Organized Panel Session
This paper examines social conflict along the riparian Yalu border between Manchukuo and the formal Japanese colony of Korea. Following the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931 and the creation of the puppet-state of Manchukuo, the Yalu River was putatively transformed from an international border into an intra-imperial boundary. Many scholars assume that the formerly contentious border politics of the region ended after 1931. But by examining the specific cases of smuggling and fishing disputes, this study shows how the actions of local residents significantly undermined official rhetoric of Korean-Manchurian "unity." The chaos following the Manchurian Incident provided fertile conditions for smuggling, and by 1935 an estimated 9,000-10,000 people were engaged in the smuggling of silver currency alone between the border cities of Andong and Sinŭiju. Meanwhile, local Korean fishermen expressed "willing[ness] to die" before they yielded their three-decade long control of the lower Yalu's fisheries to fishermen from the Manchukuo side of the river. My paper analyzes such events to show how local Koreans, Chinese, and Japanese settlers and bureaucrats alike reinforced administrative divisions between Manchukuo and the formal colony of Korea. It also highlights how the Yalu's fluid riparian geography exacerbated cross-border conflicts by freezing, flooding, and making it impossible to draw distinct administrative lines between Korea and Manchukuo.