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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Instability of Empire: Earthquake, Rumor, and the Massacre of Koreans in the Japanese Empire

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College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

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The experience of violence has powerful consequences in the transformation of culture. The Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 marked a moment of unprecedented material destruction and cultural rupture in the Japanese empire. The disaster soon became subject to human interpretation and political manipulation, for the trauma of earth tremors and subsequent fire produced not only physical chaos but also rumors and violence against the colonized in the metropole. Such violence manifested itself in the massacre of Koreans immediately following the earthquake--triggered by rumors of arson, murder, and rebellious riots by Koreans in the Tokyo-Yokohama area. Despite the shock of the rumors and the violence, the lack of critical evidence and the contradictions in the testimonies has rendered the incident a historical enigma, panic-driven aberration, or conspiracy in modern Japanese and Korean history.

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