Anarchism in Korea — Chapter 4 : Korean Anarchists in Wartime China and Japan

By Dongyoun Hwang

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Revolt Library Anarchism Anarchism in Korea Chapter 4

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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 4

4: Korean Anarchists in Wartime China and Japan

The 1930s witnessed the overall decline of Korean anarchist movement in both China and Japan, not to mention in colonial Korea, due mainly to Japan’s invasion of China beginning in 1931, and, as a result, increased tight control and suppression of “dangerous thoughts” in Japan, its colonies, and occupied areas in China such as Shanghai. Both Chinese and Japanese anarchist movements too were on the wane during the same period.[378] In fact, since the introduction of the notorious Peace Preservation Law in 1925, the anarchist movement in Japan had been further suppressed in the 1930s and so had been in colonial Korea. In China, too, since the April 12th Coup of 1927 in Shanghai by Chiang Kai-shek and the failure of the Canton Commune in Guangzhou in December of the same year, radical movements in general had lost their strength and vigor. Anarchists had not been an immediate target of the suppression in China, but their activities were not as active as usual since the closure of Laoda and the failure of the Quanzhou Movement in the late 1920s.

In most scholarship on the history of anarchism in Eastern Asia the 1930s and ’40s remain generally untouched and/or in need of further research, either due to the lack of information and sources or the silence and secrecy on the part of anarchists themselves in their various activities, reflecting the general decline of the anarchist movement in the region. Although Japan-based Korean anarchists as well as those in colonial Korea gradually either disappeared or went underground in the 1930s to ’40s, unseen on the stage and leaving almost no trace of their activities in many cases, Korean anarchists in China were able to continue to undertake their various activities in league with anti-Japanese forces in China. In fact, Japan’s invasion of China beginning in 1931, and, as a consequence, its military occupation of Manchuria and north China by the mid-1930s were perceived by many Korean anarchists in China as “a new revolutionary situation.”[379] Unlike their comrades in Japan and colonial Korea, Korean anarchists in China, utilizing Japan’s aggression in China, turned the 1930s to early 1940s into “the Combat Period” or “the Wartime Struggle Period”[380] against Japan in the history of Korean anarchism. It was during this period that they began to propose a united front idea and even arm themselves to engage in warfare, somewhat unconventionally. Japan’s all-out invasion of China and tight thought control in the occupied areas could not stop Korean anarchists in China from fighting back for the cause of national liberation. The help and support from other Asian anarchists, as well as the National Government of China and even the CCP in Yan’an, were all readily available for them to continue their activities, this time mainly terror-oriented or armed struggle. My focus in this chapter is, first, how Japan-based anarchists coped with the unfavorable situation in 1930s Japan, with emphasis on their propaganda activities with the Black Newspaper (Heuksaek sinmun), a kind of propaganda warfare in Japan by Korean “militant” anarchists. And second, I will examine how China-based Korean anarchists responded to Japan’s invasion of China by focusing on their terror-oriented activities and then on the national front idea that was put forward by them to utilize the “new revolutionary situation” they faced in a foreign soil.

Black Newspaper (Heuksaek sinmun) and “Militant Anarchism” in Japan

During the 1930s, Korean anarchists in Japan managed to continue to publish their own journals and newspapers, working still closely with their Japanese counterparts. The alliance with the letter was still much needed for Korean anarchists for their activities and survival. Under the tightened control and suppression of radicalism and radical movement in 1930s Japan, their activity was usually confined to the continuation of publications to propagate anarchism and criticize what was happening in colonial Korea under the colonial government. Any activities that might involve anti-Japanese colonialism could have brought immediate attention from the Japanese police.

From the late 1920s to early 1930s, a number of Korean anarchist publications continued to come out in Japan. Yi Jeonggyu (not to be confused with one of the Yi brothers in China) and others worked together in 1929 to publish Liberation Movement (Haebang undong) in Korean, while Hong Yeong-u and others, representing the Federation of Free Youth (Jiyū seinen renmei), were able to publish Free Youth (Jiyū seinen) in January 1929. Another anarchist journal called Movement for Mutual Aid (Gojo undō) could have possibly been published in January 1928 by Won Simchang, Jang Sangjung, and Oh Chiseop, but it is unclear if it actually came out.[381] The Free Commune Society (Jiyū komyūn shakai) was established under the leadership of Han Hayeon (1903–1960) and Hong Hyeong-ui (1911–1968) with its journal titled Free Commune (Jiyū komyūn) that began to be published in 1932 under Hong’s editorship but soon discontinued in December 1933, after publishing its number one of the second volume, due to financial problems.

In addition to these publication activities, Korean anarchists in Japan continued their collaboration in publication with their Japanese comrades. While Yi Yunhi (1906–1951) took part in the publication of Free Alliance-ism (Jiyū rengōshugi), published in Osaka in 1930 by the Black Youth Free Alliance (Kokushoku seinen jiyū rengō), Jang Sangjung served with Irie Ichirō as the publishers of Debate on Freedom (Jiyū ronsen), possibly in 1932.[382] In 1933, the Natives (Domin), a literary journal of the Natives Society (Dominsha), came out and continued until the publication of its seventh issue. The establishment of the Natives Society and publication of its journal by Korean anarchists were supposedly “influenced” by the establishment and activities of the Society of the Youth in Farming Villages (Nōson seinensha) of Japanese anarchists, which was organized in February 1932 in Tokyo. This Japanese anarchist society emphasized a movement of the youth in farming villages, inspired by a slogan “Let’s appeal to the peasantry.”[383] Drawing on self-reliance and economic direct action, the movement had its strong commitment to “creative activities” of the masses[384] and placed its emphasis on the activities “from within the peasantry.”[385] The movement also had its attachment to the ideas of decentralization and, somewhat interestingly, “a crucial role” anarchists had to play “as an organized fraction which guides the people’s rebellion in an anarchist direction.”[386]

After Japan’s invasion of Manchuria in 1931, Japan-based Korean anarchists did not seem to rest on propagating anarchist principles and ideals; their movement entered its audacious “combat period”[387] against Japan’s aggression in China and suppression at home, as well as against Korean nationalist movement. At the forefront in this “combat” against Japan was Black Newspaper (Heuksaek sinmun), the most important Korean anarchist newspaper in 1930s Japan, which represented all Korean anarchist groups in Japan and published its inaugural issue on August 1 (or July 22), 1930.[388] Unlike many Korean anarchist publications in Japan, it survived and continued to publish its issues for about five years. Black Newspaper was funded by Korean anarchist organizations and Korean labor unions in Japan, and used Korean for its language, albeit its publication was well received with a warm welcome and support from the Japanese anarchist newspaper Spontaneous Alliance Newspaper (Jiyū rengō shimbun).[389] The publisher of Black Newspaper was initially the Tōko Labor Alliance (Tōko rōdō domei), a union organization of Korean workers in Japan under the leadership of Korean anarchists. Later, the Federation of Black Friends and Free Youth (Kokutomo jiyū seinen renmei) became its publisher.[390] Each issue of it seems to be published with only two pages, but in the limited space it carried widely local, national. and global news, more than any of its predecessors, not to mention news about colonial Korea and their comrades in China. Due mainly to the notorious Japanese censorship, Black Newspaper, until its formal discontinuation due to financial difficulties after its thirty-seventh issue in May 1935,[391] was repeatedly banned and in many cases its issues were confiscated by Japanese police. And the editors were in and out of prison continuously.[392] Its issues, however, were allegedly sent out and delivered continuously in a sealed envelope to the readers, presumably Korean anarchists in Japan, China, and colonial Korea.[393]

From its slogan of “Rush with revolutionary actions at the irrational contemporary society,” which appeared on the cover page of its inaugural issue, we can see that the newspaper’s primary concern was about the social rather than the national, at least in the beginning of its publication. But it is also clear that its other goals were the liberation of Korea from Japanese colonialism and the opposition to Japanese imperialism. For example, the newspaper’s special issue (18) on August 29, 1932, on the topic of Japan’s annexation of Korea in 1910, proposed a joint struggle of Korean and Chinese peoples against Japanese imperialism.[394] In fact, the newspaper, according to an article carried in it later in 1935, was launched with an expectation to “take actions” by delivering its issues to the masses and letting them understand what it advocated, for which Korean anarchist comrades were encouraged to allow it to speak for them and function as an organizer to help integrate all the different opinions of them.[395] In short, Black Newspaper led a kind of verbal warfare against Japanese imperialism as well as propagated the anarchist idea of social revolution.

The Black Newspaper interspersed with diverse news, quite a broad range of local, regional, and global news and information, covering updates on the revolutionary movements/activities and events in the countries in Europe (Spain, Greece, France, Soviet Russia, Bulgaria, and Yugoslavia), Latin America (Mexico and Colombia), North America (the U.S. and Canada), and Asia (Korea, Japan, and China), as well as reactionary movements in Germany and Soviet Russia. It also carried many pieces of writing that discussed anarchist theories by Korean anarchists, both in China and Japan, and many translations of Kropotkin’s writings. The diversity of news of the world and analyzes it offered about them indicate the newspaper’s transnational dimension in selecting and carrying news, although it is unclear exactly how it received the news and what its sources of information were. One possible clue is Japanese anarchist newspapers like Spontaneous Alliance (Jiyū rengō) and Spontaneous Alliance Newspaper, both of which seemed to share many articles and reports with Black Newspaper, albeit they were mostly carried in the Japanese first and then many of them were reproduced in Black Newspaper in Korean translation. Of interest is that Japanese anarchist presses such as the ones mentioned above not only carried news about the activities of Korean anarchists in Japan, China, and Korea, but also often called Korean anarchists “Korean brothers” (Chōsen kyōdai).[396] In addition, Spontaneous Alliance carried many writings by Korean anarchists and reports on colonial Korea and/or Korean anarchists and their activities in China and Korea. All this tells us about the close relationship and even possible partnership in publication between them.

The Black Newspaper was transnational in its character, and its transnational idea of the state and negation of patriotism seemed to be shared and accepted by Korean anarchists who contributed to it.[397] In fact, nationalist movement in colonies already had been under critical scrutiny and nationalism had been identified as not being a path toward social revolution by a Korean anarchist in 1929. Yi Honggeun contributed to Spontaneous Alliance Newspaper an article titled “Liberation Movement and National Movement,” in which he stated that since the masses in colonies had received the dual oppressions, class and national, a liberation movement in colonies couldn’t be achieved only by nationalism. Yi explained that there was a process in the revolutionary movement of a colony, which deepened the initial national discontent and consciousness and then intensified them into national struggle relentlessly, finally developing into the consciousness of and struggle for social revolution. Labor and peasant movements in a colony, therefore, took their shape as a liberation movement of colony, and the struggle for liberation of a colony had to shoulder the duty for national liberation and social liberation movements simultaneously. To make genuine national liberation and have independent countries, in short, Yi asserted that all nations (minzoku) bring everything to equal ground by transcending racial and national discrimination. In addition, to solve other problems in colonies, the overthrow of capitalism must be presupposed, Yi added.[398]

Many articles and reports carried in the Black Newspaper supported and maintained Yi’s stance, especially his criticism of the nationalist and/or patriotic movements by Korean exiles, the goal of which, according to the newspaper, was limited to gaining only political independence and the class interest of national capitalists. An article titled “Fallacies in the National Movement,” carried in its twenty-sixth issue on February 28, 1934, included its harsh criticism against the “fundamentally innate contradictions” in the Korean nationalist movement at the time. Its anonymous author argued that both theory and fact had vindicated that the liberation of a colony or a weak people could never be accomplished by a patriotic national movement. On the contrary, the patriotic national movement organized in the name of building a nation and an independent state, the author contended, had hamstrung the righteous movement of the masses to reclaim their justice and freedom and, therefore, the nationalist revolution had faced the objection and denunciation of the masses. Hence, revolutionary movements in such colonies as Korea, Taiwan, and India, where sufferings from both class and national oppression were present, the author added, had thoroughly abandoned their “nationalist tones” (minjok gijo). In addition, according to the author, from a standpoint of political righteousness, the nationalists might have dreamed of having one independent movement that would embrace people of all social standings and classes, who had demanded political liberation through their nation’s independence, but the capitalist class in the nation compromised easily with imperialists in order to accumulate their influence and capital. The Korean capitalists, for example, when they were asked for the funds to support Korea’s independence movement, called for a protection from Japanese police. And in the case of China, the National Government of China, although its goal was China’s national liberation, had become nothing but a puppet of imperialists, the author maintained. However pure its motive had been, the author concluded, nationalist movements had only been movements for autonomy under a society of compulsory power and had been, therefore, nothing but a movement for social reforms. The author was not convinced by a claim that achieving a national revolution could serve as a transitional period to open up a road to eventual social revolution. Rather, in the view of the author of the article, only after the time when a social revolution was accomplished, would the genuine realization of independence of a colony be accomplished. In the author’s eyes the KAFC, established in 1928, was the one that moved toward that direction with a new thought and a new catchphrase.[399]

The “realities” of patriotic movements were further examined in an article carried in Black Newspaper on December 28, 1934. Its anonymous contributor from China began an analysis of “patriotic movements” with the remarks on the tides of “reactions” (bandong) and “patriotism” that the author believed had swept the world at the time. Suggesting a struggle against the tide of patriotism and patriotic movement, the author called into question the meanings of state (gukka) and fatherland (joguk). To the author, state meant capitalist states and fatherland meant nothing but “capitalist militarist countries.” The life of the masses had nothing to do with both “state” and “fatherland,” therefore.[400] The author continued,

What the masses must love is their own life [saenghwal] and native place [hyangto]. Why would [they] love [their] fatherland that serves the capitalist militarists’ domination and exploitation? They [militarists] posit a different position from ours on this regard and, therefore, exist as our absolute enemy in the struggle … Since all states maintain their existence by depriving the masses of their blood and flesh, today’s states cannot exist, once the masses reject their domination and exploitation. The projects [sa-eop] currently being conducted in the name of state are nothing but the ones in service of the exploitation by the rule, and there is nothing else … To protect the state’s projects is called patriotism [aeguk] and, at the same time, protecting the state [hoguk]. Therefore, those who launch out into what they [i.e., the rule] call the movements for patriotism and fatherland, will become their slaves … Let’s thoroughly destroy their patriotism and consciousness about fatherland … [W]hat was contrived for the maintenance of the existence [of capitalism] is the patriotic movement, for which they cry out. Therefore, a national crisis [gungnan] they fuss about is a crisis of their domination and exploitation! The so-called [national] emergency in Japan means a crisis of the Japanese capitalists’ domination and exploitation.[401]

The author challenged the meaning of state by negating patriotism as something that served only the rule and the capitalists and thus had nothing to do with the interest and life of the masses. The national projects such as education and national industry were also denied by the author, since they only protected the position and status of the rule and the capitalists.[402] This author rather propagated a place-based approach for the masses in identifying their self-consciousness. This author’s negation of the state and patriotism was not novel. A Korean anarchist with pseudonym of Gwang had already insisted in 1929 in Liberation Movement that the anarchists in East Asia destroy the border signs on the borderlines between the countries, since the fatherland of anarchists was the universe and the earth, not their own respective country.[403]

The Black Newspaper played a role as a medium that connected Korean anarchists in China and Japan. Those anarchists in China contributed their writings to it. And there were many articles, in addition to the ones mentioned above, dealing with news on the Korean anarchists in China and their activities. In its twenty-ninth issue, for example, was the “An Outline of the Korean Anarchist Movement in China” article, and in the thirty-sixth issue “Second Anniversary of the Shanghai Black Terrorist Group and the Three Major Incidents” appeared. Carried in the ensuing issues of the newspaper were many follow-up articles on the Korean anarchists in China, and the terrorist group Black Terrorist Party (BTP) and its members. Its thirty-first issue, published on June 27, 1934, carried an article by a Korean anarchist in Shanghai, in which it was argued that social revolution was what had been agreed on by anarchists and, more important, what made anarchism realizable. And in this short article, the anarchist contributor from Shanghai engaged in a discussion of whether anarchism had “practical-ness” (hyeonsil seong) or just encompassed unrealistic utopian ideas. The answer offered by the author was that, since in a society founded on human instincts there had been no compulsory power and no domination, having no compulsory power and no domination in society were both an ideal and a reality. The crises and misfortunes of humankind, the author explained, arose from the fact that the absolute freedom of individual human beings had been rejected and, therefore, the goal of anarchist movement was to break through the crises and get rid of the misfortunes. To do so it was imperative to “destroy all that rejects freedom and equality” and to “retake each one’s freedom and equality.” Although the goal of social revolution was in this sense to retake the human life that had been lost, “social revolution does not spring from the rash acts of those who always use compulsory power [ganggwon juui ja]”; rather it arose only from independent/autonomous actions (jaju haengdong) of the masses, which were shaped from their own position. The author finally concluded the short article with a confirmation of “practicalness” of anarchism, stating that “the ideal is not of the other world but is a fruit that is borne in reality.”[404]

Anarchism’s “practical-ness,” along with its “strong attraction” as an idea, appeared again in an article in the thirty-third issue of the Black Newspaper published on October 24, 1934, written by Yi Dal (1910–1942), who was then in Shanghai and used the pseudonym Geumwol.[405] What he argued in it was the importance of “human desires” and “unnecessariness of a leading principle” in the course of constructing a new society with freedom and happiness after the destruction of his contemporary society. Since it was from their human, righteous desire for life that the masses longed for liberation, he believed that there was no need to have any “social science theories,” such as Karl Marx’s analysis of capital and the Communist Party’s theories some intellectuals and artists had advocated. To him, anarchism was in no need of theorization, because it originated in and was a natural reflection and outcome of human desires.[406]

In some cases, Black Newspaper strongly asked Korean anarchists for their contributions to it by sending in their reports, suggestions, and/or opinions. To its editors lack of communication with the newspaper was a sign of passive and coward actions of anarchists during the “combat period.” What they also wanted was to receive updates on the situation and activities of anarchists not only in Tokyo but in many other places outside Japan.[407] Probably because of these urges for further communication and contribution, interconnectedness among Korean anarchists themselves increased and was quite visible, as they were continuously informed by the newspaper of each other’s activities in different places. Yi Hayu (1909–1950) and Won Simchang (1906–1971), in particular, either wanted by Japanese police or on probation for their anarchist and independence activities in Japan, moved to China in the beginning of the 1930s and joined Korean anarchist organizations there. In addition to Yi Dal, they probably were the ones who introduced the activities of Korean anarchists in China to their former comrades in Japan and vice versa, when the newspaper requested better communications with its anarchist comrades in other parts of East Asia during the “combat period.”

Thanks to the presence of the two Yi’s and Won in China, among all the others, the geographical as well as political barriers, at least between Korean anarchists in China and Japan, seemed to be to some extent overcome, as they remained connected with and informed each other of Korea’s independence and the realization of a new anarchist society through the newspaper, which turned out to be the best way for them to achieve their goals. Although Jeong Hwaam recalls that there were no relations between the Korean anarchists in China and Japan,[408] the two articles mentioned above quite conversely vindicate that there was considerable communication between them. In addition, the physical movement of Korean anarchists from Japan to China also tells us about their extended connections and relations. With Korean anarchists on the move, a cosmopolitan sentiment seemed to be shared by them, when one of their comrades was arrested and imprisoned in a Japanese prison. In an obituary in the thirtieth issue, published on July 31, 1934, Baek Jeonggi was remembered and praised by the newspaper as “a rebel who stood on the front line of the human liberation” and a “fervent Tolstoyan.”[409] Baek had been initially active in Japan but later went to China and was arrested there with Yi Ganghun and Won Simchang for the famous “Six Three Arbor Restaurant Incident” of March 1933, a failed assassination of Japanese consular Ariyoshi Akira by the so-called Black Terrorist Party (BTP), a terror-oriented Korean anarchist group in Shanghai,[410] As a sequel to this obituary, the newspaper carried a personal recollection by an anarchist in China, named Yang Jachu, of Yi Ganghun (1903–2003) who had also been arrested for the same incident.[411]

Baek, Yi, and Won were all arrested, tried, and sentenced to lifetime in prison. And their plot has been called in the South Korean historiography “a heroic deed at Six-Three Pavilion [Restaurant]” by the three Korean anarchists. Won Simchang had been a student in the Department of Sociology of Japan (Nihon) University in Tokyo since 1924, and had been a member of various Korean anarchist organizations in Tokyo. Won decided to move to Shanghai in 1930, after he was released from prison, and finally arrived in Shanghai in 1931 to conduct more active activities against Japan. Since then he had been a core member of the League of Korean Youth in South China (LKYSC) in Shanghai.[412] Baek Jeonggi (1896–1934) was inspired by Labor Newspaper (Rōdō shimbun) and became a socialist, while he indulged in reading books on socialism and laboring for living as a work-study student in Tokyo from 1921 to 1924. He moved to Beijing and then to Shanghai in 1924, where he joined other Korean anarchists.[413] Yi Ganghun came to China in 1920, but moved to Manchuria in 1925, where he took part in various independence movement activities. Yi escaped to Shanghai from the Japanese arrest in 1932, and became a member of the LKYSC in Shanghai.[414]

In an editorial notice in the thirtieth issue, the editor of Black Newspaper, indicating the lack of revolutionary forces in the world, which the editor believed to be the main reason why the revolution in Spain and the general strike in Chicago failed to ignite the fire of and generate a world revolution, contended that the revolutionary forces in the Far East were in need of systematic and organized activities. The failure, according to the editor, was due to, first, the theoretical and methodological incompleteness among the revolutionary forces and, second, the lack of mutual contacts and cooperation among the comrades in different countries. The notice further asked for increased interactions among them and suggested that the revolutionary task not be placed on the shoulders of one person in one region but on the shoulders of all human beings living in the world. The editor, therefore, insisted that the exploited propertyless masses of the world make all the efforts to “respond to each other in the East and the West.”[415]

The Black Newspaper demonstrates the resilience of Korean anarchists in Japan in their struggle during the period of the most tightened surveillance and brutal suppression of radicals by Japanese police. At the same time it points to some militant characteristics of Korean anarchist movement in 1930s Japan; it was quite audacious to advocate the overthrow of Japanese imperialism in the capital city. Not as theoretical in character as its Japanese counterpart, it nevertheless was fervently against the nationalist movement, disclosing its transnational direction as exemplified by its emphasis on social revolution. Black Newspaper must have utilized a kind of anarchist network in the region that cut across the geographical as well as national boundaries. As the articles it carried demonstrate, Japan-based Korean anarchists, unlike their counterparts in China, were more concerned with the social and world problems than with the national goal, even during the “combat period” against their national enemy. This makes a clear difference from the activities and direction of China-based Korean anarchists who, as I examine below, were more inclined toward the formation of national unity or national front during “the combat period.”

Finally, some Korean anarchists in Japan, such as Yi Dongsun, Han Gukdong, and Yi Suyong, participated in the short-lived Anarchist Communist Party (Museifu kyōsantō), established by Japanese anarchists in January 30, 1934, only to be crushed by the Japanese police in November 1935. According to John Crump, the Japanese anarchist party was established with “Bolshevik organizational methods for anarchist purposes”[416] with an aim of “preserving the anarchist movement in the face of a state that was determined to crush it.” Joining it could have served Korean anarchists a precedent for their post-1945 experiment with two political parties. The brief participation in the Japanese anarchist party seemed to be the last visible activity of Korean anarchists in Japan before 1945.

Terrorism in Service of the Nation and Social Revolution

During the first half of the 1930s Korean anarchists’ activities in China were at first in jeopardy because of Japan’s invasion of Manchuria and north China. Unlike in Japan or colonial Korea, Korean anarchists in China had enjoyed relative freedom of organizing themselves and propagating anarchism with various supports from Chinese anarchists and at times even from the National Government of China, which enabled them to fight in China against Japanese colonialism.[417] However, the National Government of China under Chiang Kai-shek’s leadership had continued to retreat since Japan’s invasion of Manchuria in 1931, without resisting it, ultimately losing Manchuria and consequently part of north China by the mid-1930s. As a result, some Korean anarchists too had to move by the mid-1930s from north China and Manchuria to central China, particularly to Shanghai where they faced increased tensions between China and Japan as well as increased Japanese police activities. To Korean anarchists both at home and abroad, nothing now seemed to go athwart their plan for various movements and activities. The outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War on July 7, 1937 further exacerbated the unfavorable situation in China for their activities. Under the belligerent conditions between China and Japan that many Korean anarchists had to deal with, they were often more concerned with their daily survival than their anarchist ideals and goals or their country’s liberation from the shackles of Japanese colonialism. Kim Gwangju (1910–1973) recalls this kind of complex situation and state of mind many Korean youth possessed and/or had to go through in 1930s Shanghai. Kim ended his life as a journalist and novelist in South Korea, but had been a member of the League of Korean Youth in South China (LKYSC), a terror-oriented anarchist group organized and based in 1930s Shanghai. I will return to this organization below. According to Kim, the lives of Korean youths in the first half of the 1930s in Shanghai could be described with such words as despair, extreme pessimism, self-abandonment, wandering, and longing, all of which were the signs of declined, low-key spirit for revolutionaries. They, including Kim himself, even began to wonder if there actually existed a country they could call their fatherland (joguk), and finally called into question the very existence and meaning of fatherland, which in their minds had only given to them a difficult, harsh time and had been unable to do anything for them under the sword-reliant rule of the Japanese and their police. To the Korean youths, therefore, Kim recalls, fatherland appeared as neither an attractive word nor a substantial existence. They also began to view commonly used terms like patriots and revolutionaries as equivalent in meaning to hypocrisy (wiseon) and self-righteousness (dokseon). Consequently, Kim came to conclude at the time that this kind of a life, including the one he was living, could be described like those of the Gypsies or bohemians.[418]

As a matter of fact, some Korean anarchists in China from the early to mid-1930s, who seemed to have no stable life or reliable organizations for their survival and activities, turned their eyes increasingly to extreme, violent means, such as terror-oriented actions against Japanese invaders, sometimes in tandem with Chinese or other Asian anarchists. Their terror-focused activities included the assassination of Japanese high officials and military commanders as well as so-called Korean traitors residing mostly in Shanghai. Such actions were initiated and conducted first by the LKYSC, which was organized to some extent as a reaction to the “September 18th Incident” (or the “Manchurian Incident”), which occurred in 1931—a spark of the fifteen-year-long military conflict between China and Japan. Because of its well-known activities, historian Horiuchi Minoru even posits that Korean anarchist movement in 1930s China was mainly led and conducted by the LKYSC.[419] Indeed the LKYSC functioned in the first half of the 1930s, almost as the headquarters of Korean anarchists gathered and concentrated in Shanghai from various places like the Korean peninsula, Japan, Manchuria, and China.[420] Its membership included Yu Seo, Yu Ja-myeong, Jeong Haeri, Jang Dosin, An Gonggeun, Sin Hyeonsang, Choe Seokyeong, and Won Simchang.[421] The latter three, in particular, had become anarchists in Japan and then moved to China at the turn of the 1930s to continue their activities, finally joining the LKYSC. Among the three Won is revered and remembered now as an anarchist who usually took actions first, rather than one who had theoretical considerations beforehand: he was simply “an anti-Japanese revolutionary.”[422] The LKYSC was joined later by additional members in China like Jeong Hwaam and Yi Dal.

The LKYSC justified its terrorism-oriented activities against the Japanese, since the Korean anarchists believed that there was no other means for them but terrorism to resist Japan’s military invasion of China. At the same time, according to Kim Seongsuk (1898–1969), a prominent Marxist independence activist who worked closely with Korean anarchists before 1945, they in general possessed a sense of self-justifying conviction that terrorism against the oppressive foreign force always carried the spirit of “the utmost humanity,” as well as the meaning of “liberation” and “freeing ourselves” from the foreign aggressor. In short, as Kim recalls, Korean anarchists knew that their terrorism might entail some negative connotations to their activities but, as long as it did not just mean violence and destruction with no reason against unidentified objects, they believed that their actions would lay out the true meaning of terrorism, if understood from the point of their “constructive” intention.[423]

To be sure, regardless of its terrorist actions and often verbal threats to the Japanese officials and military commanders for their lives, the LKYSC can never be portrayed as a terrorist group, at least not for its platform. Some of the languages associated with revolutionary changes in Korean society were maintained in its platform. What is revealing in it (and its declaration), in other words, as I examine below, are its concerns with the social and also its direction toward a social revolution. It must have inherited, continued, and even preserved the social goal and direction of the Korean anarchist movement from the previous decade. This social dimension of the LKYSC can be found in its platform, regulations, and declaration. First, in its platform, the LKYSC’s members expressed their denial and rejection of all kinds of political or syndicalist movements as well as the family system and religion, all of which they believed were simply covered nominally with morality. They also announced in their declaration their reliance on the principle of spontaneous alliance in organizing themselves, and denied the private property system under capitalism. The LKYSC members pledged themselves to build a new utopian society of absolute freedom and equality after independence. This could be realized only with the total destruction of social ills like private property and the nation-state, including the “pseudo-morality” of the latter. The new society would be based on absolutely spontaneous alliances among individuals, who would work according to their abilities, and receive in accordance with their needs. In such a society, the declaration explained, cities would have the appearance of farming villages, while villages would have the conveniences. Farming villages and cities alike would be characterized by a scientific combination of agriculture and industry in order to ensure the most effective production. Finally, the declaration argued that such an “artistic” society would have no need for money, as it would be “a society chosen from each individual’s free will, and individuals can work freely there.” Ultimately, “there will be no distinction between intellectual labor [ji-neung nodong] and physical labor [geun-yuck nodong],” so “no one would come to dislike working.”[424]

The LKYSC’s goals, reflected in the above declaration, reveal the ideal anarchist society it wanted to construct by social revolution. Of cardinal significance in the declaration are ideas like combining agriculture and industry and combining mental and manual labor, with individual transformation as the point of departure in the project of social change. These ideas had already been widely propagated and professed by the Paris Chinese anarchists.[425] These ideas were also the ideals of the Shanghai National Labor University and of the educational experiments of Chinese (and East Asian) anarchists. These ideals and languages were seemingly still alive here, employed by Korean anarchists in 1930s China. There is no concrete evidence explaining why and how the ideas were revived by the Alliance at the time it started armed, terror-oriented struggles against Japan. It is nevertheless revealing that many Koreans in the Alliance had worked with Chinese and Japanese anarchists in such joint anarchist projects like Lida College, the Labor University, and the Quanzhou Movement. It is also revealing that one of the post-1945 Korean anarchist projects promoted (in the 1960s) “domestic industry” in rural villages, as I demonstrate in chapter 5, and the LKYSC members identified themselves as “persons with free will and for no-government” (mujeongbu jayu juuija).[426] The definition was going to be readopted after 1945 with modifications.

Likewise, given the participation of those who had studied abroad in Japan, it is not baseless to say that the LKYSC endeavored to realize a worldwide social revolution and pursued almost the same ideal society Japanese pure anarchists such as Hatta Shūzō sought to achieve in the 1930s,[427] not to mention the one Chinese anarchists attempted at the Laoda and in Quanzhou with other East Asian anarchists. The idea of such an ideal society achieved by a social revolution bent on anarchist principles evidently reveals the transnational linkages of Korean anarchism. Although terror-oriented in action, the LKYSC certainly projected “a genuine social revolution” in the future. Its members pledged in the declaration to build a new Korean society after Korea’s independence, which they assumed would be realized only after a total destruction of social ills under capitalism, such as private property and the institutions and pseudo-morality of the nation-state.[428] They also believed that “the Korea problem” could never be separated from the world problems and that a social revolution in Korea would be “a unit” of the world’s social revolution.[429]

Also notable in their declaration is that the LKYSC’s members saw the importance and necessity of arming the Korean masses, especially those in rural villages, in defense of “rural community villages” (gongdong nongchon) of freedom and equality against any military forces that might approach and destroy them, albeit they admitted that armament itself was unnecessary in principle. As I will explain below, the idea of the necessity and importance of having armed forces were to be reintroduced and subsequently reconfirmed later in the idea of the national front many Korean anarchists in the LKYSC actively proposed after 1936. What is interesting here is that Chinese anarchists too “wrote about using armed forces” in the process of revolution, during their debate with communists in mid-1920s,[430] another sign of the transnational linkages between Korean and Chinese anarchists.

The LKYSC published its journal, South China Correspondence (Namhwa tongsin), from January 1936 and possibly continued to do so until the end of 1937. And it is not surprising that it was published at Lida College in Shanghai.[431] Lida College didn’t function just as its printing place, however; its members used the college to have their own gatherings to conspire and set their plan to execute “Korean traitors” (han-gan) in Shanghai, who they believed had handed the information about Korean independence movement and activists including anarchists over to the Japanese police in Shanghai. The fact that Lida College played its role as a gathering place for Korean anarchists and their activities is revealing, because it is another example that points to a close relationship and intimate collaboration between Korean and Chinese anarchists over their common enemy, Japan, and probably their common anarchist goal. And Yu Ja-myeong was the one who made all these possible. Yu had been teaching at the Department of Rural Village Education (Nongcun jiaoyu ke) of the college since 1931 and his presence there as a faculty member helped Korean anarchists to meet one another there and place their printer for the journal. Furthermore, according to Yu, Kuang Husheng, the founder of Lida College, was no doubt willing to support Korean revolutionaries in China.[432] Lida College thus became one of the main gathering places and points of communication for Korean anarchists in Shanghai.

In an article carried in June 1936 in South China Correspondence, titled “The Responsibility and Task of Our Youth,” its author, named Ha (presumably Yi Hayu), condemned the political activities of exiled political parties aiming at gaining independence, for “the independence movement in a colonial situation should not be a political movement but a genuine revolutionary movement.”[433] The reason was simple. The political movement would eventually end in vain, according to Ha, to whom anarchists were the only genuine revolutionaries, and, therefore, “the Korean revolution is an anarchist movement, if seen from historical experiences.”[434] What would follow the genuine revolutionary anarchist movement was the destruction of the existing institutions by revolutionary means, which would in turn require revolutionary constructions undertaken by the whole masses, explained Ha. What the society finally accomplished would be a utopian one that would guarantee freedom, the realization of which must be the task of Korean youth, concluded Ha.[435] Here, the coalition of anarchists and the masses via the youth appeared as the key to the realization of such a utopian society. Departing from the constrained concept of the nation (minjok), that is, independence as a supreme goal, to apply Henry Em’s analysis, the author, Ha, opened up a road to see a broad audience in the world just like Shin Chaeho did a decade ago, whose turns to anarchism from “nationalism” and to “the people” (minjung) from “the nation” (minjok) were, according to Em, an indicator of Shin’s “political program that went beyond nationalism.”[436] Similarly, Ha moved beyond the nation here in projecting a new society of freedom for the masses through the role and responsibility of youth.

A necessity to unite with the masses for a genuine social revolution was reemphasized in an anonymously written article, titled “Our Words,” in an issue of the South China Correspondence, published in January 1936. This anonymous author also believed that the question of Korean independence was pertinent not only to Korea but to the world, and that the Korean revolution thus was a “unit” of all social revolutions of the world, which led the author to conclude that anarchists were real social revolutionaries. To render social revolution genuine, however, the author asserted that anarchists have to be real friends of the masses, who would be the final and perpetual victor in the revolution. In this sense, according to the author, copying other revolutions like the 1917 Russian Revolution was not desirable, for the revolutionaries had to consider particular circumstances they were surrounded and faced.[437] This author, rejecting any applicability of the universal theories or experiences to nation-based revolution, underscored the importance of accommodation to various national environments, accounting at the same time for the transnational dimensions of social revolution in the anarchist bent.

Another article in the same issue of South China Correspondence, titled “What Is Anarchism?” by an author with pseudonym of Baekmin, introduced the meaning of anarchism. To this author anarchism first was an idea that politically denied all kinds of domination and “compulsory power” (ganggwon); that economically rejected private property and communist politics of “naked power”; and finally that sought ethically to realize the principles of mutual aid and common prosperity of all peoples. Anarchism, in other words, appeared in the article as the idea not simply for a political, labor, or social movement, but for a much more complex movement that sought to destroy and uproot domination, exploitation, and “compulsory force” in society, in order to liberate the politically, economically, and ethically oppressed and fettered masses, and thus finally to realize a “free communist society” (jayu gongsan sahoe) where no domination and compulsory power existed.[438] The author reiterated the above-mentioned goal of the LKYSC, which obviously was the construction of an ideal anarchist society by way of a social revolution, as reflected undoubtedly in the aforementioned declaration, platform, and regulations. The anarchist society the LKYSC envisioned, in short, corresponded to the one its forerunner, the LKAC, did in the 1920s.[439] In addition to the discussions pertinent to the goal and vision for social revolution the LKYSC strove for, South China Correspondence carried many other articles and news regarding the question as to the formation of a national front (minjok jeonseon), to which I will turn later. As it will become clear, the anarchists in the LKYSC were quite interested in forming a national united front as early as mid-1936.[440]

The LKYSC had earned its reputation as a terrorism-oriented organization which, it seems, had much to do with the various activities conducted by the League of Resisting Japan and Saving the Nation (LRJSN, Hang-il guguk yeonmaeng) and possibly its own action group, the Black Terror Party (BTP, Heuksaek gongpodan). Historian Horiuchi Minoru assumes that these organizations could have been the same one organization, that is, the LKYSC, but could have used different names occasionally to either terrify the Japanese in China, or confuse the Japanese police regarding their identity. Indeed, there is a case where a Japanese police report identified the BTP and another terrorism-oriented group called the Vigorous Blood Group (Yeolhyeol dan) as the LKYSC’s “special detached forces” (betsudō dai).[441] Details as to how and when these groups were organized are unknown. But it seems that some of the LKYSC members, per a proposal from Chinese anarchists such as Wang Yachu and Hua Junshi,[442] could have organized jointly in October 1931 in the French Concession in Shanghai with them a separate organization, that is, the LRJSN.[443] It allegedly had seven Chinese members and seven Korean members, along with several Japanese anarchists, including Sano Ichirō (who used his Chinese name, Tian Huamin) and Yatabe Yūji (who used his Chinese name, Wu Shimin).[444] However we understand these organization’s identity and activities, it is undeniable that, given the information at hand, these several organizations and their activities were conducted and led by Korean anarchists. They were terror oriented in action, but whether all could have been the same one group or separate groups, they had the shared revolutionary platform and goal bent on anarchist principles, as I demonstrate below. In other words, their actions could be called terrorist in nature but still were conducted with a vision for social revolution, not to mention for national liberation, to realize their own version of an anarchist society in Korea and in other countries. This aspect of their sharedness can be additional evidence that indicates that in the end they could possibly be one organization.

What is quite clear is that the LRJSN seemed to be an “international group” in terms of its membership. As the LSNRJ’s membership was transnational, so were its goals. It aimed (1) to eradicate all the power and systems of private property in order to realize a genuine society of freedom and equality, so that Korea could become independent from Japan and subsequently build an anarchist society in the country; (2) to overthrow Japan’s constitutional monarchy and abolish the system of private property; and (3) to build an anarchist society in China and other countries. Adopted in its platform was “to deny all the power in the contemporary society and construct a new society in which all the mankind in the world can newly enjoy freedom and equality in all aspects in society.”[445] Something interesting about this organization was, it is said, that it expanded its organization to have three new departments to conduct activities such as the destruction of Japanese facilities in China, the assassination of important Japanese personnel, an assault on pro-Japanese Koreans, and anti-Japanese propaganda. It is impossible to confirm but Korean sources have asserted that there were the departments in the LSNRJ run by participating Russians, an American (named “Johnson”), and a Taiwanese (Lin Chengcai), respectively.[446] Besides, it had the Propaganda Department, which set up its printing place in the French Concession in Shanghai and published its journal, Freedom (Jayu) beginning in November 1931.[447]

Besides the terror-oriented group, groups like the Vigorous Blood Group (Yeolhyeol dan or Maenghyeol dan), and/or the Eradicating Traitors Group (Seogan dan) frequently appeared and were mentioned in various media in the 1930s, including anarchist newspapers. Again, all these groups could possibly be the suborganizations of the LKYSC, or the same one group but with different names used on different occasions for some reasons. The relationships among these groups as well as their identities are vague and unclear. And whether either was a subgroup of the LKYSC is still in question. The BTP obviously carried the same tasks as the LRNRJ: destroying Japanese military and administrative facilities in China, assassinations of Japanese officials/military commanders and pro-Japanese Koreans, and dissemination of anti-Japanese propaganda.[448] The BTP’s various terrorism-oriented actions, it seemed, indeed raised the level of fear among the Japanese and Koreans in Shanghai who had collaborated with the Japanese. In some cases the BTP possibly called itself the Eradicating Traitors Group to conceal its identity and confuse the Japanese police, not to mention to terrify pro-Japanese Koreans. The BTP, as mentioned earlier, has been particularly known for its responsibility for the attempted assassination of Japanese consular Akira Ariyoshi in Shanghai in March 1933.

Under the Banner of the Korean National Front (Joseon minjok jeonseon yeonmaeng)

The National Government of China had been passive in dealing with the Japan’s continuous military provocations, beginning in Manchuria in 1931. It had maintained the policy of “Resist on the one hand, negotiate on the other” to continue and focus on its top priority, that is, the “Anti-Bandit Military Campaign” to eradicate the communists from the Chinese soil. This policy was infamous among many Chinese who saw it as nonpatriotic and self-destructive, since it allowed the Japanese to invade and occupy Manchuria and north China by the mid-1930s without resistance. The policy had been under severe criticism by many Chinese, including the CCP, all of whom unanimously requested of the National Government united anti-Japanese resistance. Demands for a united fight against Japan finally ignited the fire of nationalism in China, leading to the Xi’an Incident in December 1936, in which Chiang Kai-shek, head of the National Government and the GMD, was house-arrested by his own generals, Zhang Xueliang and Yang Hucheng. Zhang and Yang demanded of Chiang united anti-Japanese resistance. With Chiang’s agreement, China’s full-scale resistance war against Japan began with the formation of the second United Front between the GMD and the CCP in 1937. The political development and subsequent decision by the National Government for China’s resistance war with Japan nurtured the condition for Korean anarchists to consider their own united front with other Korean exile groups. They saw it as an opportunity that paved the way to the realization of their immediate goal of independence, and in the end of an anarchist society they envisaged, if the Chinese would win the war. The formation of the United Front in China was the most immediate, crucial factor for Korean anarchists to propose and prompt the formation of a Korean national front in China.

Besides the China factor there had been some other internal factors as well that led to the discussion and formation of the Korean national front in 1937. Korean independence activists in China, including anarchists, had been divided along various political doctrines or ideological lines as well as personal, regional, or even factional ties, and so on since the 1919 March First Movement.[449] Even inside the Provisional Government of Korea, its leaders had also been very divisive over the ultimate goal and direction of Korea’s independence. Some preferred a diplomatic approach, while others insisted on armed struggle against Japan for independence, for example. Likewise, in regard to the postindependence society, some envisaged a capitalist society, while others a socialist country. The government-in-exile, crippled by the internal conflicts and divisions, had never been able to exercise its power and maintain its authority over all Koreans abroad. Korean anarchists had not been generally associated with it, not just because of their rejection of central power or the state but also because of their disappointment with its divisive leaders and their politics.[450] The national front idea was put forward by anarchists, as Yu Ja-myeong explained later in 1938, with consideration of resolving all the conflicts that had been regarded as barriers among those circles, such as factional strife, different backgrounds, and even an antipathy among the independence movement groups. They were focused on making a strong, unified entity that could lead all Korean revolutionary and independence groups toward their common national struggle for liberation.[451]

Between Japan’s invasion of Manchuria in 1931 and the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War in 1937, Korean anarchists gradually lost their physical grounds for their activities and organizations, first in Manchuria and then other major cities like Shanghai, as these area and cities were all occupied by Japan by mid-1930s. With much tightened suppression of radicalism during the years Korean anarchists in colonial Korea and Japan had to either go underground for survival or give up their belief by converting to support the colonial rule or, at least, remain silent.[452] When all went against their favor, many Korean anarchists concluded that they now had to join the Chinese anti-Japanese resistance war or arm themselves. That China in unity responded to Japan’s invasion with its own all-out resistance in 1937 made Korean anarchists realize that the victory of China over Japan was indispensable for Korea’s independence. In short, there existed “a demand of the time”[453] that required them to support China’s resistance war. It was at this moment that they put forward the idea to form a national front and began to place their utmost priority on national struggle in unity against Japan, believing independence even as the precondition for the realization of their anarchist society in Korea.

The international situation too seemed to be favorable for Korean anarchists to propose their national front idea. As Yu Ja-myeong observed later in 1938, anarchists had witnessed the rising fascism in the world and its subsequent suppression of radicalism and democracy in the 1930s. The emergence of fascism in the world stopped the fight between socialism and democracy (i.e., capitalism) and ushered in the establishment of the united front worldwide between socialism and democracy, Yu explained.[454] To Korean anarchists, a clear example of this was the People’s Front in Spain and France, as well as the United Front in China. A colony like Korea no doubt needed a unity of all the people and subsequently the establishment of its own united front to fight the colonial power. Now the priority must be given to national unity and struggle against Japan; accordingly, anarchists needed not consider the social conditions and problems in Korea at least for a while, according to Yu.[455] In short, in response to the emergence of various united front worldwide against fascism, Korean anarchists in China prioritized Korea’s national unity over any internal differences such as social divisions among Korean people under capitalist domination.

The success and failure of the People’s Front in Spain in 1936 particularly came as a good lesson to Korean anarchists, a lesson that revolution in a country would never be possible without response or assistance from their counterparts in the neighboring countries. Their intimate alliance with other antifascist forces in the region and the world too was of great necessity.[456] Indeed, the alliance and cooperation with other anarchists, let alone other antifascist forces (i.e., anti-Japanese forces) had always been a major concern and interest of the Korean anarchists in China since the 1920s. The national front idea was now put forward by them to propose an intense cooperation and alliance with all regional and international antifascist forces, only after making an internal unity among Korean independence groups. Also proposed by anarchists at the time, along with national front, was a movement to enlighten “the unawakened masses.”[457]

In short, the proposal for and establishment of the League for the Korean National Front (LKNF) in December 1937 (more on this to follow) were a direct outcome of several changes in China and the world. Above all, Korean anarchists perceived that Korean participation directly in China’s anti-Japanese resistance war would contribute to China’s victory, which in turn was a condition for Korea’s liberation from Japanese colonialism. But first, Koreans had to be united internally without internal rift to support effectively and even join the Chinese. This was the point the LKNF emphasized most in its declaration; a national unity had to be accomplished and highlighted to overthrow Japanese imperialism and complete Korea’s autonomous independence.[458]

Discussions among Korean anarchists on the possible formation of a national front among Korean independence organizations in China got underway in early 1936, or at the latest in the summer of the same year.[459] The LKYSC was the leading anarchist organization that propagated the idea of national front. If we look at the number of writings on the question of national front carried from the summer of 1936 in South China Correspondence, it is possible to say that the propagation of national front was an important issue as much as anarchism itself for the LKYSC in the year.[460] As mentioned above, an earlier proposal for it appeared in an article in the second issue of South China Correspondence, published in June 1936, written by the author named Ha (presumably Yi Hayu). Ha began his discussion with his criticism of a wrong perception among Koreans, who in his view did not understand the particular context of Korea as a colony. Many Koreans had tended to forget the colonial situation and had been politically divided before the enemy, analyzed Ha. Many left-oriented independence movement activists had particularly conducted various “formal movements” that were usually faithful to some universally applicable “theories,” but they did not see the fact that Korea was a colony, Ha lamented. Historical experiences from the past, continued Ha, had also proven that Koreans needed to be aware that a Korean revolution could never be accomplished by “empty” political movements that replicated some “theoretical” and “planned” lines without considering the Korean revolution’s peculiarities. This was why the liberation of an oppressed people like the Koreans could be accomplished not by political movement but rather by “a genuine revolutionary movement,” which would destroy the existing institutions by recourse to revolutionary means and then proceed to a revolutionary construction on the base of all the masses, Ha asserted. The “genuine revolutionary movement” demanded Korean youth to have a new consciousness that their immediate task was to make a unanimous unity and then form a united front internally to resist the external enemy. In short, the common goal for their struggle as a colonized people had to be “national and nationwide” (jeon minjokjeok) in its nature and scope, Ha concluded.[461] While opposed to political movement, Ha stressed internal unity as the immediate task with which a united front was to be formed for national liberation movement.[462]

Ha was first among the anarchists who made a formal call in writing for the necessity to unite the various independence movement groups in China to set up a national front to fight Japan. The Korean youth in China, Ha believed, were assigned a mission to construct a free and ideal society in Korea, but the society was only to be made possible when the shackles of Japanese imperialism were cut off by them after making unity under their common goal for struggle. The internal unity through a national front had to be agreed and achieved unanimously, so that they could fight Japan to the end with the spirit of sacrifice.[463] There was a reason for this author to emphasize the Korean youth’s responsibility for understanding the importance of internal unity before their enemy. There was a long history of internal divisions among Koreans abroad, as I mentioned above. In the November issue of South China Correspondence, another author named Ju (presumably Yang Yeoju)[464] went further, to express his agreement with the idea of a national front and even its expansion as necessary “at the current stage of our Korean revolutionary movement, because the national front is the only guide that opens up the way for national liberation movement.”[465] In its twelfth issue, an anonymous writer also pointed out that Korean anarchists understood that without overthrowing Japanese imperialism, it would be impossible to launch any kind of a movement, whether it was for an ideal society of political, economic, and social freedom and equality and the prosperity of all mankind or for the independence of Korean people.[466]

The idea to form the LKNF received a response in the summer of 1937, when the Alliance of Korean Independence Movement Activists (Joseon dongnip undongja dongmaeng) was organized. What followed was the discussion to form the LKNF in November 1937 in Nanjing by representatives of three radical groups, including anarchist. Since the National Government of China abandoned its capital city, Nanjing, the LKNF’s members had also to leave Nanjing to move to Hankou where they finally formed the LKNF a month later. These radical groups were the League of Korean Revolutionaries (LKR, Joseon hyekmyeongja yeonmaeng), the Korean National Revolutionary Party (KNRP, Joseon minjok hyeokmyeong dang), and the Alliance for Korean National Liberation Movement (AKNLM, Joseon minjok haebang undong yeonmaeng). The LKR was an anarchist organization, reorganized and renamed in October 1937 from the LKYSC just before the establishment of the LKNF, with Yu Ja-myeong as its chairperson and twenty other anarchists as its members, such as Yu Seo, Jeong Hwaam, Na Wolhwan, Yi Hayu, Bak Giseong, and Yi Seungrae. Representing the LKR in the LKNF, Yu Ja-myeong had been meeting and discussing the possibility of setting up a national front with Kim Wonbong of the KNRP and Kim Seongsuk of the AKNLM. Kim Wonbong (1898–1958?) was the former leader of the Righteous Group in the 1920s, and had been inclined toward socialism in the 1930s.[467] Kim Seongsuk (1898–1969) was a Marxist and communist who had not been associated with the Korean Communist Party or the CCP, and never been under the guidance or sponsorship of the Comintern.[468] As explained above, the delegates from the three groups met on November 12, 1937 in Nanjing, and decided to establish the LKNF, agreeing on the LKNF’s name, declaration, regulations, and platform. The LKNF was not joined by nationalist groups such as the one led by Kim Gu (Kim Koo, 1876–1949), who was then-chairman of the Provisional Government of Korea in China. In fact, Kim shortly thereafter organized a separate united front organization, mostly for Korean nationalists in China, under the banner of the Coalition of the Groups for Korea’s Liberation Movement (Han-guk gwangbok undong danche yeonhaphoe).

Although a symbol of national unity, the LKNF was a loosely united organization of the three Korean radical revolutionary groups, although, according to Yu Ja-myeong, the loose collaboration among them was the LKNF’s main trait.[469] It may even be possible to say that the LKNF was in fact organized along the anarchist principle, spontaneous alliance, because the participating groups in the LKNF maintained their own organizational integrity and political/ideological positions independently, not to mention platforms, and so forth. They were united only under the common, large organization and platform unanimously agreed on by all of them. After the LKNF was established in December 1937 in Hankou, Yu became in charge of its journal, The Korean National Front (Joseon minjok jeonseon or Chaoxian minzu zhanxian in Chinese), published in Chinese, as one of its editors with Kim Seongsuk. A year later the LKNF organized its own military organization, the Korean Volunteers Unit (KVU, Joseon Uiyongdae) and Kim Wonbong became its commander, while Kim Seongsuk Director of the Political Bureau. Yu led the KVU as one of its supervisors (jido wiwon) probably because of his proficiency in Chinese.[470]

Yu Ja-myeong, as a proponent of forming a national front, emphasized the unity of Koreans for the goal of national liberation. To him, the target of Korean struggle as of 1938 was “still Japanese imperialism,” and the struggle must be conducted without internal divisions in thought and class for the sake of the common goal: “anti-Japanese independence.”[471] Yu also thought that the Chinese anti-Japanese War was “a fight not only for the Chinese nation and people but for world peace, human justice, liberation of the oppressed peoples in the world,”[472] indicating its significance that transcended China’s boundaries. In fact, as early as September 1932, Yi Hoeyeong discussed with Chinese anarchist Wu Zhihui and Li Shizeng the direction of Korean anarchist movement,[473] and it was possible that cooperation between China and Korea was discussed by them for the goal of united resistance against Japan’s aggression in Manchuria and north China at the time. Yu’s transnational understanding of the meaning of China’s anti-Japanese War and its relationship to the Korean National Front were not novel but could have already been shared among Korean and Chinese anarchists, therefore.

According to the declaration of the LKNF carried in The Korean National Front, the only way out as of 1938 for Koreans was to overthrow Japanese imperialism and accomplish their autonomous independence after unifying all the forces within the independence camp. This meant that the Korean revolution had to be a national (minjok) revolution, and the Korean national front was neither expected to be a “class front” (gyegeup jeonseon) in character nor a “people’s front” (inmin jeonseon), but, rather, a “national front” (minjok jeonseon). Furthermore, the Korean national front must also be distinguished from “the front organized by nationals or citizens” (gungmin jeonseon), formed in France and Spain.[474] There was a common awareness or understanding among the LKNF members as expressed in the declaration that Korea was a colony, and thus Koreans had to be united first regardless of their internal differences, political orientations, and so on, to retake independence. This common awareness displaced and deemphasized all the differences, both political and social, among Koreans and demanded of them that they unite for the national goal, no matter what.

The immediate task of the LKNF was not just its participation in China’s war against Japan, as Yu Ja-myeong, using his other name Yu Sik (Liu Shi in Chinese), insisted in his article contributed to the auxiliary journal. One of its most important, eventual tasks was the “expansion of the movement to [form] a united [front] in Korea through appeals to the compatriots and parties in Korea to respond” to the formation of the LKNF in China. To Yu, the connection between the LKNF in China and those groups in Korea could never be cut off, and the LKNF must maintain its intimate relationship with the revolutionary forces within Korea.[475] What the LKNF aimed at was, as Yu reiterated, not just the unity of the independence movement groups in China but ultimately of all Koreans both at home and abroad. The national goal obviously earned its priority and for that the unity of all Koreans, no matter where they were, became the precondition for national liberation.

Apart from the unity of all Koreans, the LKNF manifested the following eventual tasks: (1) the overthrow of Japanese imperialism and the construction of a genuine democratic independent country of the Korean people; (2) absolute guarantee of the people’s freedom of press, publication, assembly, association and religion; (3) confiscation of all the properties in Korea of Japanese imperialists, [Korean] traitors and pro-Japanese factions; (4) the improvement in the livelihood of the working masses; (5) providing occupational and mandatory education, using the national budget; (6) the establishment of equal political, economic, and social rights between men and women; and (7) the completion of friendly relations or alliance with the peoples and countries who are assisting or in sympathy with Korean people’s liberation movement.[476] In order to accomplish these tasks, the LKNF was expected to strive for (1) the fundamental removal [in Korea] of the ruling forces of Japanese imperialism, (2) the construction of anti-Japanese united front of all the people, (3) the realization of all-out revolutionary mobilization of all the people, (4) the active deployment of military actions, (5) the participation in China’s anti-Japanese war, (6) the coalition with all anti-Japanese forces in the world, and (7) the purge of the internal traitors such as pro-Japanese factions who had sided with the movement for autonomy and possessed an idea to compromise their position [with the Japanese].[477] These tasks point to the character of the LKNF—that it was a united front organization not just to fight Japan in China, but also to envision a society to be constructed.

Of particular interest in the above tasks is the LKNF’s emphasis on military actions against Japanese imperialism either by having its own military forces or by participating in China’s military resistance. That the LKNF stressed the military tasks meant its willingness not only to participate China’s military resistance but to envisage a postindependence Korea, where its autonomy and independence could been maintained with its military power. This was an autonomous, independent Korean state that, once established, must be strong enough even in its military capacity to deal with foreign pressure and invasion. In fact, as I examined in chapter 1, Korean anarchists in China had been somewhat consistent in this regard in the sense that they had always supported the idea of establishing self-defensive forces in rural areas against any bandits or communists. Korean anarchists in the LKNF like Yu Ja-myeong didn’t seem to shun this military-related issue, and were not even reluctant to help it materialize into the KVU later, as we will see below.

To understand more about Korean anarchists’ rationales for the formation of the LKNF and their prioritization of the national question over the social, it is necessary to examine how and for what they justified their united front with nationalists and even communists. The LKNF’s journal offers some answers. The Korean National Front published its first issue on April 10, 1938, which carried its inaugural address written by Yu Ja-myeong as its publisher and editor-in-chief. Given Yu’s position and status in the LKNF and its journal, what he wrote in it could represent not only his personal opinion but possibly the LKNF’s official position. In line with the LKNF’s declaration, Yu basically saw the national question of Korea as part of the “world problem” and as deeply related to the “historical incidents” of the past forty years in both China and Korea, and to the coming future years of the two countries. In his view, in other words, if China’s anti-Japanese resistance war would fail, there would remain no hope for Korea’s national liberation. And, reversely, Yu predicted, China’s final victory could also be determined by the support of Korean people whose prior experiences from their “twenty-year history of anti-Japanese revolution” [sic] and struggles were of paramount importance. The two countries therefore shared two common tasks to overthrow their common enemy and consolidate peace in East Asia. Simply speaking, forming a united front together against Japan was of great necessity of the time to Koreans and Chinese. But to do so, Koreans needed to be united internally first, Yu emphasized.[478] Yu then explained the meaning of the Korean revolution, which he thought also required the unity of all Korean people as a precondition for the success of it. To him, its goal was the liberation of Korean people from the double pains they had received under the political oppression and economic exploitation of Japanese imperialism. For that reason, what the Korean revolutionary camp needed to strive for was to form a unity of all Korean people without considering any class and political differences among them, just like China’s anti-Japanese united front between the GMD and the CCP, which gave its priority to the national problem. Theoretically speaking, therefore, Yu believed, the Chinese united front shared much in common with the proposed Korean national front.[479] As Kashima Setsuko points out, the way the LKNF was proposed and framed as a united front organization was indeed similar to that of the Second United Front between the GMD and the CCP of the 1930s.[480] Korean anarchists put aside all the questions pertaining to their social ideals, including class issues, for the sake of the national front.[481]

Some scholars have taken the above-listed tasks of the LKNF for an indicator of the shift Korean anarchists openly made to support the idea of the state, deviating from anarchist principles. According to these scholars, the formation of the LKNF itself was even a sign that Korean anarchists simply began to deteriorate themselves from the most important anarchist principle, that is, negation of any centralized organizations, including the state.[482] Indeed, Korean anarchists participating in the LKNF were in agreement with other independence activists in China on the necessity to gain Korea’s independence first and then set up an independent and autonomous Korean state. However, this need not be considered a deviation from anarchism. Independence had always been their immediate goal; the establishment of an autonomous nation-state after independence was always therefore presupposed and supported by them. What made them anarchist were their postindependence programs to build a new society based on anarchist principles and ideals. What seemed to matter was whether they were preoccupied only with independence without much consideration of or reference to how to achieve their ultimate goal of social revolution bent on anarchist principles. This matter was related to the priority they chose in their given time and space. They were willing to postpone their anarchist goal for the sake of the national goal and projected an anarchist society in the future. Maybe they wanted to spend little time on theoretical issues like the conflict between nationalism and anarchism, or they had fewer ideological attachments to them in the wake of the war in China. They were at least less important for them to consider. As John Crump suggests with regard to pre-1945 Japanese anarchism, Korean anarchists, just like their Japanese counterparts, were probably little interested in this kind of theoretical, and thus vexing, questions when their individual as well as national survivals were of most urgent concerns during the wartime years.[483] They probably thought that universal theories were not as important as the national question or didn’t concretely meet the national, local, or individual reality when applied and practiced.

For the goal to unite all Korean independence organizations in China, the LKNF also sought collaboration with the Provisional Government of Korea in China under the leadership of Kim Gu. The unification between the LKNF and the Kim-led organization was on the table for discussion between them but was not realized until the “Unification Conference” was held in September 1941, when Yu Ja-myeong and Yu Rim from the LKNF finally decided to participate in the Provisional Government, representing Korean anarchist groups.[484] And they were subsequently elected in October of the same year as representatives in the Provisional Legislative Body of the government. With these two anarchists joining the Korean Provisional Government, the LKNF was finally resolved and integrated into it. Among those in the other two groups in the LKNF, many of the KNRP members had moved to Yan’an. That the two leading anarchists, two Yu’s, joined the Provisional Government was indicative of how strongly and earnestly Korean anarchists wanted an actual unity among all the independence movement circles in China for their common national goal.

Korean Anarchists for Armed Struggle

Korean anarchists in the LKNF could be grouped mainly into three circles, according to a different military (or quasi-military) organization each circle established respectively. First was the group represented by Yu Ja-myeong from the LKR, which joined in organizing the KVU under the LKNF, with Kim Wonbong as its commander-in-chief. The other two circles organized respectively the Korean-Chinese Joint Guerrilla Unit (KCJGU, Hanjung hapdong yugyeokdae) and the Operation Unit of Korean Youth at Warfront (OUKYW, Han-guk cheongnyeon jeonji gongjakdae). The former was led by Jeong Hwaam, and the latter by three young Korean anarchists, Na Wolhwan, Yi Hayu, and Bak Giseong, all of whom had been a former study-abroad student and converted to anarchism in Tokyo in the 1920s, but had moved to China in the early 1930s.[485] All these anarchists had been the members of the LKYSC. It seems after 1937, Korean anarchists were gradually divided and grouped into three different military units. The reason for the division is not known and, as far as I am aware, there was no sign of any serious internal ideological conflicts among them. But, in hindsight, it seems that they had conflicting views on how they would treat other socialists, particularly the communists in the course of forming the LKNF. For example, some of them like Yu Ja-myeong were certainly willing to work closely with other socialists like Kim Wonbong and Kim Seongsuk, as well as the Korean Provisional Government, under the banner of national struggle. The others like Na and Bak seemed to dislike the idea of working with other socialists, particularly communists, and rather preferred organizing a joint armed force with nationalists, including the conservative group in the Korean Provisional Government. In the case of Jeong, he seemed to keep his distance from the LKNF, and might have been in conflict with the Provisional Government.[486] This kind of slight cleavage among Korean anarchists also can be seen from their post-1945 careers as well. In post-1945 years, Bak joined the South Korean Army, fought the communists during the Korean War, and later was promoted to a general of the Korean Army. In contrast, Yu Ja-myeong, unable to return to Korea under Syngman Rhee’s presidency after 1948, decided to remain in the People’s Republic of China and later in the 1970s received a commendation medal from the North Korean Government. Jeong Hwaam ended his life as a political leader of many progressive political parties in South Korea, going through enormous political hardships and suppressions under the military, dictatorial regimes of South Korea.

The KVU was no doubt a direct product of the LKNF. As one KVU member frankly stated at the time, the Korean youth in China working for Korea’s independence and liberation had been facing many hardships and problems before the LKNF’s establishment and its participation in China’s anti-Japanese resistance war. Most of them were at the age of twenty-seven and twenty-eight in the mid-1930s, and were quite determined to overthrow Japan and liberate their country. However, just like Kim Kwangju explains about his Shanghai years in the same decade, Korean youth, before China’s war against Japan began, had been unable to take actions actively and openly for the national goal; they had moved from one place to another frequently, to avoid Japanese arrest and surveillance, mainly living an underground life with the consistent fear of arrest, torture, and so on.[487] China’s decision to go to war with Japan allowed them to conduct their activities openly and to come out of their underground life, ironically giving them a more stable and protected life during the war, only because they were fighting the common enemy together with the Chinese. As long as they fought against Japan, their life and activity were going to be protected and, on top of that, they would be able to pursue their national goal more openly and publicly. Their anti-Japanese actions in China were justified, no matter what. The Chinese resistance war changed the whole situation somewhat to their favor, and the formation of the LKNF decisively freed them from the fear with which they had lived in China, and encouraged them to risk their lives for their national cause.

No wonder many Korean anarchists, after establishing the LKNF, expected an immediately expanded participation in the Chinese anti-Japanese war, be that combat-related or consisting of propaganda tasks. Yu Ja-myeong expressed this widely shared sentiment among Koreans in his writing carried in the second issue of The Korean National Front. Writing about the historical meaning of the GMD’s 5th National Convention in 1938, Yu strongly expressed his desire for the GMD to help expand the international anti-Japanese movement by uniting all peoples against Japanese imperialism and then establishing an enlarged united front against Japan. For that, he made a suggestion to the GMD that Koreans be allowed not just to participate in the anti-Japanese war, but eventually to help them have their own armed force with the assistance from the high authorities in the GMD government. Koreans had had a twenty-year-long history of “anti-Japanese revolution,” but, Yu admitted, they had lacked one thing, that is, their own armed force (mujang budae). If Koreans were given a chance to expand their abilities, in particular in the military, Yu believed that they should be able to empower themselves so as to found their own principle military force for the sake of Korean Independence, and this was beneficial to China’s war efforts.[488]

Besides Yu Ja-myeong, Yi Dal, one of the most active anarchists in the KVU, also hoped just like Yu to achieve through the KVU the liberation of both Chinese and Korean people and eventually everlasting peace in East Asia, expressing his own transnational ideal beyond Korea’s independence. Yi, frequently contributing to the KVU’s journal, The Korean Volunteers Unit’s Correspondence (Chaoxian yiyongdui tongxun), which was to be renamed later The Korean Volunteers Unit (Chaoxian yiyongdui), expressed in his writings his belief that Korean and Chinese people had to be thoroughly united together and overthrow their common enemy, Japanese imperialism. And then Yi professed that their unity would finally lead to the establishment and consolidation of the united front among the oppressed peoples in the East (dongbang).[489]

Obviously, the National Government of China was not deaf to Yu’s suggestion for the KVU, which was finally organized in October 1938 in Hankou under the supervision of the Political Department of its Military Affairs Committee. It was less than a year after the LKNF’s inauguration in December 1937. Against Yu’s hope, however, the KVU was assigned a noncombatant task, that is, propaganda-related works against the Japanese soldiers and the Koreans drafted by force to the Japanese army. The leaders and members of the KVU, including Yu, didn’t lose their hope to turn it into an actual combat force and get directly involved in military warfare with the Japanese in north and/or northeast China. But the KVU was to remain a noncombatant unit in the GMD-ruled areas, until the majority of its members decided to move to Yan’an, the revolutionary base of the CCP. The GMD’s continuous passivity in resisting Japan constantly disappointed many KVU members, including the leaders of the KNRP, who finally insisted on going, and actually left soon for Yan’an, where, unlike in the GMD-controlled areas, actual military combats between the Chinese and the Japanese took place.[490] Many KVU members moved up to Yan’an in order to conduct and engage in military actions, rather than noncombatant propaganda activities in the GMD-controlled area. And once they arrived in the CCP-controlled area and north China, they reorganized themselves into the North China Branch Unit of the KVU (Joseon uiyongdae hwabuk jidae). Their decision to move to Yan’an was not made just because of their left-oriented ideological position (i.e., pro-communist stance) or the lure and conspiracy of the CCP,[491] but mainly because of their nationalist desire to fight Japan as an active combat force and eventually to become the founding military force of a future Korean state. They later reorganized themselves in Yan’an as the Korean Volunteers Army (KVA, Joseon Uiyonggun) with the support from the CCP.[492]

As historian Kashima Setsuko notes, the formation of the KVU signaled the first step made by Korean anarchists toward Korea’s liberation through armed struggle with their own military force during China’s anti-Japanese war.[493] Those who organized and participated in the KVU wanted to carry their military tasks in the combat zones where they could confront and engage in direct combats with the Japanese, but there were many limits in their status and roles in China’s overall anti-Japanese war efforts. First, the KVU was under the command the National Government. This means that the KVU was not formed as a united military force with China, and thus was not treated as an equal partner to China’s Nationalist Army. Therefore, second, it had many restrictions and limits in its military actions and plans as an independent force, which was exacerbated by the Korean Provisional Government’s formal denunciation of it. The National Government was probably reluctant to allow and develop it to be a combat unit due to, among other things, that the KVU was not recognized by the Provisional Government of Korea that was formally assisted by the National Government. In fact, the Korean Provisional Government established its own military force called the Korean Restoration Army (Han-guk gwangbok gun) in response to the left-oriented KVU. And these could have possibly led Yu Ja-myeong and Yu Rim to their participation in the Korean Provisional Government later in 1941, probably recognizing the legitimacy of the government-in-exile.

Another major military organization in which Korean anarchists participated was the OUKYW, established in Chongqing in October 1939, together by some Korean anarchists and other nationalists associated with the Provisional Government of Korea. The leading anarchists in this military organization were Na Wolhwan, Yi Hayu, and Bak Giseong. This military unit was, similar to the KVU, placed under the command of the National Government’s Military Committee in collaboration with the Korean Provisional Government. The OUKYW’s commander was anarchist Na Wolhwan. Na had been a former member of the Black Friends League in Tokyo, but moved to China where he attended and graduated from the Chinese Central Military Academy under the GMD’s auspices. After graduation he had been in military service for the Chinese National Government’s military forces before he joined the LKNF and the OUKYW was organized. Some nationalists, associated with Kim Gu, also participated in the OUKYW, which initially had about thirty Koreans who had all “lived in different living circumstances” before joining it.[494] The OUKYW’s basic goal was manifested as cooperation with the Chinese for their anti-Japanese war. But more important in their goal was to locate many Koreans in the warfront, who had been drafted forcefully to the Japanese army but deserted in China from it, in order to have the deserted Korean soldiers join the OUKYW to ensure its increased ability as a military unit. The members of the OUKYW also anticipated China’s final victory in the war with Japan, which in turn would guarantee the success of a Korean revolution they envisaged.

The OUKYW too had its journal in Chinese, titled Korean Youth (Hanguo qingnian), published in June 1940, to which Korean anarchists contributed their writings and Na Wolhwan, commander of the OUKYW, was one of them. In one of his articles contributed to the journal, titled “Our Tasks” and carried in its inaugural issue, Na, sharing with the LKNF the general goal of making a united front with other Korean organizations, pointed out that Korean youth shouldered their most important task to overthrow Japanese imperialism in order to eradicate its forces from Korea and ultimately to construct a country of freedom and independence. For that, he continued, all anti-Japanese forces in China had to be united and a united Korean military unit needed to be established to lay out a foundation for Korea’s liberation and independence.[495] Just like those in the LKNF and the KVU, the OUKYW members too believed that Korea’s independence and China’s victory in the war against Japan were certainly not two different, separate matters.[496] The OUKYW moved to Xi’an in Shaanxi Province and engaged there from spring 1940 in a noncombatant military operation to contrive to win Koreans in the Japanese army to its side. Obviously, the OUKYW too was assigned noncombatant works by the Chinese National Government. Unfortunately, Na, its commander, was murdered later by a rightist Korean, but the OUKYW continued to exist and operate until it merged in the end into the Korean Restoration Army in September 1940, and subsequently reorganized in November 1940 as the Fifth Branch Unit of the Korean Restoration Army under the command of the Korean Provisional Government. Note that the Provisional Government and its leader, Kim Ku, were known for their anticommunist stance, which may explain the possibility that OUKYW’s reorganization was a reaction to the formation of the North China Branch of the KVU in Yan’an.

The anarchists in the OUKYW, just like those in the KVU, stressed the importance of having Korea’s own military forces. Na Wolhwan, for instance, explained it in his discussions on how to establish Korea’s armed forces and on the reason why Korea needed its own armed forces. Dissatisfied with their task assigned from the Chinese, Na complained that active Korean military forces had been staying away from the warfront or only conducting propaganda-related works against the Japanese, neither of which had been effective in their result and been suitable as a job for the Korean youth in China. In addition, Na believed that there had been no [Korean] masses in China on whom the Korean youth could rely, and, therefore, they had no ability to expand their own military organizations in China. Having said that, Na pointed out that it was necessary for them to join the Chinese anti-Japanese resistance war in order to grow their own military ability and, at the same time, achieve a unity among all Koreans in China, despite their different political and ideological orientations. Then, Koreans and Chinese would ultimately be able to unite and consolidate the unity between two countries, defeating in the end the “Japanese fascist robbers.” Na saw an opportunity to expand Korean youth’s capability to build a Korean armed force, which could be founded on the Korean masses who he believed had been all scattered here and there in China, particularly, in occupied Manchuria and central China near Nanjing and Shanghai.[497] Making a unity among all those scattered Koreans was, in other words, the most urgent and important task to achieve independence as a distance goal, but also important as an immediate goal was to raise Korea’s military ability in the process of achieving the unity in preparation for the coming independence. In his definition of national unity of all Koreans, the communists must have been excluded.

Compared to the above-mentioned two military units, the KCJGU was organized a little later in the fall of 1939 by Jeong Hwaam, Yu Ja-myeong, Yu Seo, and Yi Gang, around the area near Shangrao in Jiangxi Province and Jianyang in Fujian Province, also with the help from the Chinese Nationalist Army. Unlike its two counterparts, this guerrilla unit was a joint military group of Koreans and Chinese, according to Korean sources. Its main activities were centered on killing Chinese “traitors” (hanjian), winning Korean student-soldiers to their side who had been drafted against their will to the Japanese army, and rescuing western POW’s from the Japanese army. Some Korean sources even claim that the KCJGC collaborated with a general named “Shaw,” allegedly an air force commander of the Allied Powers, for the rescue operation of some western POW’s in occupied China. It was also said that two Chinese young men named Yue Guohua and Jin Yan, both of whom were former students of Yu Ja-myeong from Lida College in Shanghai, collaborated with the KCJGU for the assassination of some Chinese “traitors.”[498] All these activities cannot be confirmed, but these anecdotes attest that this guerrilla unit was a kind of united front organization between Korean anarchists and some Chinese (possibly anarchists). It is unclear when this joint guerrilla unit stopped its military and other activities, for there is not much information available. The KCJGU could have been organized by the Korean anarchists who neither decided to move up to Yan’an nor to join the OUKYW, as Yu Ja-myeong was one of its members.

Korean anarchism of the 1920s was no less transnational than nationalist in its emphasis and ultimate pursuit, and many Korean anarchists were against nationalist movements that aimed mainly at political independence of Korea from Japan without social transformation in it. They seemed to shift this transnational position in the 1930s, not because they abandoned transnationalism or simply utilized anarchism for their national goal, but mainly because of the changes in the situation of China and the world. Japan’s invasion of China since 1931, and China’s all-out resistance to Japan with the formation of the second United Front between two parties, GMD and CCP, opened a door for Korean anarchists to consider their own national front, placing the national problem as their top priority. The news from Europe as to the successful People’s Front in Spain in 1936 (and in France) and the worldwide movement against fascism and Japanese aggression came to them as a favorable sign for their independence movement and activities. These changes gave rise to awareness among Korean anarchists that Korea’s independence was entangled with the “China problem” and, more broadly speaking, “the world problem.” Thus, they came to conclude that the national problem could be solved only after joining the broader resistance against Japan and fascism. The general decline of anarchist movement in the world since the mid-1920s onward, let alone in Eastern Asia, could have possibly contributed to the shift of their focus to independence as well in hope to regenerate their movement. No doubt that the shift was also necessary for their survival during the war. More importantly, since they were without exception drawn to anarchism out of their nationalist aspiration, it was possible that many of them didn’t even think that it was a shift of their focus. They could have thought that they were postponing their anarchist goal for the time being to a near future.

Implications of the future-oriented shift, however, were immense in terms of its immediate and forthcoming consequences. The LKNF placed national unity at the top of its agenda until 1945 and, for that, saw social problems and political/ideological divisions among Koreans as less important or at least not as immediate issues. Its immediate focus on struggle through military organizations resulted in its search for military organizations and actions together with Chinese against Japan. Also, Korean anarchists seemed to close their eyes to the fact that the Allied Powers were not true liberators of the colonized peoples but a different kind of colonizer or oppressor under the capitalist system, because of their attachment to their immediate goal to fight Japan together with all anti-Japanese forces of the world. As their later activities after 1945 reveal, they were not going to or unable to bring up the social issues in Korean society anymore. Many of them didn’t even seem to take imperialism (and/or capitalism, therefore) seriously as their enemy anymore, as I demonstrate in the next chapter. The disappearance of class or social issues under capitalism as well as imperialism in their understanding was accompanied with the erasure of capitalism as the source of exploitation and oppression that Korean people, along with all the oppressed peoples in the world, had suffered from. In this respect I think their shift in the 1930s to ’40s to national unity for independence through the national front entailed huge consequences in ensuing years in terms of the direction and character of post-1945 Korean anarchism. The shift is of greater significance if we consider that in the early 1930s many Korean anarchists in the LKYSC still identified capitalism as a target of their struggle.

Before the idea of national front was put forward, nationalism had been under severe attack by most anarchists, as exemplified in many articles carried in Black Newspaper. In fact, unlike their counterparts in China, Japan-based Korean anarchists seemed to be indifferent, if not opposed, to the idea of the national front. Korean anarchists in China too, it seemed, were internally divided, not over major anarchist principles or ideals but over their collaboration with other Korean socialists and communists or the Provisional Government. However we understand their internal divisions, it is still true that many Korean anarchists did not just participate in China’s anti-Japanese war for its military victory over Japan, but also to lay out a new foundation for a new Korea and a new East Asia with peace in the region, just like the Japanese radicals and socialists who were more interested in the preparation for a future revolution in Japan when they joined China’s anti-Japanese resistance war.[499] I don’t think the active involvement or even initiative by Korean anarchists in the formation of the Korean National Front in 1930s and ’40s China and their participation in the Korean Provisional Government before 1945 should be viewed as an aberration from anarchist basic principles, as some Korean historians have argued.[500] They did not lose their “anarchist voice” yet, but were only ready to accommodate anarchism to post-1945 Korea.

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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