buraku wirsinddochmenschen Buraku-Befreiung
"Der verwundete und zu Boden gefallene Mensch, ist das nicht Jesus selbst?" (Pfr. SEKI, Kyoto, 2002)
"Anerkennung verweigern nicht zuletzt viele Christinnen und Christen" (M. Sonntag)
"Ich bin doch ein Mensch"  (Kalligraphie aus der Befreiungsbewegung der Buraku)


2011: The Annexation of Korea & The Kyodan

One Pastor's View
of the Relationship Between the 100th Anniversary of the Forced Annexation of Korea
and the United Church of Christ in Japan


Rev. Hideo Tateyama, Osaka Awaji Church

I have to admit that I was a bit daunted by the prospect of writing about this serious issue, but I gather that I was asked because I was the chairperson of the Task Force on Japanese-Korean and Koreans in Japan Solidarity, an entity created by the United Church of Christ in Japan (Kyodan) that no longer exists. It has been a while since the task force was dissolved due to "structural reforms," but the issues it dealt with are still with us. I can't help but feel that the Kyodan has become a distant existence, and so it is with such emotion that I endeavor to write the following observations.

When I did an internet search for "The 100th Anniversary of the Forced Annexation of Korea and the United Church of Christ in Japan," I was directed to the Sept. 15, 2010 issue of the Kyodan Shinpo, where the article "A Message of Peace" appeared. (Ed. note: The English translation of this article appeared in the December 2010 issue of the Kyodan Newsletter.) This statement was jointly issued by the Korean Christian Church in Japan (KCCJ) and the Kyodan, and while I won't quote directly from the article, there was something that really bothered me about it. The section titles read, "100th Anniversary of the Annexation of Korea," "60th Anniversary of the Korean War," and "The Issues of the Immigration Law and Fingerprinting," and then it quotes from Ephesians before concluding with a list of several things that need to be uplifted in prayer and a statement that this is the calling that we have been given. In all of this, there is only one sentence in which the Kyodan is the subject of the sentence, and that is in the conclusion. It's a statement about the Kyodan and KCCJ standing together, but in all the discussion about the history from the time of the annexation of Korea, it's as though the Kyodan wasn't involved in it at all. It concludes with "our calling as Christians," but what is this calling if it is not in the context of history? Is the Kyodan merely observing things from the standpoint of one who is unconnected to the history of Japanese imperial aggression? That's not at all the case! The Kyodan and its predecessor denominations were deeply entwined with Japanese imperialism, even lending it support. In fact, it was in deep repentance of that reality that the "Confession of War Responsibility" was drafted in 1967 under the name of the moderator at that time, Masahisa Suzuki. However, none of this was even referred to in the "Message of Peace."

While I do feel that there were some problems in that war responsibility confession itself, it was a recognition that the Kyodan needed to express deep repentance for its active support of the war effort and its turning a blind eye towards the atrocities perpetrated by the Japanese military against Korea and other Asian nations. (The Kyodan even called itself an "arm of the emperor" and sent out notices to all its churches about being a "locus" of prayer in praying for victory.) So, with this confession, the Kyodan was facing up to the reality of its past and providing a foundation for the future, but my problem with the "Message of Peace" is that it did not even refer to this at all. Likewise, I have a related issue with the KCCJ. In the symposium held last July commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the Annexation of Korea, in the keynote address, as the ongoing ramifications of the annexation were being referred to, the Kyodan Confession of War Responsibility and the phrase, "confessing a faith that itself is a confession of war responsibility before the Lord God" were given high marks. I understand this to be original position of the KCCJ, and so was there no effort on the part of KCCJ to have this referenced in this "Message of Peace?" I can't help but wonder what was going on behind the scenes and whether there was some reason why the KCCJ felt it had to kowtow to the Kyodan or something.

As I was reading through the document, "A Message of Peace," I reflected on the contrast of that with the booklet the Task Force on Japanese-Korean and Koreans in Japan Solidarity that I mentioned above put out in 2002. It was titled "Our Responsibility—Opening Up the Future." It includes the article "Korea and Us," written by Rev. Yoshiaki Kawamoto, who is presently the pastor at the Kokura Hiagari church in Kyushu. (There is also another very interesting article by Rev. Seinosuke Oshio entitled "Issues of the Kyodan from the standpoint of the Confession of War Responsibility" that portrays the very situation we have in the present Kyodan.) The article "Korea and Us" details the history of how Japan invaded its neighbor Korea, beginning with the Kokado Incident* and all that led up to the forced annexation in 1910. It was hoped that this information would be used in study groups to understand this process, something that should not be forgotten by the Japanese. The point I want to stress is that in order to understand the Japan of the 1940's, one has to backtrack 30 or 40 years and view the process of the invasion of our neighbor. It is to hold before your eyes "the image of a ball dropped on a steep slope that can only roll down the hill, the image of wartime Japan."

Seeing how various incidents tie in historically is critical in seeing the big picture of imperial Japan, from the backing down of the Yokohama Kaigan Church in 1872 from including in its initial confession of faith an article denying the emperor system to Article 7 of the Kyodan bylaws of 1941 that stated its members were to "honor and support the imperial troops as you follow the imperial way and practice your faith." Likewise, we need to see how local churches and denominations then were supporting the military as it invaded and committed atrocities. Rev. Kawamoto tells of checking back in the records of the church he served to see just how committed they were to the war effort, and he urged others to do likewise. Take a look at what it was that the churches and denominations prayed for and emphasized during those year immediately before the 1910 annexation, when the Japanese military violently suppressed the widespread resistance in Korea.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the formation of the Kyodan in 1941, and so it is an appropriate time to look back at our history and its relationship to the emperor system. "Korea and Us" is an attempt to look back at that history and speak of the things that we must not forget.

*Kokado is the Japanese reading of this island's name, which in Korean is Ganghwa Island. Located at the mouth of the Han River west of Seoul, it was the site of an 1875 invasion by Japanese to force the insular country to open up to the outside. First the French in 1866 and the Americans in 1871 had similarly tried to force Korea to open up, just as the US had done to Japan itself to end its self-imposed isolation a few years earlier.

The landing of the Japanese marines from the Unyo at Ganghwa Island, Korea, in the 1875 Ganghwa Island incident.



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