[KS] bunch of questions: marriage/divorce & IDs (colonial period)

Frank Hoffmann hoffmann at koreanstudies.com
Fri Jan 3 20:42:07 EST 2014

Dear All:

I hope it is okay to just ask a buch of questions. These are issues 
that could likely be answered when finding the right kind of 
publications. Just that I am not quite sure where to look ... maybe 
anthropological literature? 

(1) Passports and other ID documents:
My impression thus far is that IN EUROPE and the U.S. passports and IDs 
where much less important during the first half of the 20th century, 
specifically before 1939, than they were after World War II. To clarify 
what I mean: it seems that it was extremely easy to e.g. change one's 
name, to change entire identities, carry several names at the same 
time, several nationalities also. It further seems that in peaceful 
times neither European nor U.S. government offices where that much 
interested in the real "historic" identities of people living in their 
national territories. I say this as I came across more and more cases 
where it had been evident to the authorities that the historical 
identity given in a person's passport did not match up with the actual 
person, and this had no consequences of any sort. One explanation is to 
argue that the technical means of today's total surveillance society 
where simply not there. The other, partial explanation would be that 
there was a different mindset at work where "identities" like personal 
names and nationalities where far more fluid than they are today. If I 
"reactivate" my almost lost childhood memories and recall conversations 
with family or neighbors who where born in the 1880s to early 1900s, 
then I would certainly favor this second explanation. They quite 
"naturally" talked about changing all sorts of identities as 
needed--hard for me to summarize this in a sentence or two. (That is 
certainly a very objective statement.) Is the life-long invisible data 
string of name, nationality, and fingerprints directly related with the 
development of nation-states? It would in that case be a real 
latecomer. I would be interested in any information or thoughts on this 
issue, both for the West and for East Asia.

(2) Marriages & Divorces:
When was something like a "divorce" being introduced in Korea--I mean 
in the sense that it would be recorded with some administrative 
'paperwork' with a public office? How where divorces handled during the 
colonial period? That is, would a man (my focus is of the men here) be 
able to remarry with any sort of traditional marriage ceremony without 
any sort of official paperwork under Japanese rule? I am sure there is 
literature out there on this issue, probably a lot, I just don't know 
it. Any suggestions what to read (for a good overview).

(3) Jap. colonial diplomatic and Secret Police records:
Has anyone information if Japanese colonial diplomatic and Secret 
Police records were burned 1945 (in Korea) before Soviet and American 
troops came? I noticed that records about e.g. Korean political 
activities on the peninsular but also in Manchuria and China are 
relatively extensive and detailed while others regarding Koreans in the 
U.S. and Europe seem so poor that I can hardly imagine we now have all 
there was. (To be sure, I do NOT have any sort of clear overview on 
this--it is all fragmentary, and therefore also a question based on 
fragmentary knowledge.) There should be more than a hundred times the 
amount of records that we now see in the archives, that also becomes 
evident when going through e.g. British or German records in the 
Foreign Offices of the time and see the references to Jap. sources. Any 
thoughts or information?

Thank you!

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