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Korean guards in Japanese PoW camps

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#1 Owen



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Posted 09 February 2012 - 10:42 PM

I've heard it mentioned a few times that the Korean guards were even more brutal than the Japanese ones.
Having heard a Veteran mention them on the radio today I've had a quick Google on them .
I found this of interest on a subject I've never really considered before.
Axis History Forum • View topic - Korean Brutality in WWII - A Japanese Creation?

UTSUMI Aiko of Keisen University, Japan, conducted extensive research on Korean POW guards and found that more than 3,000 young Korean men were "recruited" (that is "press-ganged" or otherwise forced to "volunteer") for the prison guard corps. Many of [them] feared they would be shipped to Japan as indentured servants if they did not join the corps. Others were perhaps attracted by the high pay rates offered - 50 yen a month, a large amount at that time. [They] were classified as civilian employees rather than members of the military, and many hoped this status would prevent their transfer to the front line and ... allow them to be demobilized after their two-year contract was concluded. However, on joining, the new recruits were issued with uniforms, and their basic training was very much military in character, including weapons training. Despite the difference between the promise and the reality of the guard corps, few deserted, possibly because deserters were threatened with court-martial.
The Koreans were trained in Japanese and forbidden to use their native tongue. They were also given Japanese names in place of their Korean names. They were instructed to treat POWs as animals as a way of ensuring their fear and respect. They were trained primarily in the Japanese Field Service Code, and they were frequently beaten by Japanese officers, for no justifiable reason. The Geneva Convention was never mentioned. In other words they were trained as de facto Japanese soldiers, yet their rank of "kanshi-hei" (guard) was lower than that of a private, and there was no possibility of promotion. Clearly the Korean guards ... were treated as second-class soldiers within the forces, bound by the same iron discipline, yet enjoying none of the prestige accorded to Japanese soldiers. Indeed, one of their unstated functions ... was to give the Japanese soldiers someone to look down on, thus strengthening a sense of ethnic solidarity among the Japanese and minimizing the resentment felt by Japanese troops toward their officers.

Anyone else have any thoughts or anecdotes on them ?
As I say it's an aspect of WW2 I've never really thought of before & it's always good to learn something new.
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#2 wowtank


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Posted 10 February 2012 - 04:21 AM

I think I remember a bbc documentary from the 80s in which Aussie and Brit vets said the Koreans were sort of force to be harsher than the Japs to prove themselves to them. Horrible but I think they said the Korean guards would hit them in the neck muscles to make them swell up.
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"We did our training with the old Colt machine gun, which had a big brass tripod. They fired about two rounds every bloody hour!"

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#3 Harry Ree

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Posted 10 February 2012 - 11:24 AM

Read Russell Braddon's account of the brutal Korean guard in his "The Naked Island".

The Aussies gave him the nickname the "Ice Cream Man" from the fact that he wore a white lab coat and continually terrorised the POWs.In the end,his brutality towards the POWs cost him his life.As Russell put it on the camp liberation, "the Ice Cream Man is no more".They took their revenge and he was beaten to death.

All this happened on Singapore Island and particularly during the contruction by the Japanese of what would be,postwar RAF Changi,now Singapore International.

My sons have passed through the place en route to and fro Australia.I reminded them of the brutality to POWs by the Japanese during its construction and who had gone before them.
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#4 bamboo43


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Posted 10 February 2012 - 12:26 PM

I have read and been told first hand that the Korean guards were doubly nasty for the very reasons Wowtank states.

It was very much a case of Dog kicks cat, so cat kicks mouse harder.
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#5 Hebridean Chindit

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Posted 11 February 2012 - 12:11 AM

There are several references I have for this; the best of them from a controversial Japanese author called Saburo Ienaga...

Post WWI the changes in the heirachy in the Japanese military structure resulted in what can only be described rule by brutality - the senior officers ruling over their juniors by fear... this moved down the ranks getting more brutal as it went... frustration would be released as it moved down the ranks...

The Japanese considered the Koreans to be a lesser species and were regularily beaten by their commanding officers - to answer back would often result in a more severe beating, or even death...

... But the Korean guards had perfect soft-targets to take their frustration out on and the Japanese had others to deal with something they considered to be even less-worthy than the Koreans...
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:scot: Daa-daa-da-dada-dada-daa-daa-da-dada-dada...

If research was easy, it wouldn't need researching...

So, let's see... I started with dad's manuscript, which spread to his regiment's involvement with the Chindits, then onto a "Blackpool" history, which also spun-off into 230 Squadron and a brace of Sunderlands, and the 111th Indian Infantry Division, and 3rd Indian Division...

#6 Harry Ree

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Posted 11 February 2012 - 10:03 AM

Korea was annexed by the Japanese in 1910.However there appears to be little evidence that Koreans had any determination to rid themselves of the Japanese yoke.

I do not know what the facts are as regards the incidence of Koreans surrendering on the battlefield while serving with the Japanese Imperial Forces as labourerers etc.I would think that they subjected themselves to suicide as their Japanese masters.

One impact on Koreans during their occupation by Japanese was that Korean females were forced into prostitution to serve in military brothels.The crime has not been forgotten by Korea and in the last few years Japan has paid compensation to Korean women so exploited.

But overall, the Japanese military machine with all its culture and brutality was driven by the "descendants" of the Knights of the Bushido.
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