Friday, December 30, 2005

December 3, 1923 archives: A serious accusation

More on the 1923 Great Earthquake in the Kanto Plain. This one directly deals with the issue of Koreans being killed and the role the police took. Certainly some right-wing apologists would love to suggest that the police were just trying to protect the Korean residents, but contemporary reports like this suggest otherwise.

Dr. Floyd Williams Tomkins, President of the Friends of Korea in America and a leading clergyman of Philadelphia, filed a protest with U. S. Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes, against Japanese inhumanity in killing Koreans in Japan during the earthquake.

The charges made by Dr. Tomkins were based upon written evidence, supplied by a Captain Hedstrom, U. S. citizen and assistant dock superintendent at Yokohama, which is backed up by other American observers. The virtual indictment says "that the official order went out to kill as many Koreans as possible that on Sunday, Sept. 2, 1923, 250 Koreans were bound hand and foot, in groups of five, placed in an old junk, covered with oil, burned alive"; that soldiers, ordered to shoot eight Koreans, apparently enjoyed the horror of a party of Americans, who were forced to witness the preparations for the executions, and "instead of shooting the Koreans they bayonetted them"; that hundreds of Koreans were massacred and "thousands interned with insufficient supplies."

The report then goes on to say that the territorial integrity and independence of Korea* was guaranteed in 1882 by 14 nations, among them Japan, who followed " the example of the U. S." "The U. S. agreed that if Korea should be unjustly or oppressively dealt with it would exert its 'good offices.' Yet we find Korea absorbed by the very power which guaranteed its independence, and a people once proud to call themselves Korean citizens now reduced to 'people without a country,' with no one to speak in their behalf."

The Japanese Embassy at Washington stated that fighting " between Koreans and Japanese, and between Japanese and Socialists and Anarchists," did take place at the time of the great quake. The number of Japanese and Koreans killed was placed between 200 and 300. It was denied that 250 Koreans were burned in oil. The Koreans, said an Embassy official, were interned for their own protection and "2,700 free railway tickets were provided for such Koreans as desired to go to their homes outside the earthquake zone."

* On Aug. 22, 1910, Korea was formally annexed to Japan and the name changed to Chosen. By an Imperial Rescript of 1919, Chosen became an integral part of the Japanese Empire, and the equality of Koreans with Japanese was declared.


  1. My university professor wrote his PhD thesis about Koreans and the Kanto earthquake. It is a sobering read.

  2. Come on, let's twist again, Darin.
    Stopped reasoning, didn't ya yet?


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