Lessons from the Colonization to Decolonization Progress

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Twentieth century’s Asia was a turbulent and war-torn area. The whole Asia area was divided into three parts. Most of the countries were colonized and dominated by the settlers. Some of the countries were still fighting against the invaders (Tomiyama 1994). Japan became the only invaders and settlers among all of the Asian countries. Under the settler colonialism, Indigenous people strived to survive under the dominance and torture of the settlers. They also receive unequal treatment compared to the invaders. More disastrously, unmarried women in some of the colonized countries were forced to be comfort women and serve the clients, which are Japanese soldier; those women had to satisfy any needs or they will be beaten badly (My Own Breathing). Those local people who could not bear any more fight against the settlers and declare their independence to achieve the decolonization. Colonialism is a system that settlers expel and replace the Indigenous people and seize the Indigenous resources and lands. The system metes out the settlers the right to treat those indigenous peoples unequally and change their original environment as well as culture. Decolonization is a progress that colony transforms from settler’s dominance to independence. Gender structure in twentieth century of Asia is the patriarchal system. Women are stand in the inferior position to men and were objectified as a playful object. The colonization to decolonization progress change affected the gender structure in those colonized countries in Asia. 

When Japanese colonized Korea, they recruit Korean comfort women to satisfy their needs and reveal the female inferiority under colonization. In My Own Breathing, several Korean women who experienced the comfort station in the colonized period express their pain of insulting and physical torture. During the World War II, 200,000 young women from Japan’s colonies were forced to be comfort women (My Own Breathing). In the film, Kim Boon-sun described the experience that she met Japanese soldiers. She said once she was too tired to serve the clients and was beaten harshly. She tried to escape for several times, but was caught every time (My Own Breathing). “Serve the clients” is the terminology comfort women had at that time, which reveals Japanese soldier’s dominant thinking that they are the clients who deserve to enjoy the sexual pleasure. When Kim Boon-sun tried to escape from the torture, she was beaten even harder than before. The continuous torture reveals the inferiority and objectification of women: women’s function is to please men. 

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Similarly, China, the country with half-colonized and half-feudal social form, experienced the Sino-Japanese war while Japanese soldiers rape women refugees in Nanking Safety Zone without respecting the rule of International Safety Zone. In 1937 December, a lot of cases were filed regarding Japanese soldiers entering Chinese houses and rape Chinese women inside in Nanking Safety Zone (Documents on the Rape of Nanking, 10). Prior to the cases, Japanese consented that they would not attack Nanking Safety Zone unless Chinese military stayed inside the zone. However, because wounded Chinese soldiers came into the zone and take off their military cloth, Japanese soldiers raped the women refugees, took the rice for refugees, and robbed from Chinese citizens. The committee tried to mediate the problem with Japanese army; however, Japanese officers ignored the meditation and reinforce the attack. Many citizens were killed whereas women were raped in the Safety Zone by Japanese soldiers. During the “Rape of Nanking”, men were killed whereas women became sexual slavery. They were sacrificed by being forced to be the plaything of Japanese soldiers. The inhumane action reveals the gender disparity as well as the class disparity. Japanese soldiers are considered as the symbol of power to those women refugees without pistols so that they are able to mistreat the citizens in the way whatever they like. 

Unable to keep bearing the torture and pain, colonized people in Asia started to fight against settlers and then declare their independence, thus transforming the progress from colonization to decolonization. In Manifesto of the Korean Communist Party in Shanghai (1921), Korean expressed their resent that Japanese annexation of Korea is inhumane and unreasonable (2). Japanese prevented the growth of Korean enterprise and banned all the free assembly as well as speech (Manifesto, 2). Moreover, Korean received unequal treatment that became hunger and poverty after the annexation (Manifesto, 2). Therefore, they, the colonized Korean, declared their discontent regarding the annexation and manifested their resolution to start and achieve the revolution. The revolution is a start point of decolonization. October Russian Revolution gave all of the colonized people the expectation of the success of freedom. In Manifesto Korean Community Party, Korean proletariat expresses their revolution to eliminate all the existing systems with inequality and hierarchy. 

If Manifesto of the Korean Communist Party in Shanghai is the pronounce of the beginning of revolution, then Declaration of Independence by Ho Chi Minh is the declaration of decolonization. During World War II, Vietnam was seized by Japanese and controlled by French. Vietnamese nationalists fought against the invaders to gain the freedom. In the case of Vietnam, the country had to deal with two aggressive powers who aimed at taking over its control. First, the Vietnamese had to ensure that they fought against the French colonialists who had controlled the country for several years. It is clear that the French ruled with serious levels of violence and a clear disregard of the moral principles that have to be upheld whether in war or not. Secondly, the Vietnamese had to fight against the Japanese who had seized the country, and aimed to dislodge the French as the colonial power controlling Vietnam. Clearly, the state of warship in Vietnam was worse than any other country in the history of the world. 

The people of Vietnam had undergone torture and other forms of abuse as explained in the Declaration for Independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. The leader of the country at the time described that both the French and the Japanese took advantage of the weak and poorly armed Vietnamese to initiate violent regimes that aimed to exploit the resources of the country. It is clear from the violent and aggressive trends that the conflict in Vietnam took that the women were the most affected. While the available resources have not described the exact nature of effects that the war had on women, it is clear that the Vietnamese women suffered greatly from both physical and emotional torture. The killing of men, regardless of whether they were in the military or not, meant that the women had to bear the burden of developing their societies later after the conclusion of the conflict. The two great powers of the world, France and Japan, who were competing to control Vietnam, broke several international treaties mainly because Vietnam could not fight back. Additionally, the lack of international oversight from other global powers also motivated the countries to engage in an unjustified conflict in a country that ought to have been treated as sovereign. Therefore, the leader of the provisional government of Vietnam Ho Chi Minh, in September 2, 1945 justifiably criticizes the countries in the Declaration of Independence speech.

From the description of the events above, it is clear that the colonization to decolonization progress saw an unprecedented disregard of the values that ought to have controlled conflicts. It is apparent that all the colonizers involved in all the cases described herein disregarded the values and morals that are held in their own declarations of independence. Apparently, all the nations involved in the colonization of other countries as described above have independence declarations identifying that all men are created equal. It is baffling that all the nations could disregard such an ethical and moral view and engage in conflicts that were clearly not justified. The colonization to decolonization progress imparts lessons that the modern world can learn from as the world moves and transitions to an age of advanced civilization. The lessons learned from the progress have enabled the nations of the world to avoid a conflict of a global scale, as was the case during both the First and the Second great wars of the world. Additionally, the lessons learned have allowed the world to understand that failure to uphold the principle of all men being created equal will most likely lead to a world full of unending conflicts. As such, it is imperative that the leaders of the world come up with an effective framework that could be used to address the issues that could otherwise lead to conflicts involving two or more nations.

From the analysis presented in the current paper, it is clear that most nations, through their military systems and institutions, do not respect the rights, freedoms, and the welfare of women. Apparently, the issue of comfort women, the reported and documented cases of raped women in China, and the apparent mistreatment of women in Vietnam gives a clear indication that the plight of women was at a disadvantage back then during the conflicts. Whether the trends that were reported back then have changed is yet to be authoritatively reported. However, there are clear signs and depictions that most military institutions have developed in a way that gives hop that the plights of women are to be addressed in the event of a conflict of the same nature as the ones described in the early sections of the current paper. Currently, most military establishments have many women in their organizational structure, which then raises the hope that in the event of a military conflict, the state of women in the society will be considered. Therefore, there is hope that the current world is different from that of the past, in which powerful nations sought to exploit the weak and poorly armed nations that could not defend their sovereignty. 

Concern is still rife regarding the reaction that the modern world could have in the event that there was a conflict of international scale. In fact, considering the trends that have been reported across the world, it is worrying that the threat of a full-blown military conflict could arise at any time. All the rhetoric coming from the leaders of different nations with differing opinions on various global issues indicates that the world is on the verge of an international conflict arising at any given moment. From the experience of past years, it is apparent that such a conflict will leave behind serious levels of destruction and causalities. It is expected that, with the exposure that military and nations have in the current age, the rights and freedoms of all people will be guaranteed even in the depths of such a conflict in the event that it emerges. The treatment of women as inferior beings will be addressed and the Geneva Convention will be upheld. The Geneva Convention outlines the ethical and moral way of dealing with the prisoners of war in the event that an international war erupts in the world. Therefore, if it is upheld, the any upcoming international conflict may take a different perspective and direction than all the other international conflict that the world has ever seen in its history. 

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In conclusion, the state of women in the world has to be improved and their continued treatment as the inferior being has to be addressed urgently. It is clear that women have been the worst afflicted group in all the conflicts that have been recorded across the world. It is high time that such a situation is addressed with the shortest time possible to ensure that all the challenges that women face are addressed with the same zeal as that which is applied when it comes to addressing the issues that men face in their societies. It is clear that the colonization to decolonization progress allowed the world to learn on how to handle conflicts. The failure that was reported back then will certainly need to be rectifies to guarantee that the modern world depicts the realities of the advanced civilization it has described itself to be in currently. Finally, it is important the modern world guarantees the implementation of all the statutes and conventions that explain the processes of dealing with international conflicts as ethically and morally as required to ensure that all groups, and specifically the women, are guaranteed their protection of their rights even in the face of a conflict.     

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  1. Brook, Timothy. 2007. Documents on the Rape of Nanking. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.
  2. Hay, John. 1899. “First Open Door Note, By John Hay | AMDOCS: Documents For The Study Of American History”. 
  3. Manifesto of the Korean Communist Party in Shanghai, 1921
  4. Marx, Karl. 1853. “Karl Marx in New York Daily Tribune”. 
  5. Minh, Ho Chi. 1945. “Declaration of Independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam”. 
  6. Tomiyama, Ichiro. 1994. Colonialism and the Sciences of the Tropical Zone. Honolulu, HI: East-West Center.
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