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Under the Black Umbrella and Japanese Colonization of Korea

In: Historical Events

Submitted By jmonstwedder
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The Japanese occupied Korea in 1910 after many years of struggle between different countries. Throughout the centuries there were multiple events that lead to this colonization. The events became disordered in 1864, when King Kojong ascended to the throne. He was too young, so his father Taewon-gun became the de facto ruler. His goals were to re-establish the power of the government, develop a policy of national exclusionism and continue to persecute the Catholics. During his rule, western men came in search of trade, but the Taewon-gun refused them. Japan repeatedly made attempts to establish political relations with Korea but they continually refused. In return the Japanese declared war on Korea. Meanwhile, the Taewon-gun felt as if he was an enormous financial burden on the people, so he handed over his power in 1874 to Kojong. When Kojong was in power he followed his father’s actions and refused to sign the treaties. This provoked Japan to fire on Korea and forced them to sign. The treaty then opened ports for Japan to trade and gave Japanese power in the south. The growing Japanese presence in Korea upset the rulers of China. Confrontation between Japan and China eventually broke out war in 1884. Japan emerged victorious and the two aggressors signed the Treaty of Shimonoseki, which recognized Japanese domination in Korea. Russia had a dream of southward expansion in East Asia, and with Japan’s dominance in the peninsula it was slowly becoming impossible. They then pressured Japan to return the peninsula to China. At the same time, encouraged by Russia, the Korean government began to take an anti-Japanese course. The Japanese thereupon planned the assassination of Queen Min in October of 1895. The Boxer Rebellion in China led to the Russian invasion of Manchuria and to the Russo-Japanese War in 1904. The Korean government at first was neutral, but under Japanese pressure they signed an agreement allowing Japan to use much of its territory for military operations against the Russians. Japan was victorious and the result was granted Japan complete control in Korea. As a result, the new strengthened Japan annexes Korea as a part of “Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere” in 1910. Colonization of Japan in Korea had both negative and positive effects. Some of these impacts were presented in the book “Under the Black Umbrella” written by Kang. This book portrays first-hand and second-hand stories of Korean civilians who were alive during this time period. The forced change in culture impacted Korea and was one of the main points that discussed in the book. For the first couple of years Japan ruled directly through military and rooted out most elements of Korean Culture. People were forced to adopt Japanese names, convert to Japanese religions, and were forbidden to use Korean language in schools and business.
In the story of Hong Ulsu, he describes a specific situation in school after the Japanese took control. He states, “All of us had long hair, hanging down our backs in long braids. Then we were all sent home with no hair,” (26). Small traditions of Koreans, such as growing their hair and speaking the native language, were taken away from them. This change in culture ultimately is a change in daily lifestyles. The forced change resulted in independence movements and rebellions, but the outcome was the killing of thousands, imprisoning tens of thousands, and destroying hundreds of churches, temples, schools, and private homes. Not only was the culture affected, the Japanese turned Korea into a colony to supply Japan with food. Numerous Japanese came to Korea to farm and to fish its waters, while high taxes and fixed crop prices forced thousands of Korean farmers to move out of their land to Manchuria or relocate to Japan as laborers. While the some were forced to move, others were forced to make quota. Koreans had to increase their rice production and then export most of their production to Japan. They were unable to eat rice due to abuse of rice export to Japan which caused much famine. Sin Kwansong, a farmer, describes in his story making soup and having bugs fall into it. He says “It was disgusting, I almost threw up. But when you are so hungry, what can you do? We just ate the rest of the soup,” (62). These farmers were slaves to the Japanese and were not getting repaid. They were desperate to eat. On the other hand, there were also positive impacts. If the Japanese did not take control over Korea, then the Korean economy would have bankrupted without such financial aid from Japan. In order for them to get out of their financial trouble the Japanese helped Korea progress in agriculture, energy, transportation, communications systems, and commercial distribution. The transformation process allowed Koreans to acquire more jobs and perform other jobs more efficiently. The country was modernized with new roads, railroads, cable lines and new schools.
In the beginning, modernization was not much of a positive idea. In the story of Kim Sangsun, he discussed how he wanted to be a truck driver, but it was impossible for civilians to run their own truck driving business. He stated this because, “Japan had started the war with China and had taken all of the available trucks to the front,” (68). As the economy grew civilians were forced away from their small farms to work in factories. Mainly the building of new transportation and industry was designed to exploit Korean resources for the benefit of Japan. Since this was mainly not beneficial to Koreans, this was a negative impact to the modernization. Although looking ahead to when the Koreans were freed from Japan, the modernization turned out to be positive because it helped them stay independent and grow as a country.
One other encouraging effect of the Japanese colonization of Korea was the new education that was introduced. The Koreans were studying Confucianism lessons and Chinese history before the Japanese took over. Afterwards, the Japanese had different educational goals for Korea which meant that the education was carried out in Japanese and excluded any Korean history. This may have ruined their culture but it helped them modernize and grow stronger as a nation. If they would have continued studying Confucianism they would have never been able to form new industries.
Japanese education also gave girls a chance to become literate and attend school. Yi Okpun tells her story about how girls never went to school before the Japanese took over. She says, “I was ten and never had gone to school. Where I lived with my family there wasn’t any school. I insisted that I wanted to go to school. I threw a tantrum! My father invited the Japanese principal to dinner. I guess feeding him did the trick,” (43). Having girls go to school and learn allowed the country to grow by having more help with new jobs and helped women to become more independent.
When the Japanese annexed Korea it forced upon difficult times. There were many events that built up to that day with multiple discrepancies. When Korea was taken over many lives were lost, there was much discrimination, and their culture was completely taken way. Eventually, the past led to much greater events that allowed Korea to become independent and self-governing.

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