and influences and measure the breadth and depth of Korean anarchists’ writings and ideas, as well as interactions and relationships with Chinese and other anarchists in Shanghai. They also tell us about the transnational character of Korean anarchism in China, which began to form in the 1920s. It is, however, unlikely that the Chinese or other anarchists influence was decisive to the character of Korean anarchism in 1920s China or afterwards. What historian Jo Sehyun posits is suggestive, though: the political positions of Chinese anarchists like Li Shizeng and Wu Zhihui had probably direct impact on the activities and ideas of Korean anarchists in China.[157] In other words, as in the cases of Yu Ja-myeong and Yu Rim,[158] their associations later with the Provisional Government of Korea in Shanghai seem to coincide with the idea of Wu and Li, who saw the revolution as an endless process and, as a result, saw the establishment of the republic in China as a progressive process.[159] It is revealing that Yu Rim, when he returned to Korea after Japan’s surrender in August 1945, began to identify him as “one who favors an autonomous government” (jayul jeongbu juuija).[160] In this regard, it is noteworthy that, while China-based Korean anarchists were by and large affiliated later with the Provisional Government of Korea, their counterparts in Japan, as far as I know, did not develop any visible relationship with the government itself and rather severely criticized it at least until 1945 (see below), although the geographical distance between Japan and Shanghai, among others, must be taken into consideration for the absence of the relationship.

Korean anarchists in Shanghai seemed to expand and enhance their activities with other anarchists by establishing, either independently or jointly, various organizations and publishing journals, through which they experimented with anarchist ideals and fostered Korea’s independence. Their various activities in Shanghai with support and participation of the Chinese anarchists didn’t last long, though, because of the GMD’s anticommunist purge from which they too took refuge and Japan’s invasion of Manchuria and north China at the arrival of a new decade.

Empowering Rural Villages through Education in Quanzhou

In addition to the above-mentioned Lida College and Laoda in Shanghai, Chinese anarchists also undertook some additional educational experiments in Quanzhou in Fujian Province to test a new kind of educational institution and theory, in which Korean anarchists, as well as Japanese anarchists, took part. They were Dawn Advanced Middle School (Liming gaoji zhongxue), established in 1929, and its sister school, Common People’s Middle School (Pingmin zhongxue), established a year later in 1930, both of which were introduced in Quanzhou after the failure of the Quanzhou Movement, which intended to organize and raise the ability of rural villagers to enable them to defend their rural communities from local bandits and the communists. According to Yi Jeonggyu, the goal of the Quanzhou Movement for Self-Defensive Rural Communities was inseparable from that of Laoda, as the directions and goals of the two were all discussed together by the participating anarchist comrades at Laoda.[161]

Indeed, one of the most significant joint activities carried in the late 1920s together by Chinese, Korean, and Japanese anarchists was the Quanzhou Movement in the Province of Fujian, which was, just like Laoda, conducted under the banner of the GMD. Quanzhou had been called “a heaven of peace” (shiwai taoyuan: literally the Land of Peach Blossoms, meaning a utopia) for the Chinese anarchists from Sichuan, Hunan, and Guangdong Provinces, who took refuge there from the 1927 “party purification” (qingdang) movement of the GMD. In April 1927, the GMD under Chiang Kai-shek launched the movement after his April 12 military coup in Shanghai to brutally suppress and kill communists and their sympathizers in and outside the party, which concluded the GMD-CCP Alliance that had lasted since 1924. In the wake of the hunt for communists many anarchists had been arrested and accused of being communists or their sympathizers so that many of them had moved to Quanzhou to escape any possible arrest and execution by the GMD. In Quanzhou Chinese anarchist Qin Wangshan (1891–1970) in collaboration with Xu Zhuoran (1855–1930), who had sympathy with anarchist ideals, held a firm control of the area under the banner of the GMD, because of which anarchist refugees usually gathered and felt safe there.[162] Indeed Quanzhou and its vicinity were to remain as the largest, most active center of Chinese anarchist movement between the winter of 1926 and the spring of 1934.[163]

Qin Wangshan was the leading figure in the Quanzhou Movement, who had a favorable reputation in the area around Quanzhou and promised to gain the funding from overseas Chinese in the “south sea” (nanyang) to support the movement.[164] He also was the one who invited Korean and Japanese anarchists to join it. Yi Jeonggyu recalls that Liang Longguang (1907–?), on behalf of Qin, came to Shanghai in 1927 to invite Yi, who was at Laoda at that time to assist the opening of it as a “guest,” as mentioned earlier. Liang had participated with Yi in the Shanghai General Strike in March 1927, and, since then, had become Yi’s close comrade. Among Korean anarchists, Yi Jeonggyu, Yi Eulgyu, Yu Seo, and Yi Gihwan joined, and, among the Japanese, Iwasa Sakutarō, and Akagawa Haruki were invited to take part in the Quanzhou Movement. When invited to join it, at first Yi seemed reluctant to leave Laoda, but followed the decision to leave for Quanzhou, made by the “Five-Person Meeting” held in Iwasa Sakutarō’s room at Lida College. Attendants at this meeting were Wu Kegang, Iwasa, Liang, and the Yi brothers, all of whom decided collectively that Yi and Liang would take responsibility in the proposed movement in Quanzhou to educate and organize rural youth there. Shortly thereafter, in June 1927, Yi with Liang left for Quanzhou in Fujian.[165]

The Quanzhou Movement’s goal was to train and help the youth in rural villages in order for them to raise their ability to defend their own communities from local bandits (tufei) and the communists. Raising young anarchist leaders to realize anarchist ideals as a more distant goal and organizing self-defensive rural people’s militia (mintuan) as an immediate concern, were, in other words, its two main goals.[166] The latter goal had its origins in the ideas of the Chinese Paris anarchists such as Li Shizeng and Wu Zhihui, who preferred a “people’s militia” over a regular army on the ground that the latter would end up only serving the interests of those in power.[167] It was possible that the movement organizers received various supports from the GMD and used the GMD banner because of those GMD anarchists and their support. At the same time, the Korean anarchists themselves had had their own experience in an “autonomous village movement” in September 1923, when, as mentioned earlier, Yi Jeonggyu and Jeong Hwaam with Chen Weiguang, together attempted, but failed, to build an ideal rural village in Hunan.[168]

Hence, it was no wonder that Yi Jeonggyu took a leading position among the participants as an organizer of the Quanzhou Movement. At the same time he took a job as a faculty member of the Center for Training Propaganda Personnel at Jinjiang County (Jinjiang xian xuanzhuan yuan yangchengsuo) in Quanzhou, where rural youth were to be trained and educated to become “cadres” in the rural communities. Due mainly to Yi’s and other Korean anarchists’ active participations in the movement and the Center, a Korean anarchist remembers the experimental Quanzhou Movement basically as a Chinese-Korean joint project,[169] although also participated were some Japanese anarchists and there was the GMD behind it. Two other Korean anarchists, Yu Seo and Yi Gihwan, were also invited to join there to take responsibilities of training and teaching Chinese youth, respectively, in addition to Yi Jeonggyu who had already taught there from July 1927. Courses Yi Jeonggyu taught at the Center were on the history of social movement in the West, critiques of Communism, new politics, and organizing rural societies, while Yu taught courses on new economics, sociology, feudal society, and the analysis of capitalist society.[170]

The formal outcome of the Quanzhou Movement was the creation of the Agency for the Organizing and Training People’s Militias in Quanzhou and Yongchun Counties (Quanyong ershu mintuan pianlianchu) under the GMD’s auspices. Qin Wangshan directed the Agency. Yi Jeonggyu was appointed as its secretary, Yi Eulgyu as one of two heads of General Affairs Section, Yu Seo as a member of Propaganda and Education Section, and, finally, Yi Gihwan and Yu Jicheong as members of Training and Guidance Section. The objectives of the Agency reveal anarchists principles embedded in it: to achieve (1) a free and autonomous life, (2) a cooperative laboring life, and (3) a cooperative defensive life.[171] The Quanzhou Movement as an anarchist project ultimately failed in less than a year, due mainly to the lack of funds and the instable political situation in the Quanzhou area, as well as the GMD’s order to dissolve it.[172]

Notable here is Iwasa Sakutarō’s activities during his stay in Quanzhou for the Quanzhou Movement and educational experiment. Apart from translating a book on the French Revolution into Japanese,[173] he also planned to establish a “Greater Alliance of East Asian Anarchists” (Dongya wuzhengfu zhuyizhe datongmeng) in Quanzhou, which he believed could form a revolutionary base for joint East Asian anarchist struggle against imperialism.[174] It is not clear how he planned to realize his scheme, but the idea itself was not novel, as it had already been suggested by Korean anarchist Yi Jeonggyu and Yu Seo. There is no further evidence if Yi, other than the EAF, had directly involved in any more regional organization with other anarchists, but in the case of Yu, there was consistency in his idea for the regional solidarity. In an article in the Chinese anarchist journal Minzhong (People’s Tocsin), on December 15, 1926, Yu had called for the establishment in China of a Greater Alliance of East Asian Anarchists.[175] It is quite possible that Iwasa and Yu (and Yi), while in Quanzhou, discussed the possibility of establishing the alliance together.

In the same article, Yu presented a concrete reasoning to form the alliance of anarchists. Arguing that the first step toward anarchist revolution was to launch a movement to liberate colonies, Yu warned that there was a “mad wave” of patriotism among Korean, Indian, Filipino, Vietnamese, and Taiwanese anarchists. The anarchist movement “must not draw any distinctions among peoples (minzu),” so the “mad wave” posed a potential danger to it: it might end up a narrow nationalist movement whose aim was simply political independence. East Asian anarchists thus had a responsibility to “extinguish the mad wave of patriotism” sweeping the region. He advised that it was crucial for anarchists to unite, otherwise their righteous activities and efforts could be seriously undermined. However, Yu also maintained that Koreans still needed to overthrow Japanese imperialism (i.e., independence) prior to the achievement of a social revolution that transcended national boundaries.[176] As indicated, the EAF was formally established in 1928, possibly in response to Yu’s above proposal in 1926 and Iwasa’s effort in 1927 to realize it in China, after having been long delayed, probably since Ōsugi’s murder in 1923.

The two schools in Quanzhou, Dawn Advanced Middle School and Common People’s Middle School, were supervised by the same board of trustees, of which Qin Wangshan was chairperson.[177] The schools shared their teachers as well as their facilities and even their educational objectives, that is, to cultivate persons of ability through a “living education” (shenghuo jiaoyu), who were to be “revolutionary, scientific, socializing, laboring, and artistic.” Introduced and then implemented for the objective was a “commune system” (gongshezhi) at Common People’s Middle School, which integrated the faculty, students, and laborers (i.e., staff) into one unit; for example, the faculty and students resided, had meals, and even worked together. Just like at Laoda, the faculties at both schools too were international in their backgrounds. In addition to Chinese anarchists, there were Korean counterparts among the faculty, including Yu Ja-myeong, Yu Seo, Heo Yeolchu, Jang Sumin, and Kim Gyuseon, all of whom taught at either both or one of the schools. Yu Ja-myeong, for example, taught botany at Dawn Senior Middle School for a semester in 1929, in place of Chen Fanyu (1901–1941), who used to teach “social problems” and biology there. Yu soon left the school next January to teach at Lida College in Shanghai. Yu Seo and Heo also taught at Dawn Advanced Middle School.[178] Among other Korean anarchists, Sim Yongcheol is a graduate of Dawn Advanced Middle School and/or Common People’s Middle School.[179] Besides Korean anarchists there were two Taiwanese faculty members at Dawn Advanced Middle School, Cai Xiaoqian and Zheng Yingbai, albeit it is not known what they taught and/or did at the school. Esperanto was an elective foreign language at Common People’s Middle School and was taught by Japanese anarchist Yatabe Yūji , who used his Chinese name, Wu Shimin, there. Up to the early 1930s, the two schools were to serve as the centers of social movements in Quanzhou and as the important bases for anarchist projects in the area.[180] The two schools were closed after January 1934, when the “Fujian Incident” led by the Nineteenth Route Army under Chen Mingshu finally failed and subsequently the rule and control of the GMD under Chiang Kai-shek was consolidated in Fujian Province.[181]

Experimenting Place-Based Anarchism in Manchuria

Korean anarchists were not as active and organized in Manchuria as in north and south China. In addition to the harsh natural setting, Manchuria had long been notorious for the lack of political stability and social order and for the presence of antisocialist warlord, Zhang Zuolin (1873–1928) from 1916 to 1928, whose pro-Japanese and antisocialist stance never allowed any socialist activities and organizations. In many occasions Zhang indeed cooperated with the Japanese “in stamping out Korean resistance activities” in Manchuria.[182] In fact, the Japanese had long been interested in Manchuria to consolidate and perpetuate their interest there, because of which they were looking for an opportunity to intervene and send their troops, which they finally did in 1931 (“the Manchurian Incident” or “the September 18th Incident”). Despite these unfavorable and even dangerous environments, Manchuria had been one of the main destinations of Koreans who decided to leave their homes in Korea, especially after 1910, under the Japanese colonial rule. Hence, Korean anarchists in Manchuria needed to deal with this unique situation if they were to have any hold there. Many hardships and difficulties, both natural and man-made, that they encountered in Manchuria usually made their activities short-lived but somewhat unique.

Yi Hoeyeong was one of those who moved to Manchuria in 1910, and made Manchuria his first destination to escape the Japanese colonial rule in Korea. Yi came to Manchuria with his family and soon organized the Society for Cultivation and Study (Gyeonghaksa) and even set up a military school called the Newly Burgeoning School (Sinheung hakgyo) to make a preparation for independence activities. It was, of course, much before his conversion to anarchism in the early 1920s. After converting to anarchism later, Yi seemed to cherish his early experiences and efforts in Manchuria in the 1910s; he was arrested by Japanese police on his way back to Manchuria from Tianjin in November 1932, when he had become aware that all the anarchist activities had suffered suppression and thus collapsed in Manchuria with the murder of young anarchist Kim Jongjin in 1931. The leadership of Kim, who, it seems, had converted to anarchism as a result of Yi’s role and influence, had been of paramount importance, as I will explain below, in organizing and leading the first anarchist organization in Manchuria, the League of Korean Anarchists in Manchuria (LKAM, Jaeman joseon mujeongbu juuija yeonmaeng), in the city of Hailin in northern Manchuria in July 21, 1929.[183]

Manchuria had been ceded without military conflicts to the GMD government under Chiang Kai-shek in 1928 by Zhang Xueliang (1898–2001), who had succeeded his father, Zhang Zuolin, as the new ruler and believed that the Japanese Kantō (or Guandong) Army had been responsible for his father’s death in 1928. Zhang Xueliang maintained his anti-Japanese stance throughout the 1930s to 1940s. Anarchist activities in Manchuria had been minimal and sporadic under his father’s reign but after his rule began in 1928, Korean anarchists became more active with the LKAM’s establishment in 1929, possibly utilizing the anti-Japanese aura in Manchuria under the new militarist. Of significance was the outcome of the political change in Manchuria under which anarchists were provided with much space and psychological assistance for their activities, which was quite revealing in implications particularly because Korean anarchists, as well as independence activists, were not turned over often and easily to the Japanese police in Manchuria anymore. They must have felt relatively safer there, although the safety didn’t last long.

The LKAM had a small group of anarchists as its members, including Kim Jongjin, Yu Rim, and Yi Eulgyu, who, per the request from Kim, came from south China, as leading figures who were joined later by Yi Dal (1910–1942), Eom Hyeongsun, Kim Yabong, Yi Ganghun (1903–2003), and so on. Not much information is available about the LKAM other than from a biography of Kim Jongjin written later by Yi Eulgyu, in which Yi details the origins, background, programs of the LKAM and how it was incorporated later into a much larger united-front-like organization, the United Society of All Korean People (USAKP, Hanjok chong yeonhaphoe),[184] which I will return to later. According to the biography, the LKAM was a unique anarchist organization in the sense that it was basically formed not to propagate anarchism or fight against Japanese colonialism for Korean independence, but primarily to deal with the economic issues pertinent to the survival of Korean migrant farmers in Manchuria; it was, in other words, a “cooperative [hyeopryeok] organization on the basis of economic communities,” the eventual goal of which was to establish an autonomous rural organization in which the farmers as members were mutually aiding one another for their survival in the harsh natural environment of Manchuria. It was thus “a practical [silcheonjeok] organization” to deal with the livelihood of the Koreans in Manchuria, who numbered about two million at the time of its establishment in 1929. However practical it was, the LKAM’s platform nevertheless reveals that it was indeed an anarchist organization with anarchist principles and goals. In the platform its defined goal was to realize a society of “no rule,” in which human dignity and individual freedom were all completely ensured. In such a society, all individuals were expected to be socially equal and freely strive for their individual development through their own free will and free alliance based on the mutual aid idea. And finally all the individuals would strive to establish an economic order under which they could offer their labor for production according to their ability and then consume according to their needs.[185] While maintaining certain anarchist principles and ideals, the LKAM members accommodated the local needs for economic survival, which probably was a concern of theirs as well.

The LKAM was soon resolved and integrated into a new, larger organization in August 1929, just a month after its establishment in July. The new organization was the USAKP, a united, amalgamated organization between the LKAM and part of the nationalists in the New People’s Government (Sinminbu) in northern Manchuria, led by General Kim Jwajin (1889–1930). The New People’s Government was one of the three self-ruling Korean authorities in Manchuria, all of which as of 1929 functioned as sort of an autonomous administrative and military polity in their own respective jurisdiction in Manchuria. The other two were the “General Staff Headquarters” (Cham-uibu) near the region of mid-Yalu River on the Chinese side and the “Righteous Government” (Jeong-uibu) in Jilin and Fengtian Provinces. The amalgamation of the LKAM into the USAKP was made possible, according to a South Korean historian, due to the immediate threat of the communists in the jurisdiction of the New People’s Government who thus was in need of anarchist principles to cope with the expanding influence of communism there.[186] The USAKP, however, didn’t last long either, since the key figure of it, Kim Jwajin, who was elected as its chairperson in August 1929, was murdered in January 20, 1930 by Korean communists, which was followed by the murder of Kim Jongjin in July of the next year.

The USAKP has been highly evaluated by Korean anarchists as the embodiment of anarchist principles, because it seemed to have its own seeming territorial jurisdiction. As shown in its two goals to improve the economic and political status of Koreans in Manchuria and to concentrate their capacity on completing saving the nation through resisting Japan, strictly speaking, it was not an anarchist organization. It rather defined itself in its platform as “an autonomous, self-ruling, cooperative organization” that had its own distinctive jurisdiction, similar to its predecessor, the LKAM. In particular, the USAKP’s plans for agricultural development, education, and military training within its jurisdiction, as well as for its representative system along with its administrative body, have all been praised as a reflection of the anarchist ideal of “a government without [compulsory] government” that assured the principles of no-rule, no-naked power, and no-exploitation.[187] It is unclear, though, whether the USAKP had a substantial chance to implement these or related principles, programs, or polices during the short span of its existence or just had them only planned on paper. Likewise, the USAKP immediately suffered financial difficulties after the loss of its chairperson, Kim Jwajin, and had another huge setback when Yi Eulgyu, one of the leading anarchists in it, was arrested in September 1930 by Japanese police and was subsequently sent back to Korea for his trial. No matter how we assess the USAKP and its programs that were obviously put forward by anarchists, it is undoubtedly clear that it gave an opportunity for the Korean anarchists to materialize their anarchist principles through the programs of the polity with its own jurisdiction, which they created with the anticommunist nationalists like General Kim.[188]

What is revealing is that the Korean anarchists in the LKAM and its successor, the USAKP, were organized in response to and in consideration of the general environment surrounding the life of Koreans in Manchuria, besides the communist factor. Their programs demonstrate, although possibly only on paper, a place-based approach to meet the demands and needs of the Korean migrants and their hardships in their settlement and life there. Going beyond both the national and anarchist goals, anarchists in Manchuria took up the issue of economic survival as their priority in the harsh land. The immediate outcome of it was their corresponding place-based programs and plans, rather than a grand plan and program for independence struggle or a future-oriented anarchist society. What was more important than announcing the distant goal of retaking Korea’s independence or realizing an anarchist society after independence, in other words, was, I suspect, meeting the immediate needs of migrant Koreans there, who usually first experienced hardships and difficulties in settling down in Manchuria and then suffered economic exploitations by both Chinese landlords and other Korean authorities who collected taxes and even confiscated their annual agricultural yields, and so forth in the name of supporting their independence activity. For the protection of the Korean migrants, the USAKP, for example, introduced programs to assist their smooth transition to settlement and their cultivation of land, which included collectivization of production and collective sale of their produce. Also, a Safety Unit (Chiandae) as well as an Anti-Japanese Guerrilla Unit were planned to be organized for their further protection from both the local bandits and the Japanese.[189]

These place-based programs, whether implemented or just planned, point to the diverse approaches Korean anarchists adopted in their movement in Manchuria, where they had to deal with many unexpected and unfavorable environments for their activities and ideals, not to mention for their survival. And the USAKP was a product of their first cooperation with nationalists in implementing their anarchist ideals and thus serves as a predecessor of the national front they would form in the late 1930s, with nationalists in the name of national liberation during China’s War of Resistance against Japan. The major difference between the 1938 national front and the one in Manchuria in 1929 was that the latter was formed at once to save the life of Korean migrant workers, not the nation itself. Due to the lack of further information about the Manchurian activities of Korean anarchists, it is extremely difficult to come to a concrete conclusion that their programs were of cardinal significance in terms of their implications to the later activities and characteristics of Korean anarchism. It is still possible to say, nevertheless, that their short-lived activities and programs in Manchuria were evidence of the role played by their location in practicing their anarchist ideals through their place-based accommodation. In short, they didn’t seem to have any strong and fixed ideological attachments but rather were flexible in handling local needs and conditions, out of which the collaboration with the nationalists was realized. In Manchuria, Korean anarchists were willing to work together with nationalists as long as the latter considered and adopted anarchist principles in their response to the demands and needs of Korean migrants there. In doing so Korean anarchists must have prioritized economic survival and postponed their activities for independence and an anarchist society to the near future, probably after independence, in order to tackle the immanent daily life-and-death situation of the Koreans in Manchuria, eventually expecting the latter’s forthcoming support of their anarchist ideals.

Many Korean anarchists considered and accepted anarchism first in Beijing in the early 1920s for their struggle to regain independence with the help and support from many Chinese anarchists there, influential among whom were the Chinese Paris (later GMD) anarchists like Li Shizeng, Wu Zhihui, and Cai Yuanpei, as well as Eroshenko and other Asian anarchists they encountered in the capital city of China. If they accepted anarchism via other anarchists in Beijing and solicited support from them for their independence activities, Korean anarchists began their activities, both organizational and publication-related, more actively in Shanghai where they enjoyed relative freedom to do so, in particular when the National Revolution of China under the First United Front between the GMD and the CCP was successful through the military campaign from Guangzhou beginning in 1926, and sweeping south and central China in 1926–27. Korean anarchists in China seemed to have a brief heyday in 1927 and 1928 when they participated in Laoda in Shanghai and the Quanzhou Movement and established their new anarchist organization, KAF, with its auxiliary journal, The Conquest. During that period they continued to strengthen their close relationship with many Chinese and Japanese anarchists for educational and rural village projects. The favorable condition and political climate under the victorious National Revolution of China paved the way for the Korean anarchists to revive their organization and their activities, although short-lived, and they had to prove no connections with communists to survive the GMD’s “party purification.”

Korean anarchists in China took active part in the transnational anarchist organization, the EAF, which was a culmination of their transnational relationship with regional anarchists in the 1920s, although it is unclear what kind of concrete activities or projects it pursued, in particular across the national boundaries. After the general political environment in China was reversed, as the GMD declined to support further and sponsor various anarchist projects, among which Laoda and the Quanzhou Movement were of most significance, Korean anarchists as exiles in China had to endure difficult years ahead without their major sponsors, Chinese anarchists. As a result, their activities after 1928 became sporadic and were mainly concentrated in Quanzhou, where many Chinese and other anarchists still took refuge away from the GMD’s internal political cleavages. There they focused on the educational projects such as the two schools in Quanzhou to breed rural leaders of the next generation. The political environment of China was fundamentally shaken later by the Japanese invasion of Manchuria and later north/central China, beginning on September 18, 1931. Until then Korean anarchists were to remain silent, inactive, or, it seems, wander around, considering a new deadlock-breaking direction of their activities for both national and transnational goals. During the difficult years, Manchuria could have served them as a location where they expected and enjoyed a brief implementation of their anarchist principles through a polity with substantial authorities over Korean migrant farmers and their lands, as exemplified in the programs of the USAKP.

In sum, it is possible to say that the activities and projects Korean anarchists in China took part in and/or initiated in the 1920s were basically part of much broader regional anarchist movements and/or regional history, of which they themselves were a product. At the same time there were some signs of a Koreanized practice of anarchism during the 1920s. Korean anarchists in China seemed to be forward-looking in their attitude and never believed that Korea’s independence was doomed to never come to fruition, no matter what happened to them.

From :

Research Interests: Radicalism and Nationalism in Twentieth-Century Eastern Asia, The Guomindang Leftists in the 1920s, Wartime Collaboration in China during the Pacific War. (From:


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