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People's Century; Asia Rising, 1951

Part of Stories of East and South East Asia.

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People's Century
Asia Rising, 1951
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Series Description

As the twentieth century rushes toward its conclusion, People's Century looks back at the story of our times. This landmark series offers new insight into the turbulent events of these hundred years through the revealing personal testimony of the people who experienced them. Some of the interviewees are over 100 years old. John Forsythe and Alfre Woodard narrate. Program 101W: "1900 • Age of Hope" The people remember: the Paris Exposition of 1900, Queen Victoria's funeral, President McKinley's assassination, technology and consumerism, American democracy, Theodore Roosevelt, the Russo-Japanese war, Russian Revolution of 1905, African National Congress, emigration to America, the first flight across the English Channel, mobilization and the tremors of war. "1916 • Killing Fields" The people remember: conscription, machine guns and mustard gas, aerial bombing, the trenches, Battles of Verdun and the Somme, conscientious objectors, military justice, American participation, armistice. Program 103W: "1917 • Red Flag" The people remember: the storming of the Winter Palace, Lenin, Bolsheviks, civil war, mass literacy campaigns, Lenin's death, Soviets' “five-year plan,” collectivization, kulaks, “show” trials, Stalin's purges. "1991 • People Power" The people remember: 1980 Gdansk, the role of the Church, Solidarity movement, martial law in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, the Berlin Wall, Romania, Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin, the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Program 105W: "1927 • Great Escape" The people remember: silent movies, Charlie Chaplin, The Jazz Singer, decline of live entertainment, movie palaces, film in the Soviet Union and India, propaganda, New Deal documentaries, the birth of television. "1930 • Sporting Fever" The people remember: the 1908 Olympics, baseball, Babe Ruth, first World Cup, boxing, Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, racism, the Berlin Olympics, sport in the Cold War, sport and television. Program 107: "1926 • On the Line" The people remember: Henry Ford, the Model T, mass production, the moving assembly line, Detroit's River Rouge Plant, Italy's Fiat, Joseph Stalin's industrial revolution, Stakhovites, the United Auto Workers, labor movement, wages. Program 108: "1929 • Breadline" The people remember: Wall Street and the US stock market crash, mass unemployment, Chilean copper mines and nitrate towns, German banking crisis, Jarrow Shipyards, the allure of Communism and Fascism, Nazi rearmament, FDR's New Deal. Program 109: "1919 • Lost Peace" The people remember: Armistice celebrations, Woodrow Wilson, the Treaty of Versailles, League of Nations, German reparations, World Disarmament Conference, pacifist movements, Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Italy and Ethiopia, Franco and the Spanish Civil War, Lord Chamberlain, Austria, Czechoslovakia. Program 110: "1933 • Master Race" The people remember: Adolf Hitler, racism, public works, Mein Kampf, Hitler Youth, the annexation of Austria, march on Prague, the Allies, Kristallnacht, the ghettos, the “Final Solution,” concentration camps, propaganda. Program 111: "1939 • Total War" The people remember: economic mobilization, shipbuilding, women and children join the war effort, slave labor, the Blitz, siege of Leningrad, Dimitri Shostakovich, air raids, Hamburg, Pearl Harbor, Tokyo fire raids, the atom bomb. Program 112: "1945 • Brave New World" The people remember: meeting on the Elbe, refugees in Europe, Joseph Stalin, Winston Churchill at Fulton, Nikita Khrushchev, propaganda wars, NATO, Berlin blockade, Korea, Hungarian uprising, Berlin Wall. Program 113: "1947 • Freedom Now" The people remember: colonial rule, Mohandas Gandhi, Indian independence, Ghana, Kenya, Mau Mau uprisings, government corruption -- a new oppression, Algeria, Mozambique. Program 114W: "Boomtime • 1948" Post-war prosperity transforms lifestyles and cultural values in the United States and abroad. "Young Blood • 1968" A new generation challenges the "Establishment." Program 116 W: "Fallout • 1945" Nuclear energy is unleashed. "Endangered Planet • 1959" Runaway growth brings prosperity at a price. Program 118 W: "Great Leap • 1965" China yields to Chairman Mao. "Asia Rising • 1951" From the ashes of war, Japan and Korea rise to economic prominence. Program 120 W: "Skin Deep • 1960" Racial oppression is challenged in the United States and South Africa. "Half the People • 1970" At home and at work, women fight for equal rights. Program 122 W: "Picture Power • 1963" Television unexpectedly transforms society, culture and politics. "Living Longer • 1952" Medical advances further the fight against disease. Program 124 W "Guerrilla Wars • 1973" Revolution succeeds through guerrilla warfare. Program 126 • "Fast Forward" • Looks at global trends since the 1970's. Series release date: 4/1998

Program Description

From the ashes of war, Japan and Korea rise to economic prominence.

Tokyo, 1951. General Douglas MacArthur bid farewell to Japan -- and the Japanese to six years of American occupation. But the future was uncertain: Much of rural Japan still relied on centuries-old farming methods; sanitation and public health were poor; and industry was practically nonexistent. But with massive drives to promote education and technology, Japan and her immediate neighbors proved they could run advanced industrial economies as well as -- or better than -- Western nations.

The Japanese government gave special priority to shipbuilding, employing prefabrication techniques that would shave as much as a year off standard Western production times. By the end of the 1950s, Japan had overtaken Britain as the largest shipbuilder in the world. Soon, Japanese cameras and motorbikes were cheaper and more reliable than the products of Western competitors. By 1964, Japan was on the brink of becoming the third largest economy in the world -- ahead of Britain and West Germany.

After the Korean War, South Korea was one of the poorest countries in the world, with an average annual income of sixty-seven dollars. The country continued in perpetual crisis until a military coup in 1961 saw the rise of the tough, authoritarian rule of General Chung Hee Park, who put the country on the fast track to economic expansion. Focusing on steelworks, shipbuilding, and car manufacturing -- partly underwritten by Japanese war reparations -- South Korea soon began to rival Japan in exports.

Korea's new democracy allowed ordinary citizens to share in the nation's wealth. By 1988, South Korea was sufficiently confident to host the Olympics in Seoul -- and, less than a decade later, won the rank of the world's eleventh largest economy.

The people remember: US military occupation of Japan, effects of the Korean War, shipbuilding, imports/exports, automobile as export, improved education, steel production, 1964 Tokyo and 1988 Seoul Olympics.

Asia Rising is produced and directed by Bill Treharne Jones. Series senior producer is David Espar. Series executive producer for WGBH Boston is Zvi Dor-Ner; Peter Pagnamenta is executive producer for the BBC.

John Forsythe narrates.

Asset Type

Broadcast program

Media Type


Business and Economics
War and Conflict
Social Issues
Global Affairs
Jones, Bill Treharne (Producer)
Espar, David (Series Producer)
Forsythe, John (Narrator)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “People's Century; Asia Rising, 1951,” GBH Archives, accessed March 3, 2024,
MLA: “People's Century; Asia Rising, 1951.” GBH Archives. Web. March 3, 2024. <>.
APA: People's Century; Asia Rising, 1951. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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