Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Japanese and Indicators of Social Change

Dr. Karl Moskowitz gave an exceedingly informative presentation on the Japanese occupation of 35 years and the resulting Japanese influence on Korean society. As he puts it, the colonial period raised two, if not three, generations of Koreans and current cultural change and social practices are not as homogenously Korean as Koreans would like to believe. In his lecture, he explores some of the rites of passage that the nation underwent during the 35 years of colonization. With authority he speaks. He received a PhD in History and East Asian Languages, Harvard and has particular interest in Korean and Japanese modern history. {Lecture given November 9, 2010 at the Royal Asiatic Society}

Colonial Period (1910~1945)

Population Statistics

Population in 1910 was 13,300,000 according to police records, which were consistently undercounted, e.g. people didn't register their babies for a couple or years. Other indicators show that perhaps the population was 15,300,000 in addition to some Japanese and a Chinese minority (based on a census). At this time there was no displaced diaspora excepting the 2 boat loads of Koreans who had gone to work in the sugar cane fields of Hawaii some time between 1903~1905. And of this 15 million population, only 3~4% were urban (including the Japanese), concentrated in Seoul, Daegu, and the ports. Kwangju and Daejeon did not as yet exist.

Control Policies (1910~1919)

Early in the occupancy, Japanese brought Japanese farmers to Korea (on the premise that Korea did not have enough population for agricultural labor), but then the Japanese went into "control mode" and became landlords and so rented land out to the Koreans. However, the March 1st Movement in 1919 made it clear that the control policy in Korea was failing.

Agricultural Policies (1920~1935)

Rice inflation in Japan had resulted in the infamous Rice Riot of 1918, and with the Japanese political need to bring more rice into Japan, policies overseas (particularly in Korea and Taiwan) were made for rice production. Rice policies in Korea included the making of small dams and irrigation systems; improving seeds for production; teaching more productive ways to cultivate and produce rice; the making and use of fertilizers; investment into land (e.g. in the 1920s, claiming land on the western coast). As rice became cheaper, the market prices determined in Osaka kind of collapsed, and so investments were then expanded to the sardine industry for making fertilizer to take back to Japan. Economic stimulation was necessary and the production of fibers to stimulate the economy became evident in the slogan "cotton in the south and wool in the north".

The occupational structure in 1920 was 87% agricultural, 6% commerce, and 2% public/professional (these numbers need to be read with caution - see comment near end on interpreting numbers).

Industrial Policies (1927~...)

1927 is the pivotal year for agricultural production with the completion of a fertilizer plant in (North) Korea, soon followed by the creation of the Chosin Reservoir also in the north. In 1931 the staged Manchurian Incident which fueled the Japanese to take control and form a puppet government in Manchuria resulted in upping the exploitation of its other colonies, particularly Korea to provide natural resources, fibers, rice, etc to fund further expansionism.

War Mobilization Policies (1937~...)

By 1930 Korea had become a mixed economy, no longer completely dependent on its agriculture, which had declined by 30%. An increasing push was for industrial development, and the Japanese were mobilizing manufacturing to support its Manchurian war front. In 1942, super mobilization began with most of Korea's production being exported leaving Koreans to eek out a minimal living in many places.

In 1938, the occupational structure had greatly changed from when Japan first began to occupy the colonies. Korean mixed economy comprised 76% agriculture, 6.5% commerce, 4% mining and industry, and 3% public/professional. Again read these numbers with caution as they reflect an interpretation which could be interpreted quite differently at present if we could know how the data was collected, interpreted and categorized. In 1940, 14% of the population was urban (urban meaning that 15,000 people or more occupied a town).

Korea and Koreans in 1945

Population in 1945 was 26,500,000 plus 500,000 Chinese and 2,200,000 Japanese (a number which had tripled in 35 years of colonialization). 100,000 Koreans were in Manchuria as economic and political refugees, for pursuing occupations, and as military conscripts who had been drafted (or volunteered) into the Japanese military.

Political Memories

Two particularly sensitive periods concerning fellow Koreans rankled among the larger Korean community as resulted by Japanese occupancy. The first occurred roughly between 1905 and 1910 when "traitor" Koreans sold the country. Those Koreans were progressives who either got dragged in with the Japanese or who were out for their own personal gain. The second group cropped up from the mid-1930s onward and were the Koreans who were mixed in economically with the Japanese as overseers, employees, etc. These were also traitors and were feared and hated and yet envied, those conflicting emotions being strangely entwined.

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