Abstract: From late 1945 to 1948, the United States occupation forces in southern Korea built a new Korean National Police force composed of a nucleus of officers with experience from the Japanese colonial period and thousands of new recruits. Involving dozens of U.S. police advisers and designed to create a “democratic police,” the failure of the effort had devastating consequences. Focusing on the enduring practice of police torture, this article builds on previous scholarship that emphasizes the importance of the Japanese colonial legacy and Cold War politics by placing the reform efforts in the context of broader American police reforms dating back to the 1930s, and comparing them with the mixed results of U.S. “democratic police” reforms in occupation Japan. While early postwar Korean critics saw the brutality of the police and the widespread hatred of them as tied to their pro-Japanese past, U.S. occupation authorities and police advisers alike remained committed to the idea that both the Korean and Japanese police forces could be remade into a disciplined institution for protecting democracy with only a minimal purge and educational programs.
Status: Draft, incomplete.
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