Fighting the Korean War in Pacifist Japan

Korean and Japanese Leftist Solidarity and Transnational Linkages of U.S. Cold War Containment

Author: Deokhyo Choi


Where does "pacifist" Japan fit within the history of the Korean War? Was Japan simply the beneficiary of the wartime boom – a case best exemplified by Japanese Prime Minister Yoshida Shigeru’s characterization of the Korean War as "a gift of the gods"? When North Korean troops crossed the 38th parallel and launched a full-scale attack against South Korea, the U.S. occupation in Japan quickly transformed the pacifist nation into the indispensable rear base of United Nations military intervention in the Korean War. The Japanese Communist Party and leftist groups organized by zainichi Koreans (Korean residents in Japan) launched an antiwar movement to stop Japan from producing and sending arms to UN forces in Korea. The U.S. occupation responded with determined efforts to contain every antiwar voice emerging from the streets of the pacifist country. By examining the political dynamics of zainichi Korean and Japanese leftist solidarity and U.S. countermeasures, this article shows how the Korean War was fought in pacifist Japan. It also illuminates how the practice of Cold War containment was mutually linked on the ground between occupied Japan and South Korea.

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December 2017
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