WHO ARE THE COLLABORATORS Webster defines a collaborator as one who labors with or acts jointly with another as in writing or study. In KOREA, however, it means pro-Jap. In fact, it means more than that. It is the opprobrium heaped upon the head of every aspirant for public office, by every other office-seeker.
No doubt there are a few Koreans who worked for the Japs openly and willingly against the interests of KOREA. Some of these individuals have been identified and deserve to be called collaborators. On the other hand, the great number of Koreans who held minor positions in government and Japanese-controlled business are less easy to classify. Who can say that these individuals worked only for the interests of the Japs, for their own selfish interest, or were secretly preparing themselves for the day when KOREA would be free? Certainly there was never any question in the minds of the Japs as to whom they were working for. The Koreans, however, would have you believe that they were so skillful in pulling the wool over the eyes of the Japs that they also deceived some of their own countrymen.
It was early realized that this matter of collaboration would arise. The Provisional Government in CHUNGKING in a radio broadcast on 9 September stated: "It is expected that, up to a certain point, officials who worked reluctantly under the oppression of the Japanese will be recognized." Although the statement is clear enough, if strictly applied, it would place virtually all Korean office-holders under Japanese rule in the category of collaborators. Further, it would appear to place the responsibility on the individual concerned for proving that he worked for the Japs against his will. Under the circumstances this would be most difficult to prove.
In all probability the great majority of office-holders under Japanese rule worked with no real consciousness of being either pro or anti-Jap. These Koreans probably accepted positions in government and business as a means of livelihood. As in most cases elsewhere, individuals with the most ambition and ability forged ahead. To make a blanket charge that they are all collaborators would be an injustice to most of them. Now that Korea is free, and in the absence of proof to the contrary, it is believed the loyalty of Koreans formerly employed by the government and Japanese business firms is reasonably assured. However, in the mud-slinging of small-time politics, one is destined to hear the charge of "collaborationist!" many times in the next few years. In fact, not until the passing of the present crop of politicians will the term "collaborator" disappear from the Korean vocabulary.