Korea’s story of ImperialismTrapped between China and Japan, Korea was an relatively peaceful nation until the 20th century. Korea, being a tribute country for China and being next to Russia, made Japan extremely interested in it. Japan had decided to invade Korea and colonize it to get closer to Russia.
Thus ended the short lived Korean Empire and started the imperialization of Korea. When Japan invaded, they enforced an extremely strict rule over Korea, leading to many changes in culture, government, and economics.Section 1During the 1890s, both Russia and Japan found themselves competing for land in Northern China and Japan saw Korea as a place where they could attack China for their land directly. As Korea was surrounded by both China and Japan, the peasants in Korea revolted against their government. “The ensuing Sino-Japanese War consisted primarily of naval engagements and ended in a complete Japanese victory by April 1895.” (ABC-CLIO). Japan defeated China and took over not only Korea, but many other islands such as Taiwan. After taking over Korea, Japan began to change aspects of its everyday lifestyle.
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The Japanese had placed many restricting rules on the Koreans and did not allow them to speak up against the Japanese at all. The Korean people struggled to maintain their cultures due to the fact that the Japanese banned the teaching of the Korean language and history and burned many historical documents. Koreans were forced to change their names to Japanese names, and learn the Japanese language. “I got beaten up many times by the Japanese because I resisted changing my name to Japanese.
But I got tired of being so badly beaten…I held out a while longer, but I couldn’t stand any more persecution. I finally changed my name to Otake” (Kang 55-56). The Japanese also forced Korean women to become “comfort women” and help satisfy the needs of the Japanese soldiers. After much suffering, the Koreans decided to revolt and attempt to overthrow and drive the Japanese out of their country.
Section 2In the beginning of the colonization, Japan had been a very oppressive ruler, but as the years went on their grip gradually lessened and Koreans began to go back to their original way of life. In 1919, during the Paris Peace Conference, President Woodrow Wilson delivered a speech that spoke about the principles of peace and which caused Korean scholars to speak up and they demanded freedom from colonial rule. Roughly two weeks after this speech, the Emperor Gojong who was the current emperor of Korea had died and many believed that he and other leaders had been assassinated by Japanese agents. Many anti-Japanese protests were held and a declaration of Independence was created and read in Seoul, the capital of modern day Korea, to protest the Japanese rule. Most notable of these protests would be known as the March 1st Movement of 1919, as seen in this photo. The protestors decided to meet up at Taehwagwan Restaurant in Seoul and it is here that they read aloud their declaration of Independence and broadcasted their complaints so that they could be heard by the Japanese people. Most of these events were peaceful, however the Japanese police would come and suppress the protestors anyways.
Even though the protesters protested peacefully, the Japanese would always suppress the protestors and they were suppressed violently.The Japanese showed no mercy to these protesters, arresting anyone they saw and wounding and killing some as well. The protests eventually grew so large that the Japanese local and military police could not block the crowds, as seen in this photo, and had to bring in military forces to help.
The protests continued to grow and finally, the police turned to violence and starting beating and killing protesters. The killings turned into massacres and an estimated several thousand people were killed. When people protested, as seen in this photo, they would be made examples of. Approximately 2,000,000 Koreans had participated in the more than 1,500 demonstrations and because of the violence around 7,509 people were killed, 15,849 were wounded, and 46,303 were arrested. After the battles settled down, the Japanese government realized that they were in the wrong and addressed the issues the Koreans brought up and began a period of more lenient policies.
Section 3Eventually the Japanese were forced out of Korea during World War 2 by the Soviet Union and the United States. In 1948, Korea was officially split into two separate entities, the North ruled by Kim Il Sung and the South by Syngman Rhee, and in 1950 the Korean War started, ending with a treaty. Without the U.S. intervening and sending troops and aid to South Korea, North Korea would have won and taken control of the entire peninsula. The United States “took the lead in the Korean action, it did so under the rubric of the United Nations.
..and reminded “all members of the United Nations” to “consider carefully the consequences of this latest aggression in Korea” and that America “will continue to uphold the rule of law.” (Elsey). The United States decided to take the burden of protecting South Korea and will continue to protect it. The U.S. had decided to defend Korea because they believed that if North Korea won communism would spread everywhere.
After the war, Korea was in a financial crisis and desperately needed financial help. South Korea is currently the fourth largest economy in Asia and the 11th largest in the world, however this was not always the case. When the Korean War ended, “Korea was one of the world’s poorest countries, heavily dependent on agriculture and financially dependent upon the U.S. foreign aid.
..however, with strong political leading, sound economic planning, and hard work on the part of her people, Korea has overcome its lack of natural resources and achieved a real annual growth”(Lee and Yoo 68). Using money from both Japan and the United States, Korea was able to create a strong self-supporting economy and start to invest in heavy industries.
The government did help propel Korea into a state of self-sufficiency, however it was the rise of chaebol groups that helped Korea emerge into an economic powerhouse. The chaebol are large industrial conglomerates that are run by a family or owner in South Korea and they “held a nearly two-thirds market share in South Korean manufacturing by the end of the 1990s, according to the World Trade Organization…
the chaebol had become so economically powerful that they held considerable political sway. Politicians began to rely on the companies’ political and financial support to get elected” (Tejada 3). Soon, the chaebol no longer needed the government’s help and used their connections to make their companies even bigger which in turn made Korea bigger.
Rising from one of the world’s poorest countries to one of its richest, Korea’s story truly is a miracle. In conclusion, imperialism in Korea was not only influenced by one country but by two. Imperialized because of war, Korea was also freed by a war and became in its current state because of a war. Even though there were attempts to silence the Koreans, they would be heard no matter the consequences and got their message through. After gaining independence, Japanese and American influences helped shape the culture and economy of Korea and thanks to the financial help from America it is a thriving and modern place to live.