Shame in San Francisco: America’s Betrayal of Korea

This week on Newsbud’s Asia Brief with Peter Lee: Shame in San Francisco: American Betrayal at the 1951 San Francisco Peace Conference and the Roots of Korean-Japanese Conflict. Do not miss this in depth presentation of almost forgotten historical events that helped to shape the current geopolitical climate of conflict. Newsbud is 100% people funded, support independent media and make a pledge to Newsbud’s Phase 3 Kickstarter today.

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Featured Video MP3 Audio Clip

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Show notes:

Tillerson tells ‘frenemies’ Japan and South Korea to heal ‘comfort women’ rift

Why this statue of a young girl caused a diplomatic incident

The San Francisco Peace Treaty and “Korea”

A “Just Peace”?  The 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty in Historical Perspective

Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship: the 1951 Treaty of Peace with Japan

South Korea’s Betrayal of the ‘Comfort Women’

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  1. Peter Lee says:

    Attn Newsbuddies! I recommend the audio version, which is about 50% longer than the video version and provides a lot of circumstantial detail I was unable to put in the video because of restrictions of time. As it was facing defeat in the Pacific War, it appears Japan made a conscious decision to reinvent itself as a monoethnic nation, as Ataturk built Turkey out of the ruins of the Ottoman Empire after World War I. That meant briskly and without remorse abandoning Korea and the Korean citizens who had served and died for the empire. Japan’s entire postwar relationship with South Korea has been a matter of the ROK pursuing Japan for liability for its colonial and wartime rule, and Japan determinedly evading any responsibility, with a lot of help from the United States.

  2. Hey Peter, this is outstanding! Both the video, and the extra info in the audio.

    Question–are our State Dept. officials informed of this kind of background? And our diplomats? Do career State Dept. officials know, and try to educate the newbies brought in by each new administration?

    • Peter Lee says:

      As I understand it, US International Relations curriculum takes “advancing US interests” as its core mission. And the diplomatic corps is managed on functional (you can be a consular officer anywhere!) as opposed to area (you’re a China hand!) specialities. So I get the feeling as far as Korea is concerned, it’s viewed thru the lens of “Korean resentment against Japan is an irritating distraction that should be swept aside” rather than “let’s make the world a better place by understanding the US role in Korean unhappiness”. Sustaining the US-Japan alliance is job 1 for US diplos, job 2 is not encouraging the ROK to place additional claims on Japan, it seems.

      • Thanks for your insights.
        Maybe in the future the US State Department will come to value the understanding of other countries’ experiences and perspectives.

  3. Hey Peter, another question. Why did the international community accept Japan’s 1910 annexation of Korea? What were the power structures at play?

    Also–The Koreans seem to have been relatively docile in the face of these multiple bad dealings by Japan, the international community and USA. Is that a cultural thing? (E.g., I believe Confucian philosophy was/is particularly strong in Korea, and respect for authority is a major principle.) Or was Korean resistance present, but not reported and written out of history?

    • Peter Lee says:

      There’s plenty of Korean resistance, though again this is one of those contested areas. In Japan, a lot of energy is put into defending the assertion that Japanese rule was a net positive, again to justify the idea that Japan owes Korea and the people of Korea nothing. In 1910, Korea was a neglected backwater with quite a few economic problems and political weakness, and Japan successfully sold the Western powers on the idea that it was a superior, civilizing influence that would lift Korea out of backwardness. This was a period when Japan was pretty successful in its quest to achieve parity with the West as a superior imperial power. My take is that Japanese rule over Korea was not particularly great because Korea was big and had plenty of problems and Japan had its own problems with the depression and then subjected Korea to draconian mobilization policies during the Pacific War. I think in the end, Japan owed Korea, but the US decided to help Japan dump Korean responsibility because it didn’t want a big, messy Korean issue to upset the plans the US had for Japan. I go into that in this week’s Asia Brief.

  4. Imants Virsnieks says:

    Excellent this would validate my reason for subscribing even if this was the only item on Newsbud’s menu. Peter Lee and Filip Kovacevic are invaluable.

  5. carlos choy says:

    Thank you Peter Lee, for telling the truth. I wish the world could hear it.

  6. says:

    Great discussion. The U.S. can no longer act as it has for the past 100 years. The lack of nuance in foreign policy is leading many world leaders to lose faith in our ability to lead. The heavy handed approach of military power is no longer valid. China will lead through the power of it business model. They also have an ace up the sleeve. They have over $20,000 tons of gold. If we try to unleash a financial war, I am sure they will use this to topple the dollar. For now they are happy for us to send them gold at a bargain price.

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