Korea under Japanese rule

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The average Korean alive in 1945 was to a far greater degree the product of Japanese rule than the Choson Dynasty. ~ Brian Reynolds Myers

Korea was under Imperial Japanese rule during much of the early twentieth century. It was the culmination of a process that began with the Japan–Korea Treaty of 1876, whereby a complex coalition of Meiji government, military, and business officials sought to integrate Korea both politically and economically into the Japanese Empire, first as a protectorate in 1905 (Japan–Korea Treaty of 1905), and officially annexed in 1910 (Japan–Korea Annexation Treaty). In 1945, defeated at the hands of the United States and the Soviet Union, Imperial Japan relinquished control of Korea, and the peninsula was divided into two countries, North Korea and South Korea, which still exist today.


  • The present Japanese régime in Korea is doing everything in its power to suppress Korean nationality. The Government not only forbade the study of Korean language and history in schools, but went so far as to make a systematic collection of all works of Korean history and literature in public archives and private homes and burned them.
  • According to statistics of the colonial Japanese government, it is obvious that there was considerable change in Korean economy during the Japanese occupation, however, it was fragmentary and very insignificant. As Korea's economy under the Japanese occupation had dual structure based on nationals and areas, Japanese economy grew rapidly, however, Korean economy relatively slowed down. And as economic development was focused on northern areas of Korea, the effect of economic development didn't contribute to southern areas after Korea's liberation. Therefore phenomenal analysis of Korean economy could not but be considerably different from fundamental analysis of Koreans, and it was not until Korea's liberation in 1945 when the colonial economic structure was cleared that economic development in the real meaning for Koreans was possible. This clearly shows the reason why independence movement during the Japanese occupation was so important to today's Korean economy.
    • Soo-yeol Heo, "Koreaʼs liberation in 1945 and its economic development" (2012)
  • My opinion of Japanese administration in Korea has been derived from the consideration of what I saw in the country, what I have read about it in official and in unofficial publications, and from discussions with persons, Japanese, Korean and foreign, who were living in the Peninsula at the time of my visit. It is true that at the time Japan annexed Korea in 1910, the actual conditions of life in the peninsula were extremely bad. This was not due to any lack of inherent intelligence and ability in the Korean race, but to the stupidity and corruption which had characterized the government of the Korean dynasty, and to the existence of a royal court which maintained a system of licensed cruelty and corruption throughout Korea. Such was the misrule under which the Koreans had suffered for generation after generation that all incentive to industry and social progress had been destroyed because none of the common people had been allowed to enjoy the fruits of their own efforts. From 1910 to 1919 Japanese rule in Korea, though it accomplished much good for the people, bore the stamp of a military stiffness which aroused a great deal of resentment. The New Korea of which I write is the Korea which has developed under the wise and sympathetic guidance of Governor-General Saito. At the time of my own visit to Korea in 1922, the Governor-General had nearly completed three years of his tenure in the office.
    • Alleyne Ireland, The New Korea (1926)
  • [I]f indigenousness were the key to state longevity on the peninsula, the Japanese would not have taken Korea so easily in 1910. Take it they did, of course, and their propaganda soon reached far more Koreans than had ever heard of the ancient sages...

    The DPRK derives its legitimacy from the myth that the anti-Japanese hero Kim Il Sung was all right-thinking citizens' choice as the man to found and lead the new Korea after liberation in 1945...

    Until the mid-1960s the USSR was credited with defeating Japan, but since then propaganda has claimed that Kim and his guerillas freed the race on their own. That this is known to be untrue by those who lived through the time is of minor importance. The painful historical reality of mass collaboration (and the military insignificance of all armed Korean resistance to colonial rule) is precisely what made the Kim myth so attractive.

  • North Korea abolished the colonial legal system, including civil and commercial laws. However, the country inherited and strengthened a wartime command economy. Regardless of wartime demand or socialist ideology, restriction on or abolition of a market and private property system makes it inevitable that the economy depend on command. In spite of political differences, that is why the two economies seem similar.
    On the contrary, however, South Korea returned to a market economy from a wartime command economy, and inherited a legal system and market regime before the Sino-Japanese War. The country regained monetary and tariff autonomy at the price of rapid inflation and retreat from an open economy. Experiences during the wartime command economy have also affected South Korea and caused government interventions in foreign exchange and financial markets. After policy shifts in the 1960s, which made the country’s economy more open and with less government intervention, South Korea was able to head into rapid economic growth.
    • Kim Nak Nyeon, "Japan's Colonial Legacy to Korea with Special Reference to Economic Institutions" (2010)

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