My research explores the historical conjuncture of the “post-empire” (post-territorial empire) in East Asia, a critical time period when the region became the front line of U.S.-Soviet global Cold War interventionism and an internationalized civil war (Korean War). At the heart of my current book project is an inquiry into transnational connections and interactions between decolonizing Korea and Japan. My study demonstrates how the liberation of Korea became a foundational historical event not only for colonized people but also for metropolitan society. Despite the recent emphasis on the need to treat metropole and colony as one analytical field in the new studies of empire, scholars have yet to fully approach decolonization as a mutually constitutive process that restructures both metropolitan and colonial societies. In a radical departure from the existing nation-centered scholarship, my work treats postcolonial Korea and postimperial Japan, U.S. occupation policy in Korea and in Japan, and South Korean and Japanese anti-Communist regimes as one analytical field.
This project is based on my Ph.D. dissertation that won the International Convention of Asia Scholars (ICAS) Best Dissertation Prize 2015 in the Humanities. The selection committee recognized the dissertation as a “groundbreaking” and “exceptionally rich” study that “convincingly shows how an inter- and transnational framework reveals fundamentally new insights into post-Empire Japan and Korea.” The committee also praised the dissertation for “its strong and provocative arguments, its theoretical novelty, and daring personal voice” and commented that “The outcomes of his work will significantly impact the field of East Asian history at large.”
I am currently preparing a new article for publication, titled “Fighting the Korean War in U.S.-Occupied Japan: The Containment of Korean-Japanese Communist Solidarity and Blurred National Boundaries.” This is a new attempt to bring Japan to the fore in the international history of the Korean War. In the article, I present the so-called “North Korean Spy Net” case in Japan (1951) as a methodological site for revealing the complexity of the transnational linkages in the Korean War and also for tracing the postcolonial and Cold War temporalities underlying the war. A story of one North Korean detainee recorded in Japanese police interrogation reports illustrates how the tragedies of Japanese colonialism and the global Cold War converged in the fate of one Korean former imperial subject. He was born in Japan in 1924, enlisted in the Japanese Imperial Army, posted to Japanese-occupied Manchuria in June 1945, captured by Soviet troops at the end of World War II, sent to a concentration camp in Siberia along with other Japanese POWs, released to North Korea in late 1948, and then recruited as a government intelligence agent in exchange for his return to his birth place of Japan, where he ended up in U.S. and Japanese custody for compulsory deportation to South – not North – Korea during the Korean War.
For more information about Dr. Choi can be found in the University of Cambridge directory.