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To the surprise of many South Koreans, in 2004 then president Roh Moo-hyun announced that lingering pro-Japanese collaboration issues would join other crimes of contemporary Korean history to be investigated in the extensive Truth and Reconciliation project that the national assembly eventually passed. After all, the Korean peninsula had been liberated from Japanese colonial rule for six decades; investigations under the 1948 Anti-Traitor Act had been terminated the following year. Since this time public discussion on the topic of colonial-era traitors had been virtually silent. President Roh, however, was riding a trend that had begun in the late 1990s with the end of military rule, just one of the advances that the success of South Korea’s democratization movement had promoted. The administration feeling it necessary to pursue these ghosts of Korea’s colonial past at this time reflects the failures of past efforts to resolve this issue. Indeed, over the five years following liberation from colonial rule discussion on the pro-Japanese (ch’inilp’a) had been a hot issue. Twice legislative bodies had passed anti-traitor laws designed to identify and punish Koreans who had placed their loyalties with Korea’s Japanese subjugators. This presentation, a part of a larger project investigating Japanese colonial dregs in liberated Korea, is designed to 1) trace this history of efforts to sweep from Korean society pro-Japanese elements, and 2) use the example of Korean collaboration to complicate the issue of trying nationals for actions under foreign occupation deemed by a liberated society to be anti-patriotic.
Mark E. Caprio is professor of the College of Intercultural Communication at Rikkyo University in Tokyo, Japan. His research has considered Korea’s colonial era, which he presented as Japanese Assimilation Policies in Colonial Korea, 1910—1945(University of Washington, 2009). He is currently working on a second monograph that investigates the efforts of Koreans in the wartime and post-liberation to shed colonial dregs and gain national sovereignty. He is currently serving as a visiting researcher at Hallym University in South Korea.