Korean Soil, Japanese Faces, American Empire: Repatriation and the Korean War Experiences of Japanese Laborers and Japanese American Soldiers
This paper compares the Korean War experiences of two ethnically Japanese groups that served the US military on the Korean Peninsula – second-generation Japanese American (Nisei) soldiers in the US Military Intelligence Service (MIS) and Japanese laborers – to demonstrate the salience of citizenship in the post-1945 Asia Pacific. In particular, this research addresses the question, “how did the politics of repatriation differentiate the experiences of Japanese Americans from those of Japanese nationals, both serving the US military during the Korean War?” This service ranged from (Nisei) American repatriation interrogators of Korean and Chinese civilians, to prisoners of war (POWs), and included clandestine Japanese laborer-repatriates, respectively. Archival material (Harrington Files 1940s-1970s), biographies (McNaughton 1994, 2007), declassified military documents and ground-breaking histories (Takemae 2002; Fujitani 2011; Morris-Suzuki 2011, 2012; Kim 2013; Jager 2013) are viewed through critical discourse analysis (CDA) Fairclough 1989, 1995; Janks 1997) to develop a transregional decolonial framework that reimagines critically the role of the US military in unresolved conflicts over sovereignty and identity formation in the Asia Pacific. Findings reveal that experiences with repatriation reinforce and challenge racial constructs differently for Japanese and Japanese Americans. Finally, they expose distinctions in labor, as well as individual yearnings for postwar mobility.