Preparations for my oral exams this spring has prevented me from contributing much recently but I have started to take an hour away from my orals reading every day or two to hang out in the basement of the Harvard-Yenching library. I really want to skim through a few thousand pages worth of US military documents from early postwar occupied Korea. I’m currently working on the various kinds of documents in the 史官記状 sub-section in the 駐韓米軍情報参謀部軍史課 section (I need to get the official US military terms for these) of this collection, which is called the 解放直後政治社会史資料集.
I just started this and am going rather slowly to start as I’m trying to get a feel for the kind of material available. I’m especially looking for information on Korean-Japanese interactions in the early occupation period, political retribution against or at least mention of Korean collaborators, and generally trying to get a feel for this complicated period.
Besides being a really great introduction to this period through primary sources, it is really fun reading, as the various notes and reports are filled with interesting anecdotes. Expect more of my future postings to refer to this material. Most the documents so far are meeting minutes, summaries of press conferences, summaries of major events, but there are other kinds of materials too. One short single paragraph report, for example, contains a soldier’s random observations on Western books he found in disorderly piles in (the then named) Keijô University library, where all sorts of US troops were apparently staying at the time. There are also dictated translations of interviews of Koreans, including refugees from the Russian occupied areas.
Because many of the reports are minutes from meetings which often summarize discussions, one can find thrown together various topics in surprising and sometimes comical ways. My favorite discovery today has to be from a US military corps staff conference held on the 15th of September, 1945. The main topic of the conference was the training of Korean police and resolving labor issues:
“The provost marshal (Lt Col Moors) had visited ASCOM 24 and felt that the police situation was well in hand. The Japanese work detail were doing a good job. The Navy had invaded the city of Inchon and bought all the souvenirs.” (Vol. 1, 66)