1619, 1919, and Today

J. Nelson Jennings

Published in Global Missiology, www.globalmissiology.org, April 2024


The 1619 arrival of about 20 Africans on the east coast of North America and the 1919 Korean Independence Movement from Japanese colonial rule do not appear to have much in commonwith each other or with realities today. However, comparing the two events unexpectedly sheds light on each, highlights stubbornly persistent difficulties connected to those events that occurred generations ago, and carries implications for World Christianity today.

Key Words: African Americans, history, Japan, Korea, slavery, United States of America


Today's world is a globally interconnected world. The world's peoples and civilizations interrelate at speeds and distances unimaginable to our ancestors of only a few generations ago. Enhanced technologies in travel, communications, industry, and commerce enable layers of interconnectionssome fair and friendly, some unjust and oppressiveon a global scale.

At the same time, within the whole of human history wide-ranging travel, trade, and imperial spread are not new. Ancient empires ruled throughout the world's regional spheres. Closer to modern times, the Mongol Empire achieved the largest geographic spread up to its day, building on Chinese and South-Central Asian networks. Not long thereafter, transoceanic navigations by Europeans more broadly interconnected all the human-inhabited earth's land masses. Spaniards, Portuguese, English, Dutch, French, Scandinavians, Russians, and others brought together various Pacific Islanders, American peoples, Africans, Asians, and Europeans.

Trade and commerce fueled much of the interconnections that developed. Sadly, so did the conquering of others’ lands, as did the enslavement and trade of fellow human beings. It is those dark sides of the modern world's interconnections that bring together this study's two events and ongoing realities.

Koreans and African Americans both recently commemorated pivotal events that occurred separately by three centuries. For Koreans, 2019 marked the centennial of the 1919 independence movement that sought to throw off Japanese colonial rule. Also in 2019, African Americans commemorated the quadricentennial of the 1619 arrival in Tsenacommacah (“densely inhabited land”), in present-day Virginia, of the first small group of Africans to be exploited by English intruders to North America. Besides holding deep importance for contemporary Koreans and for African Americans in today’s United States, both commemorations involved ongoing problematic relationships with the dominant peoples involved earlier, namely Japanese and Euro-Americans.

This article comparatively examines Koreans’ 1919 independence movement and a group of Africans’ 1619 landing in Tsenacommacah. At first glance such a comparison may seem foolhardy, given the significant temporal and geographic distances between those two events. A closer look, however, reveals how what occurred on the eastern shores of North America in 1619 and in Korea in 1919 were part of the same modern spread of Europeans, resulting empires, and correlative enslavement and trafficking of whole peoples. The two events were simply at opposite ends of the modern imperial timeline. Through analyzing these two starkly different episodes that share common historical features, the study carries high hopes of shedding fresh light on how constructively to deal with today’s continuing discordant relations, as well as of making connections with contemporary World Christianity.

The article will first offer some clarifications regarding the two episodes and their comparison. Next will be separate explanations and analyses of each event. Some of the two episodes’ lingering effects, as well as suggestions for handling those effects, will then be examined.


As will come out later in more closely examining each event, neither was an isolated episode. Both were connected to, and precipitated by, much larger processes. Japan’s colonization of Korea was part of modern imperialism (primarily European as it was). Similarly, Africans arriving on the shores of present-day Virginia, USA in 1619 was only one of several such instances of Africans having been transported to locations far and wide from their homelands. The 1619 case was part of European ventures in the New World, associated international economic and trade activities (here involving the English raising tobacco in North America for British markets), and complex dealings with myriad Native American nations and tribes.

Moreover, while any event has particular characteristics that make it stand out from all others, and though many members of the aforementioned Korean and U.S.-African diasporas might think that each of the 1919 and 1619 events they specially commemorated in 2019 was unique, in fact neither event was particularly distinctive, especially when set within wider world history. Regarding the March 1, 1919 Korean Independence Movement, agitations for independence from colonial powers are legion throughout the history of the world’s smaller and larger empires, including during modern times. For example, there were the 1857 Indian War of Independence, Latin American wars of independence during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and even several other 1919 independence movements, including in Afghanistan, Syria, and Ireland. As for the early 17th-century enslaved Africansor indentured servants, as many historians point out (Painter 2019)along with others of the world’s peoples who have been forcibly transported away from home, the Africans that arrived in that part of North America in 1619 both followed numerous other groups of enslaved Africans trafficked into the Americas over the previous 100+ years (including some into North America, in particular contemporary Florida and New Mexico, as well as quite possibly South Carolina and Virginia) and preceded millions of other enslaved Africans transported to the Americas over the next 250 years (Thomas 1997, 174, 783-785; Guasco 2017).

As is often the case with events memorialized as historically pivotal, both 2019 commemorations unwittingly perpetuated damaging, mythical characterizations of what actually happened. In the case of the Africans’ arrival in North America, a common description of that event has been that these were the first African “slaves” to come to “America”; and, that they landed at “Jamestown, Virginia.” One overarching, problematic aspect of such a characterization is the subliminal connotation of a pre-existing Anglo-U.S. backdrop against which the Africans’ arrival occurred. Such a framework not only isolates the U.S. situation as unique in the Western Hemisphere by using the “America” label, but it prematurely and allegedly sets those Africans into a systemic slavery that was still in its infancy. Rather than thinking only of impersonal systems at work, it is vitally important “to approach the subject of Africans in America [not to mention the indigenous and Europeans] in a historically responsible way … as actors in their own right” (Guasco 2017). That description also neglects a centrally important reality of the setting described further below, namely that the English who were present were recent arrivals in Tsenacommacah, part of the Powhatan Confederacy. The seedlings of a majority white, “Christian” United States of America were not even close to germinating, much less having put down roots in some sort of permanent home that welcomed new African guests. The Paspahegh were the long-time settled residents; the English and now these Africans were the new immigrants.

Another related and problematic two-sided point is how calling those 1619 arrivals “slaves” runs the risk of, first, essentializing a status and system that developed historically:

The first Africans to arrive in America in 1619 were sold into bondage as indentured servants, not as slaves, and that distinction really matters…. Slavery was not an inevitability. Slavery, and the racism behind it, was a choice made by the [various] Founding Fathers. A conscious choice to exploit the labor of Africans for the economic benefit of the planter-merchant aristocracy (Ford 2019).

Hence second, “Calling them slaves obliterates a quintessential aspect of the legacy of slavery and race in America; removes a cornerstone from understanding where we began as a nation now divided; and places just beyond our grasp the tools we need to heal.” This same analysis continues: “Healing America’s racial divide is daunting. The threads of this division are deeply woven into the nation’s fabric. Restorative, rather than retributive, justice offers one path forward, a path that begins with an honest discussion about slavery” (Ford 2019). Indeed, discussions in the U.S. since the 2019 commemoration about dealing with slavery’s legacy—in particular racism and reparations—have lacked traction due in large part to differing historical understandings, including between the creators of the much-celebrated “1619 Project” (The New York Times Company 2023; Hannah-Jones et al., 2021) and several deeply critical historians (Influence Watch 2023). Related public discussions—e.g., about “Critical Race Theory” (The Economist 2021; Ford 2022)—and political initiatives—particularly about reparations (Malveaux 2022)—creep along painfully or stall altogether.

Regarding the March 1, 1919 Korean Independence Movement (Samil Undo in Korean), one necessary clarification for outsiders is that at that time there was neither a “North Korea” nor a “South Korea.” That division took place in the 1950s and has shaped subsequent frameworks for understanding and thinking about “Korea.” The Korean Peninsula was one political entity in 1919, so today all Koreans around the world, as well as both North Korea and South Korea as countries, commemorate the Samil Undo as a single, anti-Japan Korean movement 100 years ago. Another possible outsiders’ assumption is that the occupying Japanese colonizers had a legal, legitimate presence, and that the Korean “rebels” thus had no moral justification for their agitation. Indeed, such a viewpoint was maintained by the United States at the time (including at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference), pledging to the Japanese not to give credence to a colonial rebellion among their holdings, in particular “the Korean nationalist movement” (US Department of State 1965, 56). (Interestingly the U.S. managed to alienate the Japanese anyway, particularly at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, who chaired the conference, overturned a majority decision to include Japan’s proposed “racial equality” amendment to the League of Nations charter. The conference also granted only half of Japan’s requests for German territorial holdings in Asia following World War I (New World Encyclopedia Contributors, 2022).) For their part, Koreanshowever non-Korean outsiders might view the justifiability of the March 1 Movementuniformly understand it to have been not only justified but morally right, ingenious, and heroic.

Having covered these few points of clarification, it is now appropriate to consider each event in further detail.

Africans to the Americas

How did those “20. and odd Negroes,” as described by the English settler John Rolfe (Rolfe 1620), arrive on the Mid-Atlantic shore of North America in 1619? To ask that question in an anonymous English settler’s terms, “How did these Black Africans come to Jamestown, named after our king who chartered the Virginia Colony in 1606, leading to our arrival here the following year?” From the resident Native American Paspahegh tribe’s standpoint, “Who are these Black people joining the recently arrived white intruders who have settled in Tsenacommacah, an area ruled by the Powhatan Confederacy?” Possibly noted by one of the Africans, “Here is yet another new place we have come by yet another ship through yet another body of water.”

This particular arrival of 20 or so Africans was part of a vast, multi-directional, and longstanding forced migration of Africans across unknown land and sea routes to unknown places of varied terrains and locations. For Africans, the furthest of these places, starting soon after 1500, were across what medieval Arabs had described as the “Green Sea of Darkness”; these places were in what Europeans had first called “The New World,” then labeled “America” in the early 1500s after the Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci (1454–1512). In actual fact, the first trans-Atlantic enslaved people, shipped in the immediate aftermath of Christopher Columbus’s 1492 voyage to what the Spanish came to label as the Caribbean Islands or the West Indies, were some of those islands’ inhabitants shipped west-to-east to Spain. After Portuguese southward oceanic ventures throughout the 1400s, Africans captured and taken from Africa’s western coast ports began to be transported to the West Indies in the early 1500s (Thomas 1997, 19, 48-67, 87-93).

Over the next 370 years, over 12.5 million enslaved Africans embarked in various African ports to various European powers; 10.7 million (approximately 86 percent) survived the arduous trans-Atlantic journey and actually disembarked in the Americas. West-Central Africa consistently supplied the greatest numbers, and Portugalaside from the British during most of the eighteenth centuryconsistently transported more enslaved Africans than any other single country (SlaveVoyages n.d.). Not surprisingly, then, the approximately 20 Africans brought to Tsenacommacah/Jamestown in 1619 were Angolans transported to the West Indies by the Portuguese, then captured by a Dutch ship, transported northward, then sold to “the [English] Governor and Cape Marchant [sic] … for victualls [food supplies]” in Jamestown (Rolfe 1620; Thomas 1997, 174).

John Rolfe had started to raise tobacco in the area, eager British markets made the crop viable, and these Africans helped to supply the labor need. Tobacco had joined sugarcane in the Americas as cash crops ravenous for increased slave labor. Indigo, rice, and eventually cotton joined these crops that, especially with the demise of native populations, required vast numbers of new laborers from Africa. With the trade fueled by high demands in European markets, the triangular Trans-Atlantic slave trade soon developed into a firmly entrenched, horrific, world-changing, and human-degrading system (Lowcountry Digital History Initiative n.d.).

Koreans Subjugated by Japanese

Coincidentally, Japanese aggression on the Korean Peninsula began simultaneously with the early stages of Europeans' worldwide spread and the Africans’ 1619 arrival in Tsenacommacah/Jamestown. With delusions of conquering China, Japanese daimyo Hideyoshi Toyotomi invaded Korea a generation after Portuguese traders and government officials, as well as Jesuit missionaries, had arrived in Japan in the mid-sixteenth century and expanded their activities in Japan’s southwestern feudal domains. Even though Hideyoshi’s forces were eventually driven out of Korea without ever reaching China, Koreans’ historical memory highlights Japan’s 1592-1598 invasion. Koreans also celebrate the brilliant exploits of Admiral Yi Sun-sin’s several defeats of the Japanese navy, a central component of Korea’s expelling the Japanese forces, etched in Korean memories as ear and nose cutting devils (Song Sung pyo 2004).

Japan’s ensuing 200+ year sakoku jidai (“closed country era”) saw it seclude itself from most all international contact except for tightly controlled and sporadic contact, including with Korea. By the 1850s, however, expanding Western powers were knocking on Japan’s doors for trade (and for easier access to China), beginning with the continuously westward-expanding United States of America. Aware that other Asian nations that had tried to resist Western contact had been effectively colonized, after much infighting Japan opted to open its doors and indeed to absorb all aspects of Western civilization that would foster Japan joining the ranks of modern economic and military powers. By the 1870s, Japan’s development of international trade relations included incursions into Chinese and Korean markets. Japan’s expansion led to its 1894-1895 military victory over China, increased presence on the Korean Peninsula, militarily outlasting Russia in their 1904-1905 war, then official annexation of Korea into the Japanese Empire in 1910.

For their parts, both Great Britain and the United States, in large part out of common concern to check Russian advances in East Asia, supported Japanese actions and withheld any assistance to Korea’s cause for its independence from its new colonial power.

March 1, 1919 Declaration of Independence

Koreans did not simply acquiesce quietly to Japan assuming control in Korea. Uprisings were especially prominent between 1905 and annexation in 1910. However, by one account “Japan crushed them with efficient savagery.” Hence, “By 1910, when Japan formally annexed Korea, little open resistance remained in the land.” However, this same account continues: “The flame of patriotism and independence remained alive in Korea. Revolutionary groups and movements sustained the Korean hope for freedom” (Schnabel 1972, 4-5; cf. Hong 2007, 47), particularly with the formation, several miles east of Seoul, of some disbanded soldiers, malcontents, and famous tiger-hunters into the “Righteous Army” (uibyong in Korean) that had occasional successes against Japanese troops (McKenzie 1920, 132-170; cf. Hong 2007, 47). Such resistance to Japanese rule fed into the March 1, 1919 Independence Movement.

The Movement went public with the signing by 33 cultural and religious leaders of a Declaration of Independence (Declaration Project 2023), written by poet-historian Choe Nam-Seon (Nahm and Hoare n.d.). On March 1, when mourners were assembled in Seoul after King Gojong’s death on January 21, the declaration was read in a Seoul restaurant (as well as in townships throughout Korea), then delivered to the Governor General’s office.

The Declaration begins as follows:

We herewith proclaim the independence of Korea and the liberty of the Korean people. This we proclaim to all the nations of the world in witness of human equality. This we proclaim to our descendents so that they may enjoy in perpetuity their inherent right to nationhood. Inasmuch as this proclamation originates from our five-thousand-year history, inasmuch as it springs from the loyalty of twenty million people, inasmuch as it affirms our yearning for the advancement of everlasting liberty, inasmuch as it expresses our desire to take part in the global reform rooted in human conscience, it is the solemn will of heaven, the great tide of our age, and a just act necessary for the co-existence of all humankind.

One can see here how the declaration draws on U.S. President Woodrow Wilson’s lofty ideals of international equality articulated at the recently convened (in January) Paris Peace Conference, as well as Korea’s own long history and rich heritage.

After addressing the wrongs of Japan’s breaking of promises made in the Treaty of 1876 and the bright future ahead once independence is restored, the declaration concludes with the following paragraph, three pledges, date, and 33 signatures:

We hereby rise up! Conscience is on our side, and truth marches with us. Men and women, young and old, leave your darkened corners and partake in the joyful resurrection along with all creation! The spirit of our many ancestors protects us from within, and the tide of the new world from without. To begin is to succeed! Let us march straight into the light!

We hereby pledge the following:

1.     Today’s undertaking reflects the demands of our people for justice, morality, survival, and prosperity. Therefore, we will act solely in the spirit of liberty, never in the spirit of enmity.

2.     To the last person and to the last moment, we will forthrightly express the will of the Korean people.

3.     We will respect order in all our actions and ensure that our demeanor and claims are always honorable and upright.

The first day of the third month of the 4252nd year of the founding of Korea,

Followed by 33 signaturesnot including the author (Declaration Project 2023).

The Japanese predictably responded with arrests, numerous killings, and destruction of homes, schools, and churches. With no outside help Korean independence was not achieved, despite sustained resistance. At the same time, by April 10 a provisional government in exile had been established in Shanghai, and Korean aspirations for independence were kept aflame until liberation came in August, 1945 with the surrender of Japan to the Allied Forces.

March 1 was declared a public holiday soon after Korea’s 1945 liberation from Japan, and it remains so in both North Korea and South Korea to this day.

Religious Influences

Christianity’s supporting role in the Korean Independence Movement is well documented (Kim 2016). Korean Christians’ participation in nationalist and independence initiatives involved a tapestry of denominational affiliations and their sometimes conflicting loyalties to expatriate missionaries and to Korean nationalism (Matsutani 2012). Christians and churches suffered traumatically under Japanese rule, and Japanese demands that all Koreans render proper homage at Shinto shrines intensified pressure on Christians during the war years of the 1930s and 1940s (Kim 1997).

Korean Buddhists were also involved in the Independence Movement, as were members of the native Korean religious movement Chondogyo (Moon 2018). Indeed, Chondogyo members played a particularly significant role, constituting 15 of the 33 signers of the March 19 Declaration of Independence and hundreds of those subsequently arrested and imprisoned. In particular, the central tenet of Chondogyo, innaecheon (“people are equally important to heaven”), gave explicit support to Korean desire and demand for equal standing withindependence fromtheir Japanese colonizers (Chung 2018).


As noted earlier, at first glance the two episodes that were separately commemorated in 2019 have next to nothing in common. Geographically, they occurred on opposite sides of the globe. The larger contexts within which the events took placethe Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and Japanese imperial expansionhad no direct connections with each other. The peoples involved were totally different as well: African, English, and Paspahegh on one hand; Korean and Japanese on the other.

Furthermore, the scales of what transpired could not have been more different. In 1619, a small group of Angolans were obtained to farm tobacco in Tsenacommacah/Jamestown. By contrast, the Korean March 1, 1919 Declaration of Independence ignited a massive political uprising that over the next year saw about two million Koreans take part in over 1,500 demonstrations, with 7,000 killed and 16,000 wounded, 46,000 arrested and 10,000 tried and convicted, plus the burning by the Japanese of 715 homes, 47 churches, and two school buildings (The Editors of Encyclopaedia Brittanica 2023). With such differences, it would have been surprising indeed if there had been a joint commemoration between African Americans and Koreans in 2019 of their respective 1619 quadricentennial and 1919 centennial.

Even so, also as noted earlier the two events have some commonalities that give merit to their serious comparison. In terms of wider history, both the Americas and East Asiaalong with Africa, other parts of Asia, and the Pacificwere deeply affected by the same worldwide migration of European peoples from the 1500s to the mid-twentieth century. (Note as well that today’s commonly used labels of “America,” “Asia,” “Africa,” and others originated in the early years of European explorations and migrations.) Indeed, European migrations were direct precursors both to Africans being forcibly transported across the “Green Sea of Darkness” to the Americas and to Japan’s aspirations to invade China via Korea, imposing a self-isolation for over two centuries, then being pried out of isolation into modern imperial development and expansion into Korea and elsewhere.

Furthermore, both events took place in the early stages of a country’s modern international expansion. Along with Spain, Portugal, France, and the Netherlands, in 1619 England had been exploring distant lands for a few generations, and English people had recently begun migrating to trans-oceanic regions that held promise of adventure and wealth. Similarly, in 1919 Japan had been economically exploring for a few generations, and Japanese people had recently been migrating to trans-oceanic regions that held promise of adventure and wealth. Moreover, both England and Japan had officially authorized the possession of other people’s territories and wealth, as well as the subjugation of those resident peoples. To be sure, England’s presence in 1619 along the mid-Atlantic shores of North America, and rule over the Powhatan Confederacy, had not yet reached the stage of Japan’s colonial rule over Korea in 1919. Even so, England’s King James I had presumptuously granted in 1606 a charter to the London Company of investors and intruders to “begin theire plantacions and habitacions in some fitt and conveniente place between fower and thirtie and one and fortie degrees of the said latitude all alongest the coaste of Virginia and coastes of America.” There was no self-imposed inland limit to where the English could go, and territorial claims by European rivals or resident “naturals” could be ignored (Grymes 2020).

Another important common feature of the 1619 and 1919 episodes involves the active contributions of their fellow Africans and Koreans that had preceded them. In the Angolans’ case, different African groups had already affected areas of the future United States, particularly in South Carolina in 1526 and Roanoke Island in 1586 (Guasco 2017). After the initial few years of resistance to Japan’s 1910 annexation of Korea, the March 1, 1919 Independence Movement in Seoul and elsewhere on the Korean Peninsula was immediately preceded by about 400 Korean students in Tokyo issuing a similar declaration of independence on February 8 (Jung 2019). In January, 39 Korean activists in Manchuria had issued their own independence proclamation, and in both December (1918) and January groups in the U.S. and in Shanghai had decided to dispatch representatives to the Paris Peace Conference. In sum, neither the 1619 nor the 1919 event occurred in a vacuum, apart from fellow Africans’ and Koreans’ activities.

Contemporary Relations

Both during and following the 2019 quadricentennial and centennial celebrations, there has been much unresolved tension between the peoples who are direct descendants of those involved in 1619 and 1919. To be sure, steps have been taken to rectify the harms inflicted, on both interpersonal and structural-governmental levels. In the U.S., the 1960s Civil Rights Movement and resulting Affirmative Action initiatives have, in many people’s minds, leveled what before was admittedly an unequal playing field of social, economic, and political rights and opportunities. At the same time, the undeniable US white-back wealth gap—a six to one ratio, “nearly as large today as it was in the 1950s” (Maas 2022)—spurs political initiatives for some sort of reparations, while opposition remains multifaceted and strong (The Economist 2019).

Regarding Korea-Japan relations, for its part the Japanese government, per the 1965 Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea, agreed to give Korea $800 million USD ($300 million in grants, $500 million in loans) as economic cooperation to compensate for previous harms inflicted; the accompanying understanding was that Japan-ROK relations were thereby normalized and that any problems regarding property or claims had been fully and finally resolved. Despite these and other steps, however, legal and financial challenges continue—particularly over wartime forced labor and sexual abuse of “comfort women” (Shin 2023)—as do interpersonal mistrust and discord.

Generally and anecdotally speaking, descendants of the offending sideswhite U.S.-Americans and Japaneseare satisfied that more than enough has been done by way of apologies and reparations. Those same descendants can be oblivious, however, to the unresolved trauma that both African Americans (as well as Native Americans) and Koreans carry on a daily basis. Indeed, white U.S.-Americans and Japanese seem puzzled and annoyed at public outbreaks of that unresolved trauma, be they through #blacklivesmatter, Korean comfort women statues, African American demands for reparations (National African American Reparations Commission 2023), South Korean initiatives regarding the Dokdo/Takeshima island dispute (Tokmak 2023), or ROK judicial decisions ordering Japanese companies to recompense wartime forced laborers (Song 2023). In the spirit of harmony and reconciliation, what needs to happen to bring resolutions?

For people of faith, prayer is a necessary and vital contribution. In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught his followers to ask God to make God’s kingdom a reality in the world, as well as that the world’s people would live according to divine desires and teaching. God desires peace and justice between peoples. Whatever other concrete steps they might take to bring harmony and reconciliation among U.S.-Americans and between the peoples of Korea and Japan, God’s people are to offer prayers for peace and justice, for God’s kingdom to come, and for God’s will to be done.

Another step is for all people to recognize positively, on individual and structural levels, the significant constructive relations that do in fact take place. In the U.S., through the arts, media, sports, school integration, interracial church initiatives, and all sorts of other means, there is increased Black-white interaction compared to two generations ago. In South Korea and Japan, positive interactions take place economically, through pop culture and sports, intermarriages, tourism, university students, common military alliances (and shared military fears vis-à-vis North Korea and China), Christian ministry initiatives, and otherwise. The linguistic similarities between Korean and Japanese enable meaningful interaction through these various avenues when parties apply themselves to learning the other’s language.

In both contexts, the offending sideswhite U.S.-Americans and Japanesemust acknowledge their ingrained racial prejudices toward African Americans (and Native Americans) and Koreans, respectively. Awareness of those prejudices often comes through personal interaction with people of the offended side, so that kind of interaction must be pursued as well. Such oft-heard statements by white U.S.-Americans as “I do not have a racist bone in my body” (Holmes 2021) indicate a lack of self-awareness, often reinforced by insulation from people who are different. Generations of slavery and systemic racism have instilled deeply ingrained psychological and emotional racist instincts that will not disappear simply or quickly. Similarly, Japanese prejudices against Koreans that developed during the colonial period are perpetuated by ongoing caricatures regarding differences in emotional expression, communication styles, eating habits, and other cultural subtleties. Close and sustained interpersonal interaction is key in both cases to expose and constructively change white U.S.-Americans’ and Japanese peoples’ ingrained prejudices.

Similarly, those who have long been offended need psychological and emotional healing. Put differently, they need resolution for the historic trauma that has been inflicted. Some of that resolution must result from changes and steps by the offenders, as noted both above and below. At the same time, intentional adjustments by the offended, such as terming their ancestors “people who were trafficked and enslaved” rather than simply “slaves,” “forced laborers,” or “comfort women,” can help psychologically to restore people’s full humanity (Aird 2015). Changing terminology, intentionally remembering and honoring earlier generations, and acknowledging today’s ongoing psychological and emotional trauma can help to bring healing and resolution.

Systemically, on an international level particular bodies and actions of the United Nations can address mattersfor example, through the U.N. General Assembly’s proclamation of the decade 2015-2024 as the “International Decade for People of African Descent” (United Nations n.d.)in order to “understand the contemporary challenges facing black people [and colonized Koreans] in the light of events that occurred centuries ago, but are still reverberating today” (Aird 2015). The U.N. International Court of Justice could possibly serve to adjudicate economic and territorial disputes between South Korea and Japan (Choe and Gladstone 2018), if both parties agreed to approach the ICJ (Miller 2014; Sakaki 2019). Apart from appealing to the ICJ, ROK and Japanese governments, corporations, and other structures could seek to collaborate regarding needed redresses. The two countries’ trilateral military, security, and economic agreements with the United States bolster cooperative efforts, even if particular contentious issues remain unresolved (The White House 2023).

In the United States, legislation and judicial initiatives on local (City of Evanston n.d.), state, and national levels could continue to be pursued to correct structural inequities that stem from racial injustices. Government interventions in such areas as redressing contemporary practices of outlawed “redlining” regarding housing (Jan 2018) and reforming mass incarcerations weighted toward Black U.S.-Americanspart of what has been termed “The New Jim Crow” (Alexander 2012)—are a continuing need.

There is no more important step than proper education. Much education takes place through media, particularly movies. Some of these can be constructive, while some can feed on unresolved trauma for box office gains. In terms of school textbooks, collaborative efforts are essential for avoiding truncated and biased publications, whether in the United States or in East Asian countries. The 2001-2005 efforts by various Japanese, Korean, and Chinese participants to produce an East Asian middle school history textbook serves as an excellent model for addressing misunderstandings, pursuing truth, and enabling healthy relationships in the future (China-Japan-Korea Common History Text Tri-National Committee 2015). As noted earlier, what and how to teach race relations and slavery in the U.S. is an ongoing contentious issue.


Examining together the 1619 arrival in current-day Virginia of a small group of Angolans that had been trafficked across the Atlantic via the Caribbean, and the March 1, 1919 Independence Movement in Korea, affords making comparisons that otherwise would remain invisible. Through considering these events’ similarities and differences, the road ahead toward resolution, justice, and reconciliation can both clear up and, not surprisingly, lengthen. Those who have recently commemorated the 1619 quadricentennial and 1919 centennial events can learn from viewing the other event as a mirror: for example, Koreans can perhaps see in a new light why they sequester off immigrants through examining redlining practices in the U.S. For its part, World Christianity can learn afresh about opportunities for healing, reconciliation, and justice, whether between Christian communities or on a wider social scale. However the 1619 and 1919 events are remembered, discussed, and leveraged, may God grant wisdom, collaborative spirits, and manifestations of the heavenly kingdom here on earth.


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