Why do armed actors use violence against civilians during wars? I argue that armed actors have the incentive to use more violence against communities that have shown the willingness and capacity to challenge authority. I argue that violence can be explained by wariness, in which armed actors perceive threats from civilians based on prewar civilian resistance against authority. To test this argument, I construct new archival data on prewar protest activity in South Korea and civilian killings during the Korean War. I show that the South Korean armed forces, with information from local police retained from the Japanese colonial security apparatus, killed more civilians in regions known to have protested against the legitimacy of Japanese colonial rule. My results have implications for the study of civilian victimization during wars and the legacy of repressive – and in particular colonial – institutions.
Works In Progress
Mobilizing for the State: Vietnam War and South Korea’s Regime Stability
This project investigates the relationship between the presence of Vietnam War veterans and recent election results in South Korea. South Korean authoritarian leader, Park Chung-hee, sent 320,000 soldiers to the Vietnam War, the largest armed actor supporting the US during the War. Considering that in 1966 the number of South Korean males between the ages 20 and 24 was approximately 1.2 million, the impact of the Vietnam War on South Korea was substantial. Utilizing an extensive survey data on approximately 21,000 Vietnam War veterans and 98 in-depth interviews of surviving Vietnam War veterans, provided by the Vietnam Veteran Association Korea, I examine the relationship between the presence of Vietnam veteran population and various economic and political outcomes in South Korea, including recent presidential election results.
Origins of Nationalism: The Legacy of March First and May Fourth Movements
This project conducts a comparative analysis of two movements in 1919, one in Korea against Japanese colonial rule, and the other in China against the Chinese government’s placid response to Japanese claims over territories in Shandong. Both movements spread nationwide and are commemorated by respective governments as the birthplace of nationalism and resistance against the colonial (imperial) rule. I compare the two movements’ divergent effects on the splintering of elites, violence against civilians in the following wars, and state perception of threat against movements and organizations that evoke these historical events.