[KS] Jews in Korea during the Second World War

Robert N robertneff103 at gmail.com
Sat Jul 27 21:52:57 EDT 2013

Prof. Hoffman

Thank you very much for translating that article.  I found the information
very interesting.  There was at least one Jew who worked for the Korean
Government in the 1880s....German I believe but I will have to go back and
check my notes as I am using my phone to write this note.

Robert Neff
On Jul 28, 2013 4:42 AM, "Frank Hoffmann" <hoffmann at koreanstudies.com>

> Some Hints, Some Clues, Some Sources:
> ======================================
> It seems Dr. Levkowitz' notes are summing the topic up. Still, Korea is
> always good for surprises, and so is the vitality of Jewish culture
> around the globe.
> Those from on the list from Germany sure know Professor Choi Chong-ko 崔
> 鍾庫, now retired, before a professor of Law at SNU who had once
> studied in Germany and who wrote a thick book on the history of
> Korean-German Relations (in the early 1980s), and in general wrote many
> articles on European-Korean relations (law and otherwise). In any case,
> he seems now to be working on the history of Jews in Korea:
> http://www.khdi.or.kr/ver2/system/bbs/board.php?bo_table=review&wr_id=293
> On the other hand, some of those early assumptions may be taken with a
> grain of salt, and maybe also by considering the specific hype about
> Jewish culture in Korea--see the May 12th article in the online _Jewish
> Chronicle_ to see what I refer to:
> http://www.thejc.com/lifestyle/lifestyle-features/48771/why-south-koreans-are-love-judaism
> As for Jews in Korea during the colonial period and more specifically
> WW II:
> We all know Jewish communities have a long history in CHINA. By the
> late 19th century these Jewish communities had dwindled in size and
> most synagogues had disappeared. With the Nazis taking over much of
> Europe those communities, in Shanghai and some other key cities,
> started again to grow through the influx of Jewish emigrants. Some of
> those emigrants had direct and active contacts to the Korean resistance
> there. Those were contacts on a personal level, no institutional
> coalitions. And JAPAN, although one of the Berlin-Rome-Tokyo Axis
> powers--as a young Japanese student once confidently told me in
> Beijing, "next time without the Italians"--well, JAPAN was for obvious
> reasons not so interested in a superiority of the Nordic-Aryan race. So
> there was a sizable number of European Jews coming through Japan, and
> some of them stayed for longer. The famous architect Bruno Taut
> immediately comes to mind, who fall in love with Japanese culture,
> influenced Japanese modernism while at the same time being influenced
> by traditional Japanese culture (a very complex story). There were many
> others. In most cases, though, Japan was just the gate to the U.S.,
> Canada, or South America. As for KOREA I am not aware of even a single
> case of a Jewish émigré to have stayed on there.
> Typically, Jewish and also some political émigré from European
> countries just traveled through Korea to get to Japan. Here they may
> have stayed on for a week or two or in some cases longer, before
> boarding a ship to their final destination.
> Professor Alexander Chajes (of Amherst, USA), in a short typescript
> with handwritten frontispice, written in 1991, describes his family's
> emigration in June/July 1940 from Vienna via Berlin, Moscow, Manchuria,
> Korea, Japan, to Seattle. Only his maternal grandmother was left behind
> in Vienna and was later murdered in the Theresienstadt concentration
> camp. I quote:
> "Because World War II had already started, we could not take the
> obvious route from Europe to America via the Atlantic Ocean. (...)
> through Russia (...) This route was open to us only because of the
> infamous nonaggression pact that existed between Russia and Germany.
> (...) 12,000 miles and last approximately two months. Without the help
> of the Joint Distribution Committee we could not have made it. This
> American philanthropic organization, dedicated to providing relief for
> Jews in distress, gathered together a group of about twenty refugees
> and made all the arrangements for the entire journey." (pp. 1-2) And on
> the handwritten frontispice he summarizes: "Transsiberian Train 5-6
> days - Lake Baikal - Manchuria (occupied by Japan) - Harbin - Korea
> (under Japan) (...) Yokohama - ship to USA via Pacific." In Harbin they
> took the train to Korea through Dandong [Antung]-Sinŭiju, via Seoul,
> and then directly to Pusan, where they took a ferry going to
> Shimonoseki. [The Chajes typescript is in the collection of the Leo
> Baeck Institute.]
> In another, far more detailed description of that basic same journey
> (route)--there must have been many such groups--that a Jewish emigrant
> to Ecuador describes, Elisabeth Bamberger, the author states the 1940
> train journey from the Korean border to Pusan took "one day and one
> night" (p. 13), passing through Seoul during the night, being in Pusan
> at lunch. In spite of this pass-through experience the writer is
> completely taken by the beauty of the Korean landscape! [The Bamberger
> manuscript is also at the Leo Baeck Institute.]
> It might be interesting to look into the history of *possible* Jewish
> communities before the times of Japanese occupation. Paul Georg von
> Möllendorff (1847-1901), advisor to King Kojong with various important
> offices in Korea, a man who had studied Hebrew and who had written an
> article on "Die Juden in China" [The Jews in China], a man with his
> interests, I think, would have mentioned it somewhere if there was a
> Jewish community in Korea. He did not, as far as I know. Maybe Prof.
> Ingeborg Göthel who has gone through all his published and unpublished
> papers would know for sure if he did?
> Yet, around 1900 the situation *may* have changed. This seems a pretty
> important article, actually, if the content is verifiable! I am
> therefore translating it for you. It is from _Die ✡ Welt_ (of October
> 1902), the original follows beneath the translation:
> -----------------------
> The Jews in Korea.
> Even the uttermost tip of the farthest Far East, a peninsular shrouded
> by ice-cold winds and mist, has a Jewish community. The Jews of Korea,
> of course, were not born here but come from faraway countries. Their
> birthplaces are in the ghettos of Russia, Galicia, and Romania, and
> only because of the persecution of Jews did they end up in the Far
> East. Most of them came through London and India to Korea, others
> through New York, San Francisco, or Japan, and some even through rough
> Siberian landscapes. Highly interesting is the fate of some Jews who
> have come to the country via Shanghai after having experienced plenty
> of failures and calamities in China, Sumatra, Borneo, and Java, before
> finally finding refuge in Korea. Korea now has presumedly around 300
> Jewish families who live among the "wicked heathens" ["gottlose
> Heiden"] far more trouble-free than before in the "countries of
> religion and love." This is because the Koreans soon enough understood
> what a valuable asset they had gotten with the Jews, since they
> stimulated trade and caused unprecedented growth of activities around
> their establishments, importing Russian sugar to Korea, alcohol and
> kerosene, and also introduced to Korea products from the Lodz (Łódź)
> industrial complex. Furthermore, the Jews introduced a large number of
> crafts that had till then been entirely unknown in Korea; thus, culture
> was brought to East Asia in the most noble sense. It is hardly
> surprising therefore, that the people and the government of Korea are
> cordially welcoming the Jews and the continuing growth of two
> communities in Seoul and Masampo through new immigrants. A lot of
> promotion [Propaganda] about the immigration of Jews to Korea is done
> by the head of the Jewish community in Seoul, a Jew from Austria who
> came 12 years ago via Hongkong to Seoul, and who worked so hard that he
> succeeded in now having a regular Jewish community with a synagogue, a
> shohet, and chasan. A similar organization should soon be materialized
> in Masampo, so that Korea can pride itself of having well organized
> Jewish communities.
> "Die Juden in Korea" [The Jews in Korea], _Die ✡ Welt: Zentralorgan der
> Zionistischen Bewegung_ 43 (October 24, 1902): 8.
> -----------------------
> The reference to Masampo (today Masanhapp'o-gu, Kyŏngsangnam-do) and to
> products from Lodz and Russia are interesting, as these references show
> a clear connection to Russia, thereby at least indicating how Russian
> trade interests were willingly or unwillingly represented in Korea.
> Masampo istelf was before the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905) an
> important subject for the quarrels between Japan and Russia, both being
> interested in managing that port with its new railroad to trade its own
> products. Might well be that Russian pre-revolution archives would have
> some surprising documents in this regard … might well be that the
> Japanese after the Russo-Japanese War saw the Jews as representing
> Russian interests (-- just speculating, have no facts, didn't look into
> it).
> Best,
> Frank
> --------------------------------------
> Frank Hoffmann
> http://koreanstudies.com
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://koreanstudies.com/pipermail/koreanstudies_koreanstudies.com/attachments/20130728/374299f2/attachment.html>

More information about the Koreanstudies mailing list