Did anyone read Morris-Suzuki’s “Exodus to North Korea” yet? I read it in a seminar on modern Korean history. She discovers from Red Cross archives in Geneva the well-calculated scheme (mostly by Japanese leaders) behind the repatriation of Koreans (including Japanese women married Koreans and lost nationality) to North Korea in the late 1950s. The information she presents is interesting (and she is good at presenting it as a shocking fact), and she documents the course of her research in a dramatic and literary way so that readers can enjoy it as a political thriller.
North Korea is a hot topic, and Japanese people are hungry for whatever information available because we have little access to the voice of people there. The topic that she deals with can easily stir emotions, and it is obvious that she wanted to convey her own emotion to the reader.
There are many problems that come from the fact that she over-determines the meaning of each piece of information that she encounters (e.g. She over-emphasizes the deceptive nature of North Korean propaganda in the 50s, etc), and projects the information we have now but unknown to those in the 50s. But besides the problem of teleology, I have an issue in that the fact that those people are still alive somehow allows the author to be more emotional.
If you have ever done historical research with primary sources, you probably know how adventurous and emotional a journey of historical investigation is. Human drama is everywhere. I have been reading some thought police records from the 1930s in Korea and Japan, and I am emotionally committed to the drama of each person I read about in these records. But almost all of them are dead by know. No one can ever speak to them, and researchers like me can only try to imagine their lives from very limited records. How could their lives during wartime mobilization be less dramatic than those who repatriated themselves to North Korea in the 1950s? Not only me, I bet, but every single historian has a similar experience, but tries to overcome her emotions since you might lose a sight of important things if you succumb to your personal feelings.
Reading Morris-Suzuki’s new book, I felt that it is a bit unfair for my people (that I’m reading about) in the 1930s.