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Dr Deokhyo Choi

Dr Deokhyo Choi

Research Associate, East Asian Studies


I am an ethnic Korean born in Japan (third-generation zainichi Korean).  I earned my BA and MA in Tokyo (Rikkyo University and the University of Tokyo) and my PhD in the United States (Cornell University).  

Throughout my journey in academia, I have been very fortunate to directly witness crucial historic events on the Korean peninsula and within Japan-Korea relations. As a college exchange student at Yonsei University in 1997 and 1998, I watched the unfolding of one of the most dramatic political events in post-liberation Korean history, as Kim Dae-Jung, a long-time democratic fighter and survivor of state terrorism, was elected President in the middle of South Korea’s unprecedented economic crisis. I started my MA in Korean politics and history at the University of Tokyo in 2000, at a time when a sense of hope and buoyancy borne out of the first North-South Korean summit meeting could be felt everywhere among zainichi Korean communities. I decided to write about the origins of the Cold War in Korea and East Asia for my MA thesis, while I was grappling with how to understand the enormous social repercussions of the Japanese Prime Minister’s first visit to Pyongyang in September 2002. In support of my academic inquiries into these immediately relevant issues, I was also fortunate to receive various scholarships from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, Toyota Foundation, Matsushita International Foundation, Korea Foundation, and Korean Scholarship Foundation in Japan.

In 2006, I moved to the United States to continue my studies and enrolled in the PhD graduate history program at Cornell University. Cornell’s ambitious academic community nurtured and inspired me tremendously, especially within its critical Japanese Studies program and cutting-edge Cold War and International Studies. I also had the good fortune to have affiliations with the University of Michigan and the University of Chicago from 2010 to 2012 during my dissertation writing. In August 2013, I completed my dissertation titled “Crucible of the Post-Empire: Decolonization, Race, and Cold War Politics in U.S.-Japan-Korea Relations, 1945-1952.” My dissertation won the International Convention of Asia Scholars (ICAS) Best Dissertation Prize 2015 in the Humanities.

Research Interests

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.                       

Key Publications

“The Empire Strikes back from Within: The Liberation of the Korean Minority and Popular Violence at the Birth of a Pacifist Japan, 1945-1947,” currently under review.

“Defining Colonial ‘War Crimes’: Korean Debates on Collaboration, War Reparations, and the International Military Tribunal for the Far East,” Kerstin von Lingen, ed., War Crimes Trials in Asia: Collaboration and Complicity in the Aftermath of War (Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming).

"'Mindful of the Enslavement': The Cairo Declaration, Korean Independence, and the Ambiguity of the Liberation of Koreans in Defeated Japan,” The Significance and Effects of the Cairo Declaration, edited by Wu Se-hwa, Lu Fang-shang and Lin Yung-lo (Taipei: Chengchi University Press, 2014), 173-194. (refereed) 

"Between Release and Compulsory Deportation: A Study on GHQ/SCAP's Treatment of Korean 'Illegal Entrants' and the Control of Koreans in Japan during the Korean War," (in Japanese) Bulletin of the Korean Scholarship Foundation vol. 27 (December 2009), 83-96. (refereed, prize awarded)

"The Korean War and Koreans in Japan: Focusing on the Issue of Sending Volunteer Soldiers," (in Japanese) Contemporary Histories of Korean and Japan: Envisaging Regional Coexistence in East Asia, edited by Dōjidaishi gakkai (Tokyo: Nihon Keizai Hyōronsha, 2005), 3-29.

"The formation of a 'Counterrevolutionary' Order and Koreans in Japan," (in Japanese) Unending Colonialism: Gender, Ethnicity/Nation, Race, Class, edited by Toshio Nakano (Tokyo: Seikyūsha, 2005), 95-114.

"Wartime Mobilization and Zainichi Koreans," Quadrante No.6 (The Institute for Foreign Affairs, The Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, 2004), 175-193. (refereed)

"Koreans Living in the Former-Metropole and 'Nation,'" (in Korean) Tangdae pip'yŏng 27 (Seoul, Fall 2004), 199-207. 

“Problematizing Colonial Responsibility,” (in Japanese), War and Sexuality No.19 (March 2003), 32-39.