31 December 2003

The Prewar Russian Community in Korea

About a decade ago, Donald N. Clark, a former Presbyterian missionary kid who grew up in Pyongyang, published a fascinating chapter entitled "Vanished Exiles: The Prewar Russian Community in Korea" in a fairly obscure book of conference papers. A couple of current Russian exiles in Korea and Australia have made that poignant tale available on the web. (The chapter later ended up in Clark's book entitled Living Dangerously in Korea: The Western Experience, 1900-1950 (Eastbridge, 2003).
[The] nineteenth century wave of railroad development brought many kinds of Russians to East Asia: officials, railroad workers, miners, laborers, adventurers, pensioners, priests, and hunters. They represented various ethnic backgrounds: some were Caucasian, while others were Mongol, Siberian, and even Turkic. Beginning in the 1890s, a certain number of them migrated via Manchuria into northern Korea, where they turned up in small provincial towns supporting themselves by whatever trade they could find. In fact, throughout the history of their community down to World War II, the thing that distinguishes them most dramatically from other Westerners in Korea (if a Turkic Russian can be called "Western") was their complete lack of any institutional support: they had no medical plans or pensions or access to special schools for their children and were entirely dependent on whatever opportunities they found wherever they happened to settle. They were truly "displaced persons," at the mercy of the international political currents in the early twentieth century....

The Bolsheviks had not yet appeared in the Far East when Sergei and Natalya Tchirkine reached Seoul, and the Russian compound there was still in Czarist hands. The Tchirkines were assigned an apartment next to the Orthodox Church, alongside several other stalwarts of the congregation. Sergei found a desk job in the Bank of Chosen. Natalya took a diamond ring which Sergei had bought in Bukhara, sold the stone, went to Harbin for a course in hairdressing, and opened a parlor in Chôngdong. Twin sons, Cyril and Vladimir, were born in 1924, and Natalya adjusted by working at home giving music lessons and running a dressmaking studio. Sergei moved to the tourist bureau to handle foreign-language correspondence and edit publicity. He later began teaching languages at Keijo Imperial University and Seoul Foreign School. These combined labors earned enough to maintain a dignified existence as leaders of the Russian community in Seoul....

Without a doubt, the most remarkable pocket of Russians in prewar Korea was a place called Novina, a resort near Ch'ôngjin [Jp. Seishin], maintained for more than twenty years by the White Russian exile George Yankovsky, sometimes called "Asia's Greatest Tiger Hunter." George Yankovsky's father Mikhail Jankovskii originally was a Polish nobleman who was exiled to Siberia by the Russians when they crushed the Polish rebellion in the 1860s. In Siberia Jankovskii remade himself as a Russian named Yankovsky, found his way to the Bay of Posset south of Vladivostok, a rugged and unoccupied seacoast where he established himself in what might be called a feudal fief, which he named Sidemy, the "Sitting Place." There he set about building up a herd of the little Sika deer whose antlers were so prized by declining Chinese men. His neighbors were mainly wolves and bandits, the notorious Manchurian honghuzi, or "Red Beards," so Yankovsky also recruited a private army--of Koreans, as it turned out, because he mistrusted all Chinese as potential honghuzi. With his Korean "subjects," as they called themselves, he hunted--in no particular order--bandits, wolves, tigers, leopards, and boar, becoming a first-class naturalist in the process. In fact, items in the flora and fauna of the Ussuri country still bear his name: the swan Cygnus jankowskii, the bunting Emberiza jankowskii, and the beetle Captolabrus jankowskii, among others....

Novina lasted nineteen years, from 1926 to 1945, during which White Russian communities all across East Asia used it as a prime vacation spot. The Yankovskys drummed up business with a brochure, which they mailed to Harbin, Tianjin, and Shanghai. Ironically, however, few Westerners within Korea ever paid much attention to Novina or even knew of its existence. This was partly because most of them used English, spoke no Russian, and preferred their own resorts at Sôrae and Wonsan. It was also because the Yankovskys started out regarding Novina as an "invitation-only" place for their far-flung relatives and friends and not a public place. As years passed it became more commercial, with rental cabins on the hillside, but it never lost the family flavour. It remained George Yankovsky's homestead, first and foremost: his farm, his deer and horse pasture, and his hunting base. On a cliff above the river he built the family's main house, an interesting building constructed around the trunk of a great tree that appeared to be holding it in place. Above the house he built a "Tower of the Ancestors," a replica of one of the Sidemy towers, and next to this a lodge that was partly in a cave that the family used as a kind of Great Hall. Below, he stretched a chain bridge across the Chuûl [Jp. Shuotsu] River, and farther down he built a row of huts for his servants and farmhands. There were orchards for apples and pears, fields for vegetables, and hives for honey, all tended by Novina's Korean workers, while the mountain forests furnished unlimited venison, pork, and pheasant. Evenings at Novina often featured dinners with as many as twenty people seated at the dining table, followed by vodka and storytelling by the fireplace in the cave.

George and Daisy Yankovsky's children--daughters Muza and Victoria, and sons Valerii, Arsenii, and Yuri--grew up at Novina. As part of their Swiss Family Robinson existence the Yankovskys maintained a surprising standard of civilization. Educating children was the duty of Novina's "home gymnasium" teacher who came from Harbin to teach in the camp's Great Hall. Sunday services also took place there, with especially memorable observances for Easter. And summer was Novina's theater season: Daisy's family, the Sheverdloffs, had some stage background and her relatives in Shanghai were connected with White Russians in the entertainment business there. Many of these sought the coolness of Novina in the summer and amused themselves by organizing dramas. The cast depended on who was present and was filled out by ordinary guests and Yankovsky family and retainers....

When the Soviet Red Army swept into north-eastern Korea at the end of the war, they happened on the Yankovsky colony at Novina. The Reds had several grievances against the Whites, the most recent of which was the Yankovskys' collaboration with the Japanese army. The Japanese had treated Yankovsky preferentially, letting him own land, trade supplies, run tourist resorts, and trek through military areas, all in return for supplying the Japanese army, paying taxes, and helping keep order among the Koreans. At first it was only interrogation: George and his son Arsenii were taken to headquarters and then released. Son Valerii returned to Novina from the homestead in Manchuria to work with younger brother Yuri as a "volunteer" interpreter for the Red Army, while Arsenii interpreted for the Southern Naval Defense Area (Yuzhnii Morskoi Oboronitel'nii Rayon, or YUZHMOR) at Ch'ôngjin and for the Kontrazuedba (military intelligence, also known as SMERSH, for smyert shpionam, "death to spies"). The motives of the Yankovsky brothers in working for the Reds were simple: as SMERSH explained the situation to Arsenii, the entire family would be punished unless they cooperated. So for survival's sake the brothers went against their family's strong anticommunist tradition and agreed to work for the Reds....

What traces remain of this almost-forgotten Russian community in prewar Korea? Though members of the community continued in South Korea through the Korean war and after, I know of only one who remains in place, if the rumours are correct, as an underworld figure in Namdaemun Market. In 1984, Father Boris Moon of the Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas, now moved to Map'o and calling itself "Greek" Orthodox, told me there was one prewar Russian communicant left, a woman named "Tatiana," but she would not grant me an interview.

The Yankovskys are scattered: Valerii is a poet in Moscow; "Andy Brown" [Arsenii, who worked as a spy] and Yuri are dead; and Muza and Victoria live in the California bay area. In 1991, Victoria and her son Orr Chistiakoff were invited by the local government in Vladivostok to rendezvous with Valerii at Sidemy, on the Bay of Posset, to unveil a statue of Mikhail Yankovsky and restore him to the status of pioneer and hero.

Natalya Tchirkine's sons Vladimir and Cyril graduated with engineering degrees from the University of California at Berkeley, and worked all their lives for Pacific Gas & Electric in San Francisco. Natalya followed her sons to California in time to escape the Korean War, and supported herself as a seamstress, living to the ripe old age of 96.
The best known descendant among these Russian exiles in Korea was the actor Yul Brynner (1920-1985), who told many a tall tale about his early life, some of which have been laid to rest by his son, Columbia University Prof. Rock Brynner, whose image-filled website includes a photo of Yul at 16 with dark, wavy hair (scroll all the way to the bottom).

Several of these exiles ended up in Japan, like the founders of the Morozoff chocolate dynasty, but many of their progeny ended up in California, like the journalist and sci-fi writer Alexander Besher.

UPDATE: The Marmot adds:
I have long been fascinated with the history of the Far East's Russian exile community -- they were as remarkable a group of individuals (and not always in a positive sense) as there has ever been in modern times. Coincidentally, one of these refugees, Victor Starfin, eventually ended up on the Japanese island of Hokkaido as a youth. Starfin grew up to become one of Japanese baseball's greatest all-time pitchers, amassing a career record of 303-176 with a life-time ERA of 2.09 -- mostly with the Yomiuri Giants. In 1939, he set Japan's single-season win record was 42. Now, this wasn't enough to prevent the Japanese from putting Starfin under house arrest during WW II on account of his Russian heritage, but they did make it up to him in the end, eventually enshrining the pitcher in the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame, where he joins career home-run leader Sadaharu Oh -- who for reasons beyond my ken still carries a Taiwanese passport to this day, apparently -- as the only two foreign players in the Hall. Of course, this assumes one doesn't count Masaichi Kaneda, the greatest pitcher in Japanese history (the man holds Japan's career win record despite playing much of his career for a shitty team) who just happened to be an ethnic Korean (and quite proud of it, it's said).

30 December 2003

The American Civil War in the Pacific

The American Civil War reached into every major ocean. After the most successful Confederate raider of U.S. merchant shipping, the CSS Alabama, was sunk by the USS Kearsage off Cherbourg, France, in June 1864, The C.S. Navy hurriedly and secretly commissioned the CSS Shenandoah to attack merchant shipping in the Indian Ocean and the Yankee whaling fleet in the Pacific. The Shenandoah sailed from Glasgow in October 1864 under the command of James Iredell Waddell of Pittsboro, NC (no apparent relation to Scott Waddle, the commander of the nuclear sub, USS Greenville, that sank the Japanese training ship, Ehime Maru, off Honolulu in 2001).
Although she was a steam ship with a retractable propeller, almost her entire voyage would be under sail. Her general mission was to capture and destroy American merchant ships. Her specific orders were to find the American whaling fleet operating in the Arctic Ocean and destroy it. It was hoped that this action would propel the owners of the vessels to lobby President Lincoln for an end to the war. The Confederacy was in a difficult position by this time and its leaders were looking for options other than a complete surrender. In order for the Shenandoah to locate the whaling fleet, she first had to secure whaling charts. These were the highly prized charts kept by whaling ships showing the location of whales sighted and hunted. The charts changed as the whales changed routes and new locations of whales were found. Captain Waddell knew he needed to locate current whaling charts to pinpoint the location of the whaling fleet.

Sailing into the Pacific, the Shenandoah learned that several whaling ships were at anchor in Pohnahtik Harbor, Pohnpei, Caroline Islands. The Shenandoah immediately sailed to Pohnahtik, arriving there April 1, 1865. There were four whalers at anchor when the Shenandoah arrived. All were headed for the Arctic whaling grounds and had stopped for reprovisioning and repairs. The Shenandoah sent boarding parties in small boats to each whaler, capturing all four vessels, and set about stripping the ships of anything of value including the coveted whaling charts. The four ships were burned between April 1 and April 15 and with the whaling charts the Shenandoah left the harbor and sailed to the Arctic Ocean. She located and destroyed 40 vessels, nearly the entire American whaling fleet out that season. All of these ships, including those at Pohnahtik, were captured after General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox on April 9, 1865, signaling the effective end of the Confederate States of America. It was not until August, 1865, that the crew of the Shenandoah learned of the capture of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and the official end of the war. Rather than surrender in some American port, Captain Waddell decided to return the ship to England and sailed around Cape Horn, thus circumnavigating the globe.
The extract above is from the website of the L.J. Skaggs and Mary D. Skaggs Foundation, which funded an "off-beat grant" to archaeologists at the University of Hawai‘i to salvage the ships sunk in Pohnpei. (The latest off-beat grant is to the University of Iowa to support the production of The Devil's Rope, a documentary video on the history and development of barbed wire. Take it away, Regions of Mind!)

MacKenzie J. Gregory and the Naval Historical Society of Australia have fuller accounts of the exploits of the Shenandoah and other Confederate merchant raiders, the French Cannings genealogical website has extracts from the ship's logs and other documents pertaining to the Shenandoah, and the Hawaii School Reports website has an essay on the impact of the Civil War on the whaling and the sugar industries in Hawai‘i, citing Mark Twain's reports published in the Sacramento Daily Union in 1866.
Twain points out that Louisiana plantations produced at most 1,500 pounds of sugar per acre, while in Hawaii the average production was 10,000 pounds per acre. Writing in 1866, Twain also noted how much money was spent on customs duties to import sugar into the U.S.

The Civil War sealed the fate of the American whaling fleet, and threatened the economy of Hawaii. That war also sparked a demand for sugar and Hawaiian planters responded. Sugar growing rapidly replaced supplying the whaling fleet as the business of Hawaii. The high duties on sugar also created a reason for planters to want Hawaii to become part of the United States.
Hawai‘i sugar production soared from 5 to 10 to 15 to 27 million lbs. from 1863 to 1866, while the number of whaling ships wintering in Hawai‘i dropped from as many as 400 during the 1840s to fewer than 100 in 1866. Although Twain doesn't mention it, the long-term decline of the whaling industry owed less to the temporary effects of the War and more to the rapidly growing supply of petroleum after the War.

29 December 2003

Japanese Relations with Africa before WWII

Japanese interest in Africa is often depicted as a relatively new development, a result of the dramatic expansion of Japan's trade with every corner of the world over the past few decades. In fact, Africa's share of Japanese exports reached its peak of more than 17 percent during the late colonial era, while its share today [c. 1992] has dropped to less than 2 percent. The growth of Japanese influence in Africa over the last decade has clearly taken place in spite of a relative decline in Japan’s economic interest in the continent....

Japan's victory in the Sino-Japanese War ... resulted in its acquisition of the colony of Taiwan and greater influence in Korea. As a new imperial power, Japan looked to European colonialism in Africa for both administrative ideas and ideological justification for its rule. Books about British colonial administration and British imperialists such as Cecil Rhodes were translated and read by Japanese colonial administrators, businessmen in China, and the general public. Interest in Rhodes peaked following the Boer War at the turn of the century, but even as late as the 1920s a number of prominent Japanese businessmen in China fancied themselves as Rhodes-like characters, struggling to expand Japanese influence in China as Rhodes had expanded British influence in southern Africa.

The Boer War also helped to bring Japan and Britain into alliance. While European newspapers grew increasingly hostile to Britain, Japanese newspapers displayed a strong bias in favor of the British throughout the war. The war highlighted Britain’s need to end its "splendid isolation," and immediately after the end of the war Britain concluded an alliance with Japan in 1902. Japanese leaders who favored the conclusion of this alliance argued that the prospect of increased Japanese trade with Britain's colonies around the world was an important consideration.

Japan's emerging textile industry had already begun to import cotton from Egypt before the turn of the century and, until the outbreak of World War I, Japan's balance of trade with Africa was very unfavorable, in large part because of Japan’s growing demand for cotton. This balance of trade shifted dramatically in Japan's favor during the war, as the supply of European goods to African markets was temporarily interrupted. For the first time, Africa became an important market for Japanese exports....

The Japanese had developed particularly close political and economic ties with Ethiopia, however, and were reluctant to see their influence diminished in this nominally independent African state. Japanese superpatriots reacted with anger to Italy's conquest of Ethiopia in the mid-1930s and called for Japanese intervention on the side of Ethiopia. Instead, however, the Japanese government came to an accommodation with Italy, by which Italy recognized Japan's position in Manchuria in exchange for Japan's recognition of Italy's position in Ethiopia. This helped to pave the way for the conclusion of Japan's alliance with Italy prior to the outbreak of World War II, during which Japan’s trade with Africa was temporarily interrupted.
SOURCE: "Japan and Africa: An Historical Overview," Swords and Ploughshares [Bulletin of the Arms Control, Disarmament & International Security (ACDIS) Program of University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign], Summer, 1993.

For more on Japan's post-WWII relations with Africa, including South Africa, read: Richard Bradshaw, "Review of Jun Morikawa, Japan and Africa: Big Business and Diplomacy," H-Africa, H-Net Reviews, August, 1997. URL: http://www.h-net.msu.edu/reviews/showrev.cgi?path=2716877366765

Still No News from Myanmar

Notice how virtually no news originates in Myanmar (Burma) unless it involves human rights battles? But here's a fascinating online travelogue by a writer/philanthropist, with helpful maps, beautiful photos, and the English translation of a recent (2002) German book on the reclusive country. An excerpt from the introduction follows.
I first went to Indochina early in my life, to Cambodia before the war and the Killing Fields, to Laos during the "secret" war, and to Viet Nam during the early phase of an already unwinnable war. Myanmar was a different story. Although it had remained apart from the power struggle going on in Indochina, it had entered into a prolonged civil war and isolated itself from the international community. In 1965, my request for a tourist visa for Burma (Myanmar's name at the time) was denied, but I was able to get in through the back door from Thailand with some smugglers. Although I stayed almost ten days in the Kengtung (now Kyaing Tong) district, I saw only a small part of the country.

Today the governments of Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos are making major efforts to attract foreign tourists. The choices are ours. But to visit more than one country on one trip is not advisable. The good traveler knows that less is more. Having to choose to visit one of the four interesting and attractive countries is not an easy task. All four went through a period in the latter part of the twentieth century of devastating wars that left them poor and underdeveloped. And the current political news from Myanmar is troubling. The country is led by a military junta that shows little willingness to reintroduce democracy to the inhabitants; the opposition appears to be disheartened, weakened, and divided. Any sort of national reconciliation seems years away. However, in February 2001 Aung San Suu Kyi confirmed to foreign visitors that secret talks between her and members of the military junta had begun in October 2000. Whether such meetings will eventually bring about national reconciliation and power sharing is impossible to predict. Then there is the drug problem regarding opium and heroin. Myanmar's northeast is part of the infamous Golden Triangle, and the country remains the second largest heroin producer in the world.

The causes of Myanmar's problems are several: the devastating effects of World War II; a failed democracy thereafter; the economic ruin caused by Gen. Ne Win's policy of socialism, nationalization and isolation; the civil war between the Burmese military and the many insurgent groups and feudal lords; and, last but not least, the emergence of heroin as a valuable export commodity. After Gen. Ne Win took over the country and closed it, the outside world followed developments in Burma with some interest for a while, but because all foreigners were banned from the country and little news found its way into the Western press, over time the rest of the world seemed to lose interest in this isolated country. Several years ago, in the 1990s, the military reopened the country to foreign visitors. Today visas can easily be obtained, and a tourist industry is gradually developing. However, not all areas of the country are open to foreign visitors--only those that the government considers safe to visit.

28 December 2003

A Korean Anthropologist in Dixie

The following book excerpt is for my blogfather, Geitner Simmons of Regions of Mind. It comes from One Anthropologist, Two Worlds: Three Decades of Reflexive Fieldwork in North America and Asia (University of Tennessee Press, 2002) by Choong Soon Kim, author of An Asian Anthropologist in the American South: Field Experiences with Blacks, Indians, and Whites (U. Tenn. Press, 1977; out of print), Faithful Endurance: An Ethnography of Korean Family Dispersal (University of Arizona Press, 1988), and Japanese Industry in the American South (Routledge, 1995).
As I live longer in the South, the more I like the region.... My comfort in living in the South does not necessarily stem from my lengthy sojourn in the South; rather it reflects my rural background during my childhood in Korea. The American South and Asia have some similarities. As John Shelton Reed once said, "Somebody once called Charlestonians [meaning southerners] 'America's Japanese,' referring to their habits of eating rice and worshipping their ancestors, and the Southern concern with kin in general is indeed well known." Nowadays, if I travel outside the South, I become uncomfortable and worried, and have culture shock. My feeling of marginality is even more severe when I go to Korea than when I am in the South. This has become more the case now that I have made a deeper commitment to the South and have three southerners in my family--two sons who were born, grew up, and were educated partly in the South, and a daughter-in-law who is a white, native southerner. All these factors lead me to think that my living in the American South is not a historical accident. It feels more and more like karma.

Anna May Wong

Today's edition of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin carries a long, interesting, illustrated feature story by Nadine Kam on the pioneering Asian American film star Anna May Wong (1905-1961). The timing of the feature coincides with a screening of Wong's silent-era film Piccadilly at the Honolulu Academy of Arts, and more generally with Palgrave Macmillan's marketing blitz on behalf of a new biography of her by Colgate University professor Graham Russell Hodges entitled Anna May Wong: From Laundryman's Daughter to Hollywood Legend scheduled for release in January 2004. (This announcement has been brought to you by yet another witting shill for Palgrave Macmillan.)

Medici fara frontiere

According to an article from the Romanian newspaper Evenimentul Zilei translated in the wonderful Czech resource Transitions Online:
Between 10 and 20 percent of Romanian doctors under 35 years of age are leaving their home country every year, according to an estimate by the Romanian Doctors College (CMR), the country’s main professional medical society. They head chiefly to the United States, but in the past several years increasing numbers have chosen France and Germany, countries that are opening their hospitals to foreign workers due to the lack of local specialists....

Paul Doru Mugur, 34, a native of Romania's second-largest city, Constanta, has been working as a doctor in New York since 1996. He heads the oncology and hematology department in a public hospital. In 1991, during his fourth year of university, he left Romania for France on a Tempus scholarship awarded by the European Community. He finished his studies in Paris.

“I've had the opportunity to get to know three medical systems very well: the Romanian one--a tribal system characterized by influence, bribes, and the mentality that the doctor is a small god; the French one--a bureaucratic system characterized by a rigid administration where the doctor is a clerk; and the American one--a business-based system where our patient is our client and the doctor is a businessman,” Mugur said.
In 1983-84, when a single pack of Kent cigarettes could magically change a bureaucratic nu to a da, doctors required a whole carton--or a bottle of imported whiskey, or a kilo of imported coffee, or the like. The only people who actually smoked the Kents received in bribes were said to be doctors or security officials. Everyone else just used them to bribe someone else up the line. Once, an older man who had struck up a conversation with me during a long train ride offered me a cigarette from his open pack of Kents. I didn't have to ask who he worked for.

Fortunately, those days are long gone. Bribes are now in convertible currency rather than in bartered goods.
In Romania, as a beginner, you’re not allowed to touch the patient because then the patient doesn’t know which doctor he should give the envelope with the cash to.

27 December 2003

Speaking of Mongol Invasions ...

Dolgorsuren Dagvadorj has succeeded where Kublai Khan failed. Fighting under the name Asashoryu, he has conquered the (less and less) insular world of Japanese sumo. He was promoted to the highest rank of yokozuna (grand champion) upon the retirement of Musashimaru, the last of the two Hawai‘i yokozuna. This marks the end of one era and the beginning of another. (By strange coincidence, Musashimaru bears an uncanny resemblance to Saigo Takamori!)

Judging from the results of the Kyushu basho in November 2003, however, Tokyo-born Japanese wrestler Tochiazuma may soon be promoted to yokozuna, especially if he wins the January basho in his hometown.

Almost 50 foreign-born wrestlers are in the various ranks of sumo, with Mongolians the largest contingent, numbering nearly 30.
The November [2002] Kyushu basho was dominated by foreign-born wrestlers. While Asashoryu took the trophy in the makuuchi division (upper division), South Korean-born Kasugao defeated Mongolian-born Asasekiryu for the title in the juryo division (second division). This was the first time that foreign-born wrestlers had ever won both the makuuchi and juryo divisions in the same basho. And in the lower jonidan class, Mongolian-born Tokitenku finished first as well.
One up-and-coming foreigner to watch is Kokkai ('Black Sea'), Tsaguria Levan from the Republic of Georgia, who makes his major league (makuuchi division) debut in the January 2004 basho. Perhaps the most fun to watch of the Mongolians is Kyokushuzan, nicknamed "supermarket of tricks"--just like his near namesake and former Oshima stablemate, Kyokudozan, who retired in 1996.

The "Most Invaded Territory" Sweepstakes

Perhaps because of Korea's undeniably horrific experiences during the 20th century, many Koreans seem to believe that their country has been uniquely victimized and invaded more than anywhere else on earth--well over 2,000 times if one counts every border clash and pirate raid, as some assiduous victimologists have done. Reputable professional historians dispute this quite vigorously, although everyone agrees about the terrible destruction wrought by the Hideyoshi invasions in the late 16th century and Mongol invasion during the early 13th century. My own strictly amateur assessment of the broader context follows.

In the global competition for the prize of "most invaded territory" in history, I suspect Korea would be eliminated in the early rounds, even within its favored "most invaded peninsula" division. The competition in the "most invaded steppe" division is far more brutal. Even within the Eurasian peninsula division, the Anatolian, Balkan, Italian, and Iberian peninsulas have certainly compiled far more impressive records than the Korean peninsula, especially if one includes coastal piracy. Sure, the Korean peninsula has been invaded more often than the Japanese archipelago over the last couple of millennia, but both are in the bush leagues in the global scheme of things. In the "most invaded archipelago" division, Japan would probably not even be invited to the tournament, despite its devastating defeat in World War II.

UPDATE: Even the hard-nosed Marmot was putting his money on Korea.

Hidden Christians, Last Samurai, and Gun Runners

The Christmas edition of the New York Times carried an article about Japan's hidden Christians that intersects with other threads in the history of Kyushu, Japan's southwesternmost main island.
Christianity came to Japan with St. Francis Xavier in 1549, during a time of weak central government. Spreading fast through southern Japan, Christianity counted as many as 750,000 converts, or 10 percent of the population, by the 1630's. Today, by contrast, about 1 percent of Japan's 127 million people are Christians.

Alarmed by Spain's colonization and conversion of the neighboring Philippines, Hideyoshi, the general who united Japan in the late 16th century, banned Christianity and ordered the expulsion of missionaries as early as 1587.
Hideyoshi went on to invade in Korea in 1592 and again in 1598, wreaking considerable havoc and kidnapping the Korean craftsmen responsible for introducing exquisite Arita porcelain techniques in Japan. A desire to emulate Hideyoshi's imperial adventures in Korea was the real motivation for Saigo Takamori's rebellion in 1877 that inspired the movie The Last Samurai. Saigo was the lord of Satsuma, the feudal domain that managed to run its own foreign policy even during the isolationist Tokugawa Shogunate (1603-1867), conquering the Ryukyus (Okinawa) in 1609 and exploiting its extensive trade network to build up its wealth and later modernize its own weaponry. In fact, gun-running from Nagasaki was a key factor in enabling the three southern domains of Satsuma (in the far south of Kyushu), Choshu (in the far southwest of Honshu), and Tosa (on the south side of Shikoku) to overthrow the Tokugawa and restore the Meiji emperor to power in 1868. During the 1877 Satsuma rebellion, according to the Russo-Japanese War Research Society:
The samurai were armed with Enfield muzzle loading rifles and could fire approximately one round per minute. Their artillery consisted of 28 mountain guns, 2 field guns (15.84 pounders), and 30 assorted mortars.
Before the Tokugawa shoguns pacified Japan and sealed it off from the outer world during the early 1600s, the archipelago had gone through a long period of anarchy and warfare, the Sengoku or "warring states" era (1467-1615). No wonder ordinary Japanese people were so open to Christianity and new ideas. Their own elite warriors had gone berserk. After pacification, some of the surplus warriors apparently found work overseas. According to Giles Milton's account in Nathaniel's Nutmeg, Japanese mercenaries helped the Dutch East India Company fight the Portuguese in the Spice Islands in 1608. In 1609, the Dutch showed up in Japan, seeking to break the Portuguese trade monopoly there. The Shogunate was increasingly suspicious of the Portuguese missionaries and their growing flock of converts. After martyring many Christians and suppressing the 1637-38 Shimabara Rebellion in a heavily Christian area near Nagasaki, the Shogunate expelled the Portuguese and moved the Dutch trading post (or "factory") to the artificial island of Deshima in Nagasaki Bay. The remaining Christians went underground, adapted their rituals, and remained hidden until Japan began reopening to the outside world in the 1850s.

As the country opened up, the Nagasaki foreign settlement flourished, attracting not only a British arms merchant and a Romanian Jewish innkeeper, but also American doctors and a sizable Italian community that indirectly inspired Puccini to write his opera Madama Butterfly, which debuted in 1904.

Although Tokyo people may think of Kyushu as being the back of beyond, it was Japan's most important crossroads with the outside world for many centuries.

25 December 2003

Iceland Travelogue

Perhaps since first reading Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth as a kid, I've always wanted to pay an extended visit to Iceland. (I have no desire to journey to the center of the earth. I'm too claustrophobic.) Here's a chance to enjoy a vicarious trip to Iceland, courtesy of Danny Yee, whose "ramblings of a pathologically eclectic generalist" are guaranteed to hold something of interest for anyone who still has a grain of curiosity about the wider world.

Electronic Archives on the Marshall Islands

For "in-depth and authoritative information about the people, culture, environment, arts, history, health, politics and the economy of the Marshall Islands in Micronesia," a great place to start is Dirk Spennemann's The Marshall Islands: An Electronic Library & Archive of Primary Sources.

Koreans of Central Asia

Approximately 450,000 ethnic Koreans reside in the former USSR, primarily in the newly independent states of Central Asia. With the exception of those living on Sakhalin Island and North Korean émigrés, these Koreans refer to themselves as koryo saram--a designation long obsolete on the Korean peninsula, where today Northerners refer to themselves as chosun saram and Southerners as hanguk saram.

In the late 19th and early 20th century, the forebears of today's koryo saram emigrated from the peninsula to the Russian Far East, some of them in order to wage guerilla warfare against Japanese colonial forces in Korea. Ironically then, in 1937, Stalin deported all of these settlers--approximately 200,000--to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, on the official premise that the Koreans might act as spies for Japan.
Thus states the introduction to the Koryo Saram website posted by Steven Sunwoo Lee, U.S. Fulbright Fellow to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan (2001-2002), based on information provided by Professor Dr. German Nikolaevich Kim, chair of the Korean Studies Department at Kazakhstan State University named for Al-Farabi, and board member of the Association of Koreans of Kazakhstan (AKK). The site contains links to many downloadable articles in MS Word format, most in Russian, but with a handful translated into English.

Korea's northern exiles had such a fractious history that it's hard to find any account that doesn't have some partisan agenda to push. (Kim Il-sông got his start as a guerrilla leader among the northern exiles.) As the introduction above hints, you can't even translate the word 'Korea' into modern-day Korean--or Japanese or Chinese, for that matter--without taking sides. The name Chosôn comes from that of the last Korean kingdom (1392-1910) and is often translated 'Morning Calm'. ('Morning Fresh' would perhaps be more accurate if it didn't sound so much like a deodorizer or laundry detergent: "Does your dynasty let you down after only a few generations? [Display scenes of childish leaders, starving peasants, etc.] Introducing ... Morning Fresh, the dynasty that lasts for centuries!")

South Koreans have elevated their ethnonym Han (not to be confused with the Han meaning Chinese) and named their peninsular country Hanguk 'Han country'. They refer to the northern part as Pukhan 'north Han'. In Japan, the term Chosenjin 'Chosôn person' (or worse, Senjin) has long been so derogatory that the polite equivalent is now Kankokujin 'Han country person', and South Korea is Kankoku (the Japanese equivalent of Hanguk)--but North Korea remains Kita Chosen 'North Chosôn'. Of course, there is no official Minami Chosen 'South Chosôn', nor any official Hokkan (the Japanese equivalent of Pukhan), although I suspect the latter term is widely used among Japanese who interact with South Koreans or who read South Korean sources. Some people are trying to revive Koryô, the name of an earlier kingdom (918-1392) that doesn't carry as much 20th-century political baggage. In fact, the admirably neutral English word Korea comes from Koryô.

The Argus responds.

UPDATE: In the comments, The Marmot notes that the name Koryo does indeed carry political baggage, generally in a northern direction. The Koryo capital, Kaesong, intersects the 38th parallel from the north. It was the site of the first truce talks during the Korean War, before they were moved to Panmunjom, just on the south side of the parallel. Some have optimistically proposed Kaesong as a neutral capital if Pyongyang and Seoul were ever to agree to a peaceful merger.

24 December 2003

Farflung Christmas Memories

1971 - I was only weeks away from my Army ETS date at Ft. Gordon, GA. My brother had just finished his first semester at Berea College, KY. The rest of the family was across the Pacific, so I took the Greyhound bus up to Berea so we could have our own minireunion. The transfer terminal at Corbin, KY, still sold the old small bottles of Coke for 5 cents. The few Berea students who hadn't been able to go home for the holidays were consolidated into one dorm to save on heating. Most seemed to be Asian students living on ramen noodles, but I was determined to take my brother to the nicest (well, the only nice) place in town, Boone Tavern Hotel, where he worked as a bellhop, using up far more Brasso in one day on the old elevator cage doors than I used up in my entire 996 days in the Army. Berea College, which U.S. News ranked #1 in the South for 2004, charges no tuition but requires 100% of its students to work for the college and its assorted enterprises (for rather meager wages, it's true). Unfortunately for us that Christmas Day, Boone Tavern required not only a coat-and-tie, but advance reservations. Nowhere else within walking distance was open, so our elegant Christmas dinner turned out to be individual-sized frozen pizzas from 7-Eleven.

1976 - I was nearing the end of my language fieldwork in a tiny village on the north coast of New Guinea between Salamaua and Morobe Patrol Post. There was a special Christmas service. Most of the village kids were home from their boarding schools. (The village was too small to have its own school.) A young pastor from the village had returned. Most of the church services--and all of the hymns--were in Jabêm, the church language of the German Lutheran mission from Neuendettelsau in Bavaria, but this pastor was determined to reach the younger audience by translating the sermon into Tok Pisin, the English-based pidgin that is the de facto national language of Papua New Guinea. Like so many Christmas services, this one had a children's pageant. But, unlike most, this one featured swineherds guarding their swine by night rather than shepherds guarding their sheep. When the kids who played the swine began snorting and squealing like real pigs, the village hunting dogs went berserk.

1983 - After a rather grim autumn in Bucharest, Romania, Mrs. Far Outlier and I bought roundtrip train tickets to Budapest and Vienna for Christmas. Unfortunately, the CFR (Cai Ferate Romaniei [= Chemin de fer de la Roumanie]) foreign exchange cashier had sold us only one ticket for the two berths in our sleeping compartment. When the car attendant discovered this, he was very distressed until I paid him in Romanian lei for the second berth and threw in a complimentary pack of Kent cigarettes, the universal foreign exchange medium bribe in Romania (the universal cue being Avets Kents 'Do you have Kents?'). At the first stop, in Ploiesti, a passenger got on, schlepped his luggage down the hallway, looked into our compartment, saw two people occupying it, and uttered, in English, "Oh, shit." The car attendant no doubt earned a second pack of Kents that night. Compared to Bucharest, Budapest seemed like heaven--clean and orderly, with real coffee, well-stocked store shelves, and even pedestrian-crossing buttons at intersections. But, compared to Budapest, Vienna was even more heavenly, but also more expensive. We sampled mulled wine at the Kristkindelmarkt, saw Die Fledermaus at the Staatsoper on Christmas Eve, and heard (but couldn't really see) the Wiener Singer Knaves on Christmas Day.

22 December 2003

Koreans in Olympic Marathons

In the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, where Jesse Owens won 4 gold medals for the U.S., two Korean marathon runners, Sohn Kee-chung and Nam Sung-yong, brought home gold and bronze medals for Japan while running on the Japanese team under their Japanized names, Son Kitei and Nan Shoryu. Japan annexed Korea in 1910 and occupied it until 1945.
When the Korean Dong-A Ilbo newspaper printed a photograph of Son after his performance, it erased the image of the Japanese flag that was on Son's uniform. This action resulted in the governor general of Korea banning publication of the paper and arresting its president, as well as expelling organs of public opinion.
Sohn went on to chair several Korean sports organizations and was among those who carried the Olympic flame at the Seoul Olympics in 1988. Although his medal is still credited to Japan by both the IOC and Japan OC, Sohn lived to see the sweet day, 56 years after Berlin, when his countryman Hwang Young-cho made history in the marathon that capped the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, by outlasting Japan's Koichi Morishita after they doggedly traded the lead again and again during the long plod up the slopes of Montjuic.

Sohn died in November 2002 at the age of 90.

The Honolulu Marathon

On Sunday, December 14, Jimmy Muindi of Kenya won the 2003 Honolulu Marathon Men's Division in 2:12:59, exactly the time his countryman Mbarak Hussein achieved last year. Kenyans J. Muindi, M. Hussein, Benson Masya, and Ibrahim Hussein (the men's record holder) have won the Men's Division nearly every year since 1985. The only ones who have been able to displace them have been Gianni Poli of Italy in 1988, Simon Robert Naali of Tanzania in 1989-90, Bong Ju Lee of Korea in 1993, and Josia Thugwane of South Africa in 1995.

In the Women's Division, Carla Beurskens of the Netherlands won 8 out of 10 years between 1985 and 1994. Most of the following years were dominated by runners from Russia and Kyrgyzstan: Ramila Burangulova, Svetlana Vasilieva, Irina Bogacheva, Lyubov Morgunova (the women's record holder), and Svetlana Zakharova. But in 2003, Eri Hayakawa became the first champion from Japan, with a time of 2:31:56. Almost every year since 1989, about one-half to two-thirds of the entrants in the Honolulu Marathon have come from Japan. A total of 246,778 have entered since 1973.

21 December 2003

His Majesty O'Keefe

The Micronesian Seminar is an incomparable resource on all things Micronesian. Among its many projects is a compilation entitled Beachcombers, Traders, and Castaways in Micronesia. Here's what it has to say about His Majesty O'Keefe, the subject of a thoroughly forgettable 1953 movie starring Burt Lancaster, Benson Fong (who had starred in several Charlie Chan films), and Philip Ahn (a Korean American who often played Japanese villains).
David Dean O'Keefe was born in Ireland in 1828 (or 1824). He immigrated to the US in 1848 and made his home in Savannah. He captained ships in the off-shore trade. In 1871, he set sail on the "Belvedere" for Manila. In 1872, he first arrived on Yap aboard the junk "Wrecker". He worked in Yap until at least 1875 for Webster & Cook of Singapore. After this he began trading on his own. O'Keefe established a string of trade stations on Yap, Palau and Mapia. He acquired several small vessels during this period which he used to visit his stations and bring his copra to Hong Kong. He came to dominate the copra trade on Yap through his strategy of providing Yapese with transportation to Palau for the quarrying of the stone cylinders that were used as money. O'Keefe was married to a woman on Mapia, but his second wife (Dalibu) lived with him on Yap and ran his home and headquarters at Terang Island in Yap Harbor. O'Keefe, always the center of controversy, was charged by other traders with a vast array of crimes, but most of the charges were dismissed by British authorities. O'Keefe had several children, who lived with him on Yap. He died while at sea in a typhoon in 1901, leaving a fortune of at least half a million dollars.

Yap, Micronesia

Mr. and Mrs. Outlier first crossed paths on the island of Yap, in Micronesia, him rather indirectly by way of the War Corps and her more directly by way of the Peace Corps. Even though the former enlistment was somewhat less than totally voluntary, this only confirms U.S. regional stereotypes. Southerners disproportionately populate, not only the War Corps, but also the Missionary Corps, while Midwesterners seem disproportionately to volunteer for the Peace Corps. Among the puddings that prove the latter point is the website about Yap by an ex-PCV reporter at the Kansas City Star. The photo galleries are especially recommended.

20 December 2003

Germans from Russia

Mrs. Far Outlier is descended from a long line of Germans who first emigrated from the Black Forest in Wuerttemberg near the Rhine River to the wide steppes of Bessarabia just east of the Dniester River in South Russia (now Ukraine) during the early 1800s. They were encouraged to do so by Czar Alexander I, who exempted them from military conscription and other duties. When Czar Alexander II revoked their special status in 1876, they began emigrating to the prairies of Dakota Territory.

Update: The Argus has more.

Missionary Kids

Mr. Far Outlier was born in the U.S. but, at the age of one, accompanied his missionary father and mother to Japan aboard the U.S.S. President Cleveland, arriving in Tokyo in August 1950, just after the outbreak of the Korean War. After graduating from high school in Kobe, Japan, he immigrated back to the U.S. More than a few instances of culture shock ensued.

You know you're a missionary kid if ...
"Where are you from?" has more than one reasonable answer
and so on.

Nowadays, missionary kids (MKs) are subsumed under an ever-expanding category of "third culture kids" (TCKs) which is one day likely to include nearly everyone.