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The Futeisha

Chris Lee


The Futeisha, "The Outlaws," were an anarchist group founed by Pak Yol, and comprised largely of Korean student activists and Japanese allies, organized in Tokyo in 1923. This secret organization published a journal called Futei Senjin (The Insubordinate Korean) that criticized and called for direct action against the Japanese colonization of Korea. Another key member of the group was Kaneko Fumiko who was a Japanese anarchist and nihilist.

The chaos following the Great Kantō Earthquake later that year became a pretext for the authorities to round up political agitators. Panic was stoked around the possibility that treasonous Koreans would capitalize on the situation to trigger a rebellion. Vigilante groups across the country slaughtered ethnic Koreans, and the police arrested political agitators, including Pak Yol and Kaneko Fumiko.

This portrait comes from the time of their imprisonment, and was made prior to their being convicted of high treason for attempting to assassinate the emperor and his son. The two decided, in a romantic gesture of defiance, to marry while in prison, which the imperial state was obliged to certify and recognize., all while it intended to convict and execute them. Their death sentences were later commuted to life-imprisonment, but this was deeply lamented as a denial of the right to political martyrdom.

This CPH poster printed at the worker-owned and union-run Community Printers, Santa Cruz, CA.

This is #148 in the Celebrate People’s History Poster Series.

Chris Lee is a graphic designer and educator based in Brooklyn and Buffalo, NY. He is an assistant professor in the Undergraduate Communications Design department at the Pratt Institute.