Isaac Meyer

Historian, teacher, podcaster

Month: August 2016

Episode 162 – Best of Frenemies, Part 8


This week, we close out this series with a look at the relationship between South Korea and Japan. Also included; Isaac’s patented speed run of South Korean history. Enjoy!


Listen to the episode here.


Cummings, Bruce. Korea’s Place in the Sun.

Tudor, Daniel. Korea: The Impossible Country.

Rozman, Gilbert. Asia’s Alliance Triangle: US-Japan-South Korea Relations At A Crossroads.



Syngman Rhee wrote a book trying to explain “the Japanese psyche” while in the US in 1941 lobbying for aid to Korea’s independence movement. It lays out his opinion of Japan pretty clearly. Spoiler: it isn’t great.


Park Jung-hee in the uniform of a Manchukuo officer. Park’s time working with the Japanese made him a natural leader in reconciling South Korea and Japan.


Park Jung-hee signs the treaty on basic relations with Japan.


A summit meeting between Abe Shinzo, Barack Obama, and South Korea’s president Park Geun-hye (daughter of Park Jung-hee). Obama’s facial expression does a lot, in my opinion, to set the tone for how well things were going.

comfort women statue japan south korea

The comfort woman statue erected in Seoul across from the Japanese embassy.

People hold placards next to a statue symbolizing "comfort women" during a weekly anti-Japan rally in front of Japanese embassy in Seoul

The weekly protests across from the Japanese embassy are the longest running regular protests in history. They have occured every week since 1992.


Perhaps Korean pop culture holds the key to Japan-Korea reconciliation? This poster is from the First Girl’s Generation tour in Japan.

Episode 161 – Best of Frenemies, Part 7


This week, we discuss Japan’s relationship with the modern day Hermit Kingdom, and to explain North Korean policy and how those policies effect Japan. It’s gonna be a long ride into the web of madness that is the world’s only communist monarchy, so grab your Kim Il-sung pins and strap in!


Listen to the episode here.


Cummings, Bruce. Korea’s Place in the Sun.

Cummings, Bruce. North Korea: Another Country.

Japan’s National Security Strategy, Published 2012. Though mostly concerned with China there is also a section on North Korea.



Much of Kim Il-sung’s legitimacy depended upon his credentials as an anti-Japanese resistance fighter. This propaganda poster reads “Long Live the Hero of Anti-Japanese Resistance Kim Il-Sung.”


Kim Il-sung’s wife heroically defending him from Japanese soldiers, despite the fact that the two of them met in the Soviet Union after Kim was no longer actively fighting the Japanese.


Kim Jong-il meets with Japanese PM Koizumi Junichiro, 2002. During this meeting, Kim copped to the kidnapping of Japanese civilians by North Korea.


The parents of Yokota Megumi display photos of her at a press conference. Megumi was taken in 1977; according to the North Korean government, she died in captivity.


Five kidnapped Japanese citizens and their children were allowed to visit Japan in 2004, though the DPRK required they be sent back after a time. The Japanese government waited for the abductees to arrive in Tokyo before telling the North Koreans they would never send them back.


Estimated ranges for North Korean missiles. It’s fairly obvious why this would worry the Japanese government, particularly in concert with the North’s nuclear program.

Episode 160 – Best of Frenemies, Part 6

This week, it’s time to join the resistance. We’ll trace the birth of the Korean resistance from protests in 1919 to its bifurcation into two rival movements. The first, the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea, will be based in Shanghai and dominated by the charismatic American-educated Syngman Rhee (Yi Seung-man). The second will be an armed anti-Japanese insurrection in Manchuria led by a man whose life is more myth than fact: Kim Il-sung.

Listen to the episode here.


Cummings, Bruce. Korea’s Place in the Sun.

Cummings, Bruce. North Korea: Another Country.

Allan, Richard C. Korea’s Syngman Rhee: An Unauthorized Portrait.



The March 1st Demonstrations in full swing.


The demonstrations in Korea were widely covered, but willpower to intervene in what was perceived as an internal, Japanese issue was nonexistent in the West.


The Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea’s members pose for a photo in Shanghai in the late 1920s.


Kim Gu, one of the leading lights of the PGROK. His notoriety grew from his assassination of a Japanese national in 1898 in revenge for the killing of Queen Min.


Today, the building where the PGROK operated is a museum run by the Shanghai city government. This is the office of Kim Gu.


Syngman Rhee (Yi Seungman) as a young undergrad in the US.


Syngman Rhee as president of the Republic of Korea.


Kim Il-sung as a young boy. Very little is known of the life of Kim Il-sung for sure, as so much of what’s out there is derived from North Korean propaganda.


Kim Il-sung as a grown man.


Kim Il-sung and his wife in exile in Russia during WWII. With them is their first son, Kim Jong-il.

Episode 159 – Best of Frenemies, Part 5

This week — what was colonial Korea like? We’ll do a quick overview of 35 years of colonial economic, political, and social policy to give you a feel for what Japan’s goals in Korea were and how those goals effected the lives of ordinary Koreans.

Listen to the episode here.


Cummings, Bruce. Korea’s Place in the Sun.

Kang, Hildi. Under the Black Umbrella: Voices from Colonial Korea, 1910-1945.

Caprio, Mark. Japanese Assimilation Policies in Colonial Korea, 1910-1945.



The Government-General building in Seoul. Hard to miss the symbolism of putting it in the old royal capital.


Keijo (Seoul) in the 1930s under Japanese occupation.

Korean workers at a Japanese operated gold mine, 1937.


Korean “volunteer” troops in the Imperial Japanese Army, c. 1943.


Yi Un and his Japanese wife. After WWII, Yi Un would be barred from returning to Korea until the 1960s.

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