Seoul / How the Japanese occupation shaped the city of Seoul – Rural exodus

My first interest in studying the Japanese occupation in Korea was to look at the urban development of the city and see how in a few decades all the modern infrastructures (like the tramway or the water and electricity supply networks) has been built and allowed an important” economical growth until today. When looking more specifically at the period, I discovered that the construction of these modern equipments was initiated before the occupation. Based on this fact, I decided to widen my topic on how the occupation shaped the city, starting by its inhabitants.

Japanese occupation has been characterized at first by the land exploitation and the migration of thousands of japanese farmers right after the annexation of Korea. The survey of lands started in 1910 (five years after the protectorate treaty has been signed), as a result many korean farmers were expropriated because they were not able to complete the procedures to report their land. Other expropriations has been made without valid reasons especially on lands belonging to the royal family and the government. As a result, about 180,000 lands became the property of the Japanese government. Koreans who still owned lands after the expropriations had to pay important taxes.
In 1930, 75% of the farmers were in dept and 3/4th of this debt was to the Japanese Financial Institutions. This led to massive migrations of korean farmers to the urban areas of Manchuria, Japan but mostly Korea, including in the capital Seoul. This rural exodus also came as a response to industrialisation and contributed to the urbanization of Korea.


Han Young Woo (2010), A Review of Korea History, Vol.3, Modern/Contemporary Era, Kyongsaewon
David I. Steinberg (1989) The Republic of Korea, Economic Transformation and Social Change, Westview Press

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