[KS] Jews in Korea during the Second World War

gpodoler gpodoler at research.haifa.ac.il
Tue Jul 30 01:31:42 EDT 2013


Well, Robert, unfortunately that report dosen't provide many
details, yet it states that "the first Jew to have settled in Korea was
a Jew from Galicia who settled near Seoul twelve years ago [i.e., in
1892] and who is now one of Seoul's biggest merchants." Compare this to
the last part of Frank's translation from "Die Juden in Korea." Anyways,
I think that beyond identifying the Jewish origins of several important
figures, there are two important questions that should be dealt with:
first, did their Jewish background influence the ways they conducted
their (political/military, etc.) affairs? This is probably difficult to
answer, yet Meron Medzini dealt with that question with regard to the
Jewsih scientists of the Manhattan Project. Second, did the Jews in
Korea actually form Jewish communities? 

I think that Frank is on to
some good sources with regard to the second question. And, Frank,
regarding your last remark, I would guess that the Jews of Korea were
sympathetic toward the Japanese. Please remember that between 1903 and
until 1905/6 there were dozens, if not hundreds, of pogroms againts Jews
all over Russia. Russian authorities were not only seen as doing nothing
to stop them, but they were thought to be those inciting them (on the
impact of the Russo-Japanese War on the Jewish world, see works by
Ben-Ami shillony). Moreover, though I can only guess what the Jews of
Korea thought about Japan, I can say that to some Zionist activistst
based in Palestine, Japan became a role model. Reading what they wrote
about Japan, China, and Korea, it is obvious that these thinkers admired
Japan's progress, starting from the Meiji Restoration and through the
victories over China and Russia. After Japan annexed Korea, they were
literally ecstatic. To them, that was a perfect demonstration of what
happened to a nation that chooses the path of modernity and progress, as
opposed to a nation that avoides it. 



:כתב Robert N,
29.07.2013 10:46 בתאריך 

> I am actually surprised at the number of
Jews who lived in Korea prior to 1905 ~ some of them were quite
important. I would love to hear more about the first reference Prof.
Podoler has of the small community of Jews from Galacia. 
> There
were a couple of Jews who arrived in Korea in 1883 to work for von
Mollendorff. They were the Rosenbaums. One was an Austrian employed by
the Korean Customs Service at Wonsan and the other was a naturalized
American named Joseph who built a glass factory on the Han River...which
failed...and then a match factory which also failed. I discussed them in
my book...Korea Through Western Eyes. 
> The Austrian at Masampo whom
Prof. Hoffman mentioned was most likely H. J. Houben. 
> Of course,
Oppert should also be mentioned as an early Jew who had..albiet...a
negative influence on Korea. 
> Baron Gunzburg...of the Ullong Island
and Yalu River timber concession ...may have been a Jew who fled Russia
and military conscription and changed his name from Mess to Ginsburg and
established a provisions firm in Nagasaki supplying Russian warships. He
was later pardoned and bestowed with a title. Sounds very much like
Baron Gabriel de Gunzburg. 
> There were others. A machinist on the
Korean steamship Hairiong in the late 1880s. There was also a watchmaker
in Seoul. 
> On Jul 28, 2013 4:56 PM, "gpodoler"
<gpodoler at research.haifa.ac.il [5]> wrote:
>> I too was intrigued by
that question while I was doing research on how the Hebrew-language
press in Mandatory Palaestine depicted East Asia at the turn of the 20th
century. Obviously, this press closely followed the developments
regarding Jewish communities all over the world. Yet with regard to
Korea, I found only 2 brief references. One reference, dated mid 1904,
mentioned that in Seoul there was a small Jewish community that had
arrived from Galicia, and that in other cities there were small
communities that originated from Romania. The second brief report, from
January 1920, quoted one of the Korean (unofficial) delegates to the
Paris Peace Conference who too stated that there weren't many Jews in
Korea, yet there had been a few in Seoul. 
>> And that is all I have
found so far. So I am guessing that either almost no information about
Jews in Korea reached Palestine, or that the Jewish "community" there
was practically non-existant. Or perhaps both assumptions are true. 

>> Best, 
>> Guy Podoler 
>> The Department of Asian Studies,
The University of Haifa
>> :כתב Robert N, 28.07.2013 04:52 בתאריך

>>> 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 [4]>
>>>> 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:
>>>> 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
>>>> As for Jews in Korea during the colonial period and more
>>>> 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
>>>> 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
>>>> 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
>>>> (...) 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
>>>> (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
>>>> 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
>>>> 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.
>>>> 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
>>>> 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.

>>>> SOURCE:
>>>> "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
>>>> 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
>>>> http://koreanstudies.com [3]


[4] mailto:hoffmann at koreanstudies.com
mailto:gpodoler at research.haifa.ac.il
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