Essay: Imperialism in Asian Post WW2

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Imperialism in East Asia

A Comparison of the Effects of Imperialism in the Philippines and in Korea

As Hutchinson and Smith (1994, p. 3) suggest, imperialism is connected to and rooted in the idea of nationalism and, though it is often seen as a modern phenomenon, it was in many ways prepared for by "millennial Christianity…the printing press and especially newspapers" at the end of the middle ages. The fact that ideology combined with technological means for propagating that ideology should predate and set the stage for imperialism should come as no surprise. America's imperialistic enterprises of the 19th and 20th century could not have been accomplished without one and the other, and this can readily be seen in its imperialistic activities in Asia. The Asian empires themselves, however, have shown this idea to be no less true. For example, when Japan annexed Korea in 1910, the Japanese Empire celebrated by means of "newspapers and magazines" the fact that it "was now 15 million people more populous and almost a third larger than it had been prior to annexation" (Schmid 2000, p. 951). However, media celebrations were only one effect of imperialism on East and Southeast Asian societies up to World War II. This paper will compare and contrast those effects by analyzing imperialism in the Philippines (under American occupation) and in Korea (under Japanese rule) and by highlighting the factors that led to similar and different effects.

America's Imperialistic role was directly related to its wars and to Industrialization: Andrew Carnegie in the 19th century had become a "Captain of Industry" first in the railroads and then in the steel mills. Like the Pennsylvania Railroad, which was the biggest corporation of the day, Carnegie's steel business would become the number one industry on the planet. The rise of industry combined with the American ideology of Expansionism and gave corporations the incentive to capitalize on foreign grounds.

The Spanish-American War in 1898, propagated by the yellow journalism of Hearst and Pulitzer who blamed the sinking of the Maine on Spain, turned public sentiment in favor of imperialistic war. The Spanish-American war allowed America to go all the way to the Philippines to fight and anchor.

The effects of Western Imperialism in the 20th century in Asia were directly tied to the rise of industry. The Industrial Revolution (and the corporatism that followed) had thoroughly obliterated what was left of the old world colonies, and the new totalitarian state was already being effected with the help of muckraking journalists in support of nationalist propaganda.

In 1899, Congress ratified a treaty to annex the Philippines, to the chagrin of the Anti-Imperialist League and "despite the growing evidence of brutality…in the Philippines" (Zinn 2010, p. 317). The Philippine Republic, wishing to have independence from the foreign power, declared war, and from 1899 to 1902 American forces occupied Southeast Asia in an attempt to alter the colonial effects left by the Spanish. One of the most felt effects of imperialism in the Philippines was the enforcement of a foreign ideology on an Asian society that had long been Catholic in belief since the days of colonialism under Western Christian European rule. Under American imperialism, the Catholic Church was suppressed in the Philippines as a matter of American policy. The United States was a distinctly Protestant nation, heavily influenced by Freemasonry. These influences would now be spread throughout the Catholic Philippines thanks to American Imperialism.

This however was not the only effect. As E. San Juan (2007, p. 4) observes, the Filipino-American War of 1899-1902 was the "first Vietnam…in which at least 1.4 million Filipinos died." The Americans under President McKinley called this policy of war and extermination "Benevolent Assimilation," a somewhat misleading title especially since "assimilation" resulted in the slaughter of "the reputedly primitive, unchristian natives" of the Philippines (San Juan 2007, p. 4). That the natives of the Philippines could be depicted as such by the American Empire is indicative of the way the American media attempted to skew the reality so as to justify its behavior. The Empire was not interested in befriending, supporting or enriching the Philippines but in exploiting it and crushing anyone foolish enough to get in the way.

As Howard Zinn (2010, p. 301) points out, this policy was not isolationist -- but capitalist: "American merchants did not need colonies or wars of conquest if they could just have free access to markets. This idea of an 'open door' became the dominant theme of American foreign policy in the twentieth century. It was a more sophisticated approach to imperialism than the traditional empire-building of Europe." Indeed, the theme was promoted by the newspapers and magazines, the mouthpiece of State propaganda. The New York Journal of Commerce, for instance, "which had advocated peaceful development of free trade, now urged old-fashioned military colonialism" (Zinn 2010, p. 302). This was perhaps the most devastating effect of imperialism on the Philippines up to the end of WWII: militarism and occupation.

One of the biggest and most lasting effects of imperialism on the Philippines, however, has been seen in the Filipinos themselves: "Since 1900, thousands of Filipinos have migrated to distant territories" (San Juan, p. 7). For those Filipinos who have resisted the Filipino Diaspora and remained in the native country, they have seen their culture undergo a transformation. By the end of WWII, in fact, the Filipino culture had become one of "hybridity, syncretism, creative assimilation, and other disingenuous rubrics invoked in order to compensate for the horrific reality" of imperialism (San Juan, p. 8). In the final analysis, while nationalism, media, and technology have helped inspire American imperialism in Southeast Asia, the Philippine islands are acutely aware of having "never existed as a coherent and genuinely independent nation" (San Juan, p. 9). This sense of subservience is perhaps the greatest measurable effect of imperialism in the first half of the 20th century in the Philippines.

These effects, however, can be compared to the effects of Japanese imperialism on Korea. If the first example shows the effects of Western imperialism on Southeast Asia, the second shows the effects of Asian imperialism on Asia and how the two are not so different.

The first similarity is the role of ideology in imperialism. As Schmid (2000, p. 956) observes, with Japanese imperialistic activity in Korea in the early 20th century, Buddhist monks "began to venture into the colonies, sending missionaries overseas to Korea." As in American foreign policy, which was the expression of New Expansionist politics of the corporate sector and ruling elites in the U.S., Japanese imperialism was the expression of Emperor Meiji's will in Japan: "All that Japan undertook in its colonies during the first quarter century of the empire was based on Meiji experience in domestic reform" (Schmid, p. 957). In other words, Korea fell under the reach of Japanese self-interest. As the decades wore on, Korean citizens suffered the same fate as Japanese: When, for instance, war broke out and Japanese were conscripted into the army, it was not long before Koreans were also being conscripted to increase the Japanese army numbers. This was known as the National Mobilization Law, and it was one effect that was felt most keenly by the Koreans up through WWII.

But that was not the only effect. Just as American Imperialism had sought to change the Catholic culture in the Philippines, the Japanese Imperialists also sought to alter the Korean culture it now controlled. One way it did this was by Imperial Decree 19, which induced Koreans to accept surnames that were Japanese (Eckert 1996, p. 318). With the end of WWII, however, this practice was ended as the "Name Restoration Order" went into effect under the administration of the U.S. Army. This shows one example of the way the two effects of Eastern and Western Imperialism were different: one sought to integrate as a means of control, the other sought to segregate as a means of control.

Another effect of Japanese Imperialism on Korea, however, was the application of education. Just as the U.S. attempted to introduce a Protestant ideology on Filipinos, Japanese attempted to introduce Japanese ideology on Koreans. This process included the teaching of Japanese history and the suppressing of Korean history. Japan was seen as the primary authority rather than the country to which the native Koreans had formerly pledged allegiance.

Just as the U.S. used its newspapers to garner support for its imperialistic practices, Japan used the newspapers in Korea to advocate Japanese rule. In the early part of the 20th century, in fact, Japan forbade Koreans from printing their own newspapers. The only news, or propaganda as it may as well be called, that was printed in Korea came from Japanese owners. This was one way that the imperial power could control and political and social thought in the nation it occupied.

The effects of imperialistic power in Korea, however, were also felt in the same kind of loss of life that the Filipinos experienced under American Imperialism.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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