Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Sustaining total war: Militarisation, economic mobilisation and social change in Japan and Korea (1931-1953)

This project investigates the effects of the Asia-Pacific War (1931-1945) and the Korean War (1950-1953) on the production, distribution, preparation and consumption of food in transwar Japan and Korea.

Duration
2007  -   2012
Contact
Kasia Cwiertka
Funding
NWO NWO

Historically, war has been both an agent of destruction and a catalyst for innovation. This project investigates the effects of the Asia-Pacific War (1931-1945) and the Korean War (1950-1953) on the production, distribution, preparation and consumption of food in transwar Japan and Korea. The argument that total war - and the preparation for it - set into motion social transformations that are generally attributed to postwar reconstruction constitutes the core of this study.

The working hypothesis states that reforms implemented under the pressure of the Asia-Pacific War were reinforced by the postwar authorities and gradually lost their wartime connotation. In Japan, they were linked with the 'fresh start' marked by the Allied occupation. In Korea, the Korean War helped to distance them from the stigma of association with Japanese colonialism.

The focus on food will be instrumental in tracking down transwar continuities, because of it being a daily necessity. The chaos and disruption of war may halt economic activities and render many aspects of life insignificant. The need for food, however, cannot be ignored and the social action that it requires continues in all circumstances. This approach will enable this study to observe the effects and meanings of war on the micro level, touching upon economic, political, social and cultural issues. Combining the analysis of Japan and Korea, and including both the Asia-Pacific War and the Korean War in the inquiry, will be essential in illuminating the different trajectories that the legacy of wartime reforms took in Japan and South and North Korea.

The project will result in three monographs that will shed light on the reality of transwar life. Jointly, they are expected to dispel the illusion of 'postwar' as an absolute turning point in the historiography of East Asia in terms other than political.

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