Japanese Colonialism In Korea Essay Research Paper

Japanese Colonialism In Korea Essay, Research Paper

Japanese Colonialism in Korea

North and South Korea are nations that while filled with

contempt for Japan have used the foundations that Japan laid during

the colonial period to further industrialization. Japan’s colonization

of Korea is critical in understanding what enabled Korea to

industrialize in the period since 1961.

Japan’s program of colonial industrialization is unique in

the world. Japan was the only colonizer to locate various heavy

industry is in its colonies. By 1945 the industrial plants in Korea

accounted for about a quarter of Japan’s industrial base. Japan’s

colonization of Korea was therefore much more comparable to the

relationship between England and Ireland then that of European

colonization of Asia or Africa. Japan’s push to create colonial

industry lead Japan to build a vast network of railroads, ports, and a

system of hydro-electric dams and heavy industrial plants around the

Yalu River in what is now North Korea. The Japanese to facilitate and

manage the industrialization of a colony also put in place a strong

central government.

Although Japan’s colonial industrialism in Korea was aimed at

advancing Japanese policies and goals and not those of the Korean

populace; colonization left Korea with distinct advantages over other

developing countries at the end of World War Two. Korea was left with

a base for industrializing, a high level of literacy, experience with

modern commerce, and close ties to Japan. Japan’s colonial heavy

industrial plants were located primarily around the Yalu River in

North Korea. Because of this the North had an edge in

industrialization. For many years the North had the fastest growth

rates of the communist countries, and its cities were on par with

those of Eastern Europe. It was not until the early 1970’s that the

South surpassed the North in levels of industrialization. Because most

of the heavy industrial plants were either located in North Korea or

destroyed by the Korean War the groundwork for industrialization that

South Korea received from Japanese colonialism consisted mostly of

social changes. During colonialism Korea’s populace in increasing

numbers moved to cities and became urbanized these new urbanites

worked in factories and were used to the organization of modern

commerce. The Japanese also let a small number of Koreans develop into

a semi-elite. Although this group never held powerful positions many

of them were educated in Japanese schools, and became either involved

in the military or worked as businessmen, bureaucrats, lawyers, and

doctors. This elite provided much of the leadership and framework for

post World War Two Korean Government in Korea. They had an intimate

knowledge of Japanese companies, language, organizational structure,

and government.

The Korean elites that emerged after the liberation of 1945

and helped steer Korea’s economic policies under Park Chung Hee had an

intimate knowledge of Japan. Some of them like Park had been educated

in Japanese schools, some had worked for the Japanese, and nearly all

of them spoke fluent Japanese. It was this closeness to Japan both

geographically and culturally that made it natural for the Koreans to

use the Japanese model of industrialization when Japan’s economy

boomed in the 1960’s and 1970’s. The leaders of Korea were ambivalent

about relying on Japan, on one hand they felt a profound respect for

Japan and its successes and on the other a deep hatred for what Japan

had done to Korea in the past. But Japan still served as a model for

Park Chung Hee who normalized relations with Japan in 1965 and turned

to Japan for technology, equipment, and a model for development.

Some nationalistic Korean scholars say that Japan’s

colonialism slowed Korea’s growth by exploiting Korea and disturbing

its economy. But these views of Korea ignore the fundamental role that

Japan’s policies of industrial colonialism played in allowing Korea to

Industrialize during the 1960’s. Japan’s colonialism improved

infrastructure, urbanized the nation, educated much of the populace,

gave the pubic experience with modern commerce, and indoctrinated

Korean elites in the Japanese language and culture. It was Korean

elites history and close ties with Japan that made them turn naturally

to Japan to provide a development model. Japan’s legacy of colonialism

in Korea is felt not only in the many graves and monuments that

attest to Japanese brutality but also in the modern cities of South

Korea and the heavy industries along the Yalu River in the North.


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