Seoul / An “ideal” colonial rule – Naisen ittai, the forced assimilation

In the 19th century, the Japanese military leader formulated a concept of “total war” which was a series of legal measures to protect tenants and mobilization of both human and spiritual resources. It was intensified in a policy called “Naisen ittai” in an attempt to got the ideological hegemony over the Korean by assimilating them with Japanese culture and identity.

Poster of Naisen ittai
Poster of Naisen ittai

“… the ultimate eradication of all differences between the citizens of the Japanese homeland and population of colonial Korea … It would be be achieved only when Koreans had been completely stripped of their Korean cultural identity and had become Japanese both in name and in reality, in body and in soul… “

By Robinson, 1990, pp315-16

The forceful assimilation policy of Korea was only a part of the grand plan to bring all of East Asia under the benevolent blanket of Japanese rule. As Carter J. Eckert mentioned, the assimilation was launched by the intensive indoctrination through education and practice in the principles and rites of Japanese Shintoism and the imperial rule. Korean had to learn only Japanese in school and got a Japanese name. By imposing the world view, cultural norms, values, it created a ‘colonized consciousness’. This forced the Korean to physically and subconsciously accept the disregard and disparage indigenous culture and identity. This obviously shows that Japan wanted to build up the political- economic- ideological dominance in her colony.

With the progression of war, many Korean suffered starvation and hardship. The colonization rules induced the collective political and social protest. The infinite protest movements, inclusive of both the underground and on street, proved the failure of assimilation in the sense of ideological hegemony.


Reference reading:

Gi-Wook Shin (1996), Peasant Protest & Social Change in Colonial Korea, University of Washington Press

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