Japanese Colonialism and Modernization in Korea

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Japanese Colonialism and Modernization in Korea

There have been many accounts that attempt to identify why Japan

entered Korea with such force and why it subjected its people to some

of the horrific treatment that they were given. Most schools of

thought concentrate on the fact that Japan needed an empire to stand

any chance of competing with Britain, and later America, on the world

stage. Britain’s insertion into China was a reality check for Japan

who saw how close Britain’s empire was to their homeland. In addition

Japans army would almost certainly wane under the pressure from

Britain if it came down to it. Therefore it was essential for Japan to

build an empire, if not for conventional reasons such as resources and

manpower, but as a show of strength.

However it has also been stated that Japan took control of Korea as a

means of controlling their modernisation. Japan saw itself as the

forerunner in the Far East – as the only country that was modernizing

its way into the Western World and Western Economy. Any threat from

Korea was unacceptable to the Emperors of Japan who ordered a military


Japan always considered itself a special country in the Far East. It

considered itself the strongest nation in the region. However in

reality Japan was a late comer in the global pursuit of colonial

power. When Japan acquired Taiwan, British colonial rule in China had

been going on for almost 100 years.

The Meiji rulers of Japan decided that the internal aggression of

Tokugawa rule had to end and with it begun to diminish the problems

Japan had in its own land.

Unlike its neighbour Korea in terms of natural resources ...

... middle of paper ... into Korea and creating a safe haven

between Russia and the Japanese motherland.

Another issue that motivated the Japanese insertion into Korea were

the similarities between themselves and their counterparts. Language,

culture, religion and national identity were almost identical to those

in China so controlling Korea would not have as many logistical


All of these facts point to Japan seeing itself as the regions ‘big

brother’, encouraging Asianism. In reality though the Asianism was a

window dressing for Japanese control highlighted by the Meiji rulers’

statement: “the great East Asian prosperity sphere will benefit us

all. We should all share our resources and what we have for the

future……… will benefit the whole region”. Once again in reality,

Japanese control contradicted its ideology.
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