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General Kim Hong-il's Experience of National Revolutionary Army of the Republic of China and the Process of Formation on‘WehrStaat’Theory

  • military history
  • 2019, (112), pp.1-44
  • DOI : 10.29212/mh.2019..112.1
  • Publisher : Military History Institute, MND
  • Research Area : Humanities > History
  • Received : July 2, 2019
  • Accepted : August 9, 2019
  • Published : September 15, 2019

KIM JIHOON 1

1대림대

Accredited

ABSTRACT

This article throws light on the military experience and national defense theory of Kim Hong-il by examining the formation of his defense theory during his career in the National Revolutionary Army of the Republic of China. While previous research on national defense has focused either on the Japanese occupation or the Park Chung-hee government era, this paper directs attention to the period around August 1948, when the Republic of Korea Armed Forces were established. This approach is expected to bridge the two separate time periods and facilitate the understanding of Korean military ideology as a continuous theoretical development. The discourse on building national defense, or Wehrstaat, emerged from the lessons of war in the aftermath of World War I. In the era of total war, it meant making preparations for war in peacetime. It required the integration of state-controlled economy with politics for military ends, the process of which involved violence. The theory of Wehrstaat was put forth by German theorists, most notably by Erich Ludendorff. In East Asia, Japan adopted and expanded on it from the 1920s, a change urged on by a group of “total war officers.” From the 1930s, the Nationalist Party of China (KMT) drew from these sources in its attempt to build its own national defense. During his service with the KMT Revolutionary Army, Kim Hong-il took part in the Northern Expedition against regional warlords, Encirclement Campaigns against the Communist Party of China, and the Second Sino-Japanese War against the Imperial Japanese Army. He started out as an officer on the front, gradually rising to the rank of brigadier-general. It is noteworthy that throughout his military career with KMT, his responsibility was in supply and logistics. He served as quartermaster for a subsidiary organization to the Ministry of Defense within the Military Commission. Kim Hong-il mastered national defense theory at Lushan summer training camp, and later at the Military University in Chongqing. The KMT version of national defense he was taught could be traced back to Japanese and German Wehrstaat theory. Kim Hong-il returned to Korea in August 1948, shortly after the establishment of the Republic of Korea and the Armed Forces. He participated in the early organization of the army and was appointed principal of Korea Military Academy. Around this period, he wrote Introduction to National Defense as a textbook for the cadets, but it was also available for purchase to the general public. Kim Hong-il’s national defense theory had been formulated for the newly-created Korean army. He argued for a strong state-controlled economy in order to build national defense. It was his belief that every sector of society should be re-organized around the military. He advocated the installation of a Supreme Commission of National Defense to oversee this process. Unfortunately, Kim Hong-il’s scheme was impractical from the beginning. He wanted to use US assistance via Economic Cooperation Administration (ECA) to implement his plans. However, ECA aid in East Asia in the 1950s operated on the level of enhancing agricultural productivity in underdeveloped countries. It was unlikely that Kim Hong-il’s proposal could be adopted, since the underlying logic of his scheme would have been unacceptable to US authorities. Nevertheless, it cannot be said that the theoretical tradition of national defense was lost in Korea after Kim Hong-il. The national defense ideals of militarization, economic independence and maximum efficiency are some of the most contentious topics in modern Korean history. In general, national defense theory can be understood as the military aspect of revised capitalism after World War I and the Great Depression. It was a radical development strategy deployed by latecomer capitalist countries, as well as an effective shortcut to nation-state building in postcolonial countries like China and Korea.

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