VI. The World Wars and the Interwar Period, 1914–1945 > H. East Asia, 1902–1945 > 4. Korea, 1910–1945
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
(See Aug. 22)
4. Korea, 1910–1945
1910, Aug. 22
KOREA WAS FORMALLY ANNEXED BY JAPAN, when the Treaty of Annexation was signed by Prime Minister Yi Wan-yong (1858–1926). Emperor Sunjong (1874–1926, r. 1907–10) proclaimed (Aug. 29) the end of the Yi dynasty. For the next 35 years, Koreans lived under often brutal Japanese colonial domination. Ultimately, the independence movement against Japan aroused Korea's national identity but at a heavy price. Over the course of the period 1910–40, Korea's population rose from 15 million to over 24 million.  1
The first governor-general of the Korean colony was Gen. Terauchi Masatake (1852–1919). The colonial regime was known as the Government-General of Chsen (Korea), which had tight, centralized authority over every aspect of life in Korea. The governor-general effectively had complete power, civil and military. Terauchi's period as governor-general, along with that of his successor, was dubbed “the period of military rule.” The bureaucracy in 1910 employed some 10,000 officials; by 1937, it encompassed 87,552 officials (over 60 percent of them Japanese). The number of police in the employ of the governor-general rose from 6,222 in 1910 to 20,771 in 1922, and to over 60,000 by 1941; about half were Koreans. The stated policy of the regime was to assimilate the Koreans into the Japanese empire, eventually; in fact, Koreans fell victim to sharp discrimination.  2
Under Terauchi, a land survey bureau was set up to rationalize the land distribution and land-tax systems. The state remained the largest landowner in the colony, holding nearly 40 percent of it in 1930. The Oriental Development Company, a semipublic corporation set up by the colonial authorities and much hated by nationalist Koreans, held 269,500 acres of land by itself. The land survey (1910–18) ultimately firmed up the existing state of affairs. Japan also constructed extensively on preexisting Korean telecommunications and rail lines.  3
Despite great antipathy for their new overlords, Koreans were prevented, by arrests and police intimidation, from voicing opposition. Guerrillas were active in the countryside, although already in the period between 1907 and 1910, 17,600 guerrillas had been killed. The new regime disbanded all Korean publications, political groups, and meetings of any sort.  4
The government-general sharply reduced the number of private schools and moved to develop a nationwide system of education to accompany assimilation to Japanese ways. In 1910 there were 110,800 Korean students in public schools; by 1941 there were 1,776,078 enrolled. Few Koreans received higher education, although some studied in Japan (3,171 by 1912) or the U.S. Japanese became the national language, and Japanese language acquisition soared, so much so that it virtually became a work of nationalism to try to preserve the Korean language. Chu Si-gyong (1876–1914) and his students continued their work standardizing vernacular grammar and spelling; the Korean Language Research Society was founded in 1921. Such writers as Yi In-jik (1862–1916) and Yi Hae-jo (1869–1927) began to write in new literary forms. Yi Kwang-su's (b. 1892) novel Mujng (The Heartless, 1917) was extremely popular.  5
A conspiracy to assassinate Terauchi, implicating An Myng-gn (brother of An Chung-gn, 1879–1910, who had assassinated It Hirobumi, 1841–1909), was uncovered, and 600 people were arrested; 105 of them were indicted the following year, including such vital leaders of the Sinminhoe (New People's Association, a moderate group founded in 1907 by An Ch'ang-ho, 1878–1938) as Yun Ch'i-ho (1865–1945), Yang Ki-t'ak (1871–1938), and Yi Sng-hun (1864–1930). It was known thereafter as the “Case of the One Hundred Five.” Despite a show trial, it was clear that the Japanese used the incident to destroy the Sinminhoe.  6
From 1910, the Japanese Daiichi Bank became the Bank of Korea in the colony, becoming also its central bank. Together with the Japanese Shokusan Bank, it controlled much of Korean finance.  7
The number of Korean expatriates living in Manchuria rose to 109,000 from some 65,000 in 1894. By 1912 this number reached 169,000. Some among them organized (1911) the Military School of the New Rising to prepare young Koreans to fight against Japan; others later (1914) founded the Government of the Korean Restoration Army. Neither got far. Thousands of Koreans also moved to the Maritime Province in the Russian Far East. Many also lived in the U.S. and Hawaii, where Yi Sng-man (Syngman Rhee, 1875–1965) founded the Korean National Association (1909).  8
The Company Law was enacted, by which any corporation, public or private, needed prior approval by the government-general.  9
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.