Seoul / A Failed Japanese Assimilation

With the expansion of Japanese imperialism, Japan started to colonize the neighboring south-east Asian countries. Being one of the closest countries to Japan, Korea was a clear target in Japan’s view. As the Korea-Japan Annexation Treaty was signed in 1910, Korea was completely colonized. Korean cities were under conquer of Japanese army. As Japan regarded Korea as the foothold on Asian continent, she wanted to assimilate Korean into ‘Japanese’. The colonial rules and policy led to a great impact to society and development at that time. However, it received a strong resistance and failed.

Instead of treating Korea as a part of the country, Japan government aimed to seize the natural resources and labor from Korea, making Korea as a fundamental back-up for Japanese expansion. Therefore the colonial policy in Korea tended to be strong and harsh.

“Japanese policymakers turned to European imperialist models, especially those of France and England, in developing strengthening its plan for assimilation policies. But, although Japanese used rhetoric that embraced assimilation, Japanese people themselves, from the top levels of government down, considered Koreans inferior and gave them few political rights.”

By Mark E. Caprio

Japanese Assimilation Policies in Colonial Korea, 1910-1945
Japanese Assimilation Policies in Colonial Korea, 1910-1945

Even through Japan government had built some infrastructures that potentially pushed Korea into a modernity stage, however, sociologically, the community and social structure of Korean and Japanese on this colonial place were completely different or it can be said they were born to be in superior and inferior social status. The unfair use of public space, inferior education system, ingrained prejudice and even the relatively limited intermarriage were often found at that time. With the increasing resistance towards the assimilation by Korean, the Korean-Japanese integration went to a failure. Even if Korea was under assimilation in the scope of policy and historical structure destruction, Korean kept the social culture in a hidden sense.


Reference reading:

Mark Caprio (2009), Japanese Assimilation Policies in Colonial Korea, 1910-1945, The University of Washington Press

2 Comments on “Seoul / A Failed Japanese Assimilation

  1. I agree that they had unfair use of public space, poor education system, deep-rooted prejudices, even relatively limited intermarriage that was often found at that period. Also the way Korea was not treated as a part of the country, but as a backup for natural resources and labor making Korea as a elementary backup for Japan’s expansion.

  2. In early 20th century, Japanese colonization in Korea has been more of a forced subjugation than integration. Integration only happens, as it is stated in the blog, when the colonizer recognises and respects some differences in two cultures. It has been noted that numerous Korean ancient treasures (ex. Koryo potteries) have been transported secretly from Korea into Japan during this time. Due to unreconciled “differences” in this time, social issues still prevail to this day, such as lack of reparation for “comfort woman,” historical misrepresentation of Korean activists in Japanese textbooks and so on.

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