The Ko Choson
The people of Ko Choson or the oldest kingdom of Korea are recorded as Tong-i, "eastern bowmen" or "eastern barbarians." The propagated in Manchuria, the eastern littoral of China, areas north of the Yangtze River, and the Korean Peninsula. The eastern bowmen had a myth in which the legendary founder Tan-gun was born of a father of heavenly descent and a woman from a bear-totem tribe. He is said to have started to rule in 2333 B.C., and his descendants reigned in Choson, the "Land of Morning Calm," for more than a millennium.
When the Zhou people pushed the Yin, the eastern bowmen moved toward Manchuria and the Korean Peninsula for better climactic conditions. They seem to have maintained unity, as China's great sages, Confucious and Mencius, praised their consangquineous order and the decorum of their society.
The eastern bowmen on the western coast of the Yellow Sea clashed with the Zhou people during China's period of warring states (475 B.C. - 221 B.C.). This led them to move toward southern Manchuria and the Korean Peninsula.
There were other tribes of eastern bowmen, the Yemaek on the Manchurian area and the Han on the Korean Peninsula, all of whom belonged to the Tungusic family and linguistically affiliated with the Altaic. When Yin collapsed, Kija, a subject of the Yin state, entered Tan-gun's domain and introduced the culture of Yin around the 11th century B.C.
Then came invasion of Yen in the northeastern sector of China, and Ko Choson lost the territories west of the Liao River in the third century B.C. By this time, iron culture was developing and the warring states pushed the refugees eastward.
Among the immigrants, Wiman entered the service of Ko Choson as military commander with a base on the Amnokkang (Yalu) river. He drove King Chun to the south and usurped power. But in 109 B.C. the Han emperor Wu-ti dispatched a massive invasion by land and sea to Ko Choson in the estuary of the Liao River. Ko Choson was defeated after two years and four Chinese provincial commands were set up in southern Manchuria and the northern part of the Korean Peninsula. Not long after the establishment of the four commanderies, however, the Korean attacks became fierce and the last of the commanderies, Lolang (Korean: Nangnang) was destroyed by Koguryo in 313.
The Provisional Government of Korea
At the height of the independence movement, a provisional government of Korea was established in Vladivostok on March 21, in Shanghai on April 11, and in Seoul on April 21. The reason for such action in three different places almost simultaneously can be explained by the fact that the need for leadership was felt to be most urgent in the independence struggle.
The provisional government in Seoul, with all 13 provinces represented, proclaimed Korean independence, asking Japan to repeal its colonial system and withdraw its occupation forces from Korea. It called upon the Korean people to refuse payment of taxes to the Japanese government, not to accept trials by Japanese courts, and to avoid employment at colonial offices. A direct challenge was posed by the Seoul government against the entire Japanese colonial system.
The National Council of Korea in Vladivostok, when notified of the establishment of a provisional government in Shanghai, made efforts to integrate its activities with those of the Shanghai group. The latter passed a resolution calling for integration with the Seoul government. The first cabinet meeting was convened on November 4, marking the start of the functioning of the Provisional Government.
As a representative of the Korean people, and as their only independence organization abroad, the Provisional Government, despite financial difficulties and attempts at infiltration and suppression, did its best to fulfill the international obligations of the Korean government. It declared war on totalitarian Japan and provided close cooperation with the Allied Powers during World War II. For 27 years, until its return home on November 23, 1945, after the Japanese surrender, the Provisional Government strove to represent the Korean people.
March 1st Independence Struggle
A nationwide uprising on March 1, 1919 in Korea was an outcry for national survival in the face of the intolerable aggression, oppression, and plundering by the Japanese colonialists. An apparent sudden change in the international situation in the wake of World War I stimulated a group of Korean leaders to launch an independence struggle, both at home and abroad. Among the activities of Korean leaders abroad, Syngman Rhee, then in the United States, planned to go to Paris in 1918 to make an appeal for Korean independence, but his travel abroad was not permitted by the U.S. government, which considered its relationship with Japan more important. As an alternative, Rhee made a personal appeal to U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, who was in Paris at that time, to place Korea under the trusteeship of the League of Nations.
In December 1918, Korean students in Tokyo discussed the question of Korean independence and selected a committee of 10 members, including Ch'oe P'al-yong, to put their plan into practice in January 1919. They convened a meeting of the Korean Student Association at the Korean Young Men's Christian Association building in Tokyo and declared Korean independence, but the students who gathered were dispersed by police after a brief clash. On February 23, they held a rally in Hibiya Park under the auspices of the Korean Youth Independence Corps, and staged demonstrations calling for Korean independence. Their aim was to stimulate independence resistance and make an appeal to the international society of nations.
The New Korea Youth Party was organized in China in 1918, and it was decided that Kim Kyu-shik would be sent to the Paris Peace Conference to appeal for Korean independence. The party broadened its contacts with leaders in China, the United States, Japan, Manchuria and the Maritime Province of Siberia to promote its cause.
At home, leaders of the Ch'hondogyo (formerly Tonghak) movement, the most prominent among them being Son Pyong-hui, decided that the independence movement should be popular in nature and non-violent. Under the leadership of Yi Sang-jae and Pak Hui-do, directors of the Young Men's Christian Association, students rallied to the banner of independence. The leaders of the movement also opened contact with Yi Sung-hun. The contributions of Ch'oe Nam-son and Kim To-t'ae were especially valuable in cementing ties between Ch'aondogyo and Christian leaders.
On the Buddhist side, Han Yong-un had been carrying out a reform movement to rescue Buddhism from its decline caused by Japanese policy, and he also called strongly for an independence movement. Receiving an offer of cooperation from the Ch'tondogyo leaders, he immediately responded. The Confucianists had been constantly expressing antagonism to Japanese aggression, and some of them led the volunteer "righteous armies" in direct engagements with the Japanese.
The independence movement was planned also in close liaison with various organizations which had been operating in secret. The climax came on March 1, 1919, when, during a period of public mourning for the recently deceased Emperor Kojong, the Declaration of Korean Independence was publicly proclaimed at Pagoda Park in Seoul. The aroused citizenry then demonstrated in the streets, shouting for Korean independence. This ignited a nationwide movement in which many people took part, regardless of locality and social status.
The Koreans who were arrested by the Japanese and brought to trial represented all occupations and educational levels. Whereas the Koreans had no weapons at that time, the Japanese had stationed in their colony regular ground forces of one and a half divisions, in addition to a 5,402-man police force in 751 stations and a military police force nearly 8,000 strong. By mobilizing these armed forces, the Japanese perpetrated brutal atrocities in their effort to suppress the peaceful demonstrations of the Korean people. The Japanese side reinforced its police by throwing six infantry battalions and 400 military police troops into the suppression campaign. These forces killed about 7,500 Koreans and wounded nearly 16,000.
Defining any Korean taking part in the independence resistance as a criminal, the Japanese decided to cope with subsequent demonstrations by a policy of massacre. A case at Suwon, Kyonggi-do province, was typical. On April 15 that year, a squad of Japanese troops ordered about 30 villagers to assemble in a Christian church, closed all the windows and doors, then set the building afire. While the church burned for five hours, the Japanese soldiers aimed a concentrated barrage at the confined civilians, killing all of them, including women and infants. The Japanese soldiers also burned 31 houses in the village, then set fire to 317 houses in 15 villages in the vicinity. Informed of the incident, F.W. Schofield, a Canadian missionary, and other American missionaries visited the scene of the incident on April 17, personally viewing the traces of Japanese atrocities, and informed the world of what they had seen.
The 33 signers of the Declaration of Korean Independence were taken before a Japanese court for trial, along with 48 others who worked in close cooperation with them for the independence movement. One of the prisoners, Han Yong-un, wrote "A Letter of Korean Independence," stating the reasons why the Korean people should be free. This writing ranks with the three-article Public Pledge attached to the Declaration of Korean Independence as one of the basic documents which laid the spiritual foundation of the 1919 independence movement. The Korean people in the course of the movement realized the necessity for both a government and armed resistance.
Korea's Colonial Period
Resident-General and Resistance
Outright control by Japanese began on February 1, 1906. The Resident-General was invested with full authority in regard to Korea's diplomacy, domestic administration and military affairs. Through the Council for Improvement of Korean Administration, he pressed the Korean government to accept Japan's aggressive policy in the fields of finance, banking, agriculture, forestry, mining, transportation, education, culture, jurisprudence, internal security, local administration and the royal household.
In order to cover up their coercive actions, the Resident-General sent Stevens, paid by the Korean government, to the United States to advance Japanese propaganda. Upon his arrival in San Francisco, Stevens, who was said to have received several tens of thousands of dollars from the Japanese, made a false statement that the Korean people in general welcomed the Korea-Japan treaty. Infuriated by this canard, Korean emigrants Chang In-hwan and Chon Myong-un assassinated him in March 1907.
When Emperor Kojong dispatched an emissary to the Peace Conference at the Hague in June 1907 and exposed to the world Japan's aggressive policy, the Office of the Resident-General forced the monarch to abdicate the throne, and the third Korea-Japan Agreement of July was forced upon Korea, which provided a legal basis for Japan's appropriation of Korea. A large number of Japanese officials penetrated the executive and judicial branches of the Korean government, accelerating the Japanese scheme of complete Korean overrule. The Korean armed forces were disarmed and disbanded and the judicial system was reorganized to serve Japanese aggression. Moreover, in a secret memorandum attached to the Korean-Japan agreement, it was stipulated that Korean military forces would be dissolved and that courts, newly constructed prisons, and the police would be turned over to Japanese management. This enabled the Japanese to assume actual judicial and police authority.
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The Korean Empire was now a nominal one. The Japanese aggressors exerted armed pressure upon the government through their military forces and police. In June 1910, Japan instituted a military police system by appointing the commander of the Japanese military police to the concurrent post of superintendent for police administration.
While carrying out the war against Russia, Japan promoted a puppet society, the Ilchinhoe. The people reacted with rage, and the Daehan Chaganghoe Club, the Hwangsong (Hanyang) YMCA and the National Education Research Association attacked the Ilchinhoe vehemently. When Chang Chi-yon, publisher of the Hwangsong Shinmun, assailed the protectorate treaty in an editorial, Japanese police arrested him and closed down his newspaper. Another newspaper, the Daehan Maeil Shinbo, published in Korean, Chinese and English, assailed Japan's aggressive and oppressive policies and served as a guide for Korean national resistance.
Many leaders representing all walks of life committed suicide in protest of the forced treaty, and many attempts were made to assassinate ranking officials of the Korean government who had cooperated in bringing the aggressive treaty into being.
Emperor Kojong appealed unsuccessfully to both the United States and the Hague Peace Conference of 1907 for support in repudiating the treaty. Korean resistance to Japanese control intensified, but was ruthlessly suppressed by the Japanese military. Uprisings led by leading Confucian scholars flared in the provinces of Ch'ungch'eong-do, Cholla-do, Kyongsang-do and Kangwon-do.
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Although the resistance fighters, mainly young peasants, were short of weapons, they fought bravely against the Japanese troops. The resistance assumed major proportions and developed into all-out war with Japan when the regular army joined in the fighting after its forced disbandment by the Japanese. Fighting spread to every part of the country, as not only farmers and soldiers, but also hunters and mine workers of northern Korea joined in the resistance. Commanders included Confucian scholars of the yangban class and a number of commoners.
Many pitched battles were fought between 1907 and 1909, but the resistance fighters were more active in guerrilla tactics, rescuing Koreans from Japanese captivity and destroying Japanese transportation and communications facilities. F.A. McKenzie, the only foreigner who visited the volunteer soldiers in their battle areas and personally observed their activities, wrote the following:
"As I stood on a mountain pass, looking down on the valley leading to Inch' Con, I recalled these words of my friend. The Ôstrong hand of Japan' was certainly being shown here. I beheld in front of me village after village reduced to ashes. Destruction, thorough and complete, had fallen upon it. Not a single house was left, and not a single wall of a house."
The situation of the volunteer army was extremely difficult, in that it had to supply itself as best it could with weapons and other necessities to fight against Japan, while the Japanese army and police could easily obtain war supplies from their country. The Korean armed resistance gradually grew weaker, and Japan reported that the Korean volunteer army had ceased to exist in November 1910 or in March 1912 with its last operation in Hwanghae-do province. McKenzie reported, however, that the volunteer army's resistance might have continued until 1915. At home the resistance took the form of underground organization, while a group of patriots crossed the Amnokkang and Tuman-gang rivers into Manchuria, where they organized the Korean Independence Army with its stronghold in Kando. This army became the main force in all subsequent struggles against the Japanese. The volunteer soldiers performed their duty as the vanguard in independence resistance both at home and abroad, demonstrating the nation's ability to resist Japan's colonial policy.
When the resistance army established a stronghold at Kando, Manchuria, the population of the Kando district as of 1909 consisted of 83,000 Koreans and 21,000 Chinese. The Resident-General, in order to destroy the Korean independence movement there, set up a branch office and stationed an army plus military and civilian police forces in Kando. A corps of Korean independence fighters under the leadership of Hong PCom-do had already moved to Kando, but Japan sought to oppress Korean residents in the district by demanding that China recognize Kando as Korean territory.
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There was a change of policy, however, as a result of China's concession authorizing Japan's Southern Manchurian Railroad Company to lay branch lines and exploit mining resources in Manchuria. In return, Japan concluded a treaty with China on September 4, 1909, recognizing Chinese territorial rights over Kando.
Nevertheless, the Japanese consulate general newly established in Kando continued to exert pressure against Korean independence activities. A young Korean patriot, An Chung-gCun (1879-1910), assassinated Resident-General Ito at the Harbin Railroad Station on October 26, 1909.
Under the treaty concluded on August 22, 1910, and proclaimed a week later, Japan gave the coup de grace to the Korean Empire and changed the Office of the Resident-General to that of Government-General. The proclamation of the treaty had been preceded by severe suppressive measures, including the suspension of newspaper publication and the arrest of thousands of Korean leaders. The capital in particular was guarded tightly by Japanese combat troops. The treaty was the product of a conspiracy between treacherous Korean officials, who had been the target of national hatred, and Japanese officials of the Office of the Government-General.
The Independence Army
Various independence forces operating in Manchuria were unified and placed under the command of the Provisional Government. The independence armies underwent frequent reorganization, however, owing to changes in the international situation and differences of opinion among leaders of the Provisional Government. A group of leaders met in Beijing in April 1921 to work out a plan for united military action, realizing that the most urgent task was to unite the independence armies active in Manchuria. The conference later developed into the all-inclusive Council of National Representatives that held its first meeting in Shanghai in January 1923. Armed resistance under the leadership of the Provisional Government was given a firm basis, and the Korean troops in Manchuria continuously fought the Japanese army, sometimes with spectacular success.
In October 1920 at Ch'uongsan-ri, a gallant force of about 400 men, in a fierce four-day battle, dealt a crushing blow to a Japanese force of brigade strength. It was only in Manchuria that armed struggle was carried on continuously. During the Bolshevik revolution, a brief invasion by the Japanese army drove the Korean independence fighters from the Russian Maritime Province. A Korean army of 3,000 men was besieged by the Red Army in the "free city" of Braweschensk in June 1921, and several hundred Koreans were killed. The survivors, numbering 1,700, were ordered by the Chinese government to abandon their weapons and were then taken to Irkutsk to be absorbed into the Red Army, thus putting an end to their fight for independence.
Changes in Japan's Colonial Policy
The Japanese counterattack against the Korean independence movement was typical of Japan's militaristic policy. The Japanese forced colonial-style education down to a minimum level. They banned the teaching of the Korean language and history while laying greater emphasis on the teaching of Japanese language and history. The deliberate policy of annihilation was hailed by Japanese propaganda as a "Cultural Policy."
Though absorbed into the ordinary police structure, the military police executed police administration as before under the protection of special laws. The police force expanded as a result of transfers and amalgamation of military policemen into the ordinary police.
A group of Korean educational leaders passed a resolution on June 22, 1920, calling for approval of their plan to establish a private university. The Japanese rejected the resolution, however, under provisions of the Korean Education Ordinance, and reacted with renewed oppression. Instead, they established Keijo Imperial University as a colonial institute in 1924 - 1926. Admission of Korean students to that university was limited to one-third to one-fourth of the total number of students. Extreme limitation of fundamental education for Koreans was the most important basic "Cultural Policy" of Governor-General Saito Makoto.
In 1920 the Government-General permitted the start of two private newspapers besides those already in existence as its own organs for propaganda. The real intent of this permission was to spy on Koreans of anti-Japanese opinion. Enforcement of strict censorship was practiced on every word and phrase. Japanese colonial policy was geared as before to the oppression of the Korean people by expansion of the police, judicial and prison systems.
Having completed a land survey, Japan planned to meet its food grain shortage with increased rice production in Korea. In order to fill the deficit, Japan called for sharply increased rice production by soil improvement and modernization of farming methods. The plan fell short of its goals and was finally abandoned in 1934, but the increase in rice production was impressive, and large quantities were shipped to Japan.
The policy of increased rice production inflicted severe damage to Korean farmers. The drastic decline in per capita rice consumption by Koreans between 1912 and 1931 was due to an increase in the quantity of rice sent to Japan of more than 500 percent during the period. Having taken from Korea 48 to 50 percent of its total rice production, the Government-General attempted to supply a small part of the resultant grain deficit by importing millet from Manchuria, but the price was higher than the price Japan paid for Korean rice.
More and more farmers were downgraded by the colonial policy to either tenants or semitenants. In 1931, they numbered nearly 12 million, comprising 2,325,707 households under high farm-rents in a state of near starvation. The farm-rents, a principal means of exploitation, were as high as 50 to 80 percent of the annual income from farming.
The destitution facing Korean farmers before the harvest of summer barley periodically drove them to the verge of starvation. Some farmers (about 19 percent) emigrated to Manchuria, Siberia or Japan. Still others found employment as unskilled laborers in factories or did odd jobs to earn a small and uncertain income. Some families had to disperse, each member earning his own livelihood.
A considerable number of those who stuck to farming were burdened by usurious loans. According to statistics compiled in 1930, at least 75 percent of the 1,733,797 farming households were in debt. More than 70 percent of the debts were payable to Japanese financial institutions, at interest ranging from 15 to 35 percent a year.
Koreans living in urban areas fared no better than their rural countrymen. Nearly 80 percent of urban dwellers lived in grinding poverty. It was Japanese policy to keep the wages of Koreans at less than half the amount paid to their Japanese counterparts. The fact that 132 out of 170 disputes occurring in 1935 concerned demands for higher wages is clear evidence of the poverty which overwhelmed the colonialized people.
The devastating effects of the colonial agricultural policy finally weakened the very basis of colonial domination. Japan, seeing the importance of rural problems, tried to resolve them by establishing rational relations between agriculture and industry. Governor-General Ugaki Kazunari (1931 - 1936) professed a desire to rejuvenate Korean rural villages, binding them into near feudal bondage.
In 1934 the Farmland Ordinance was enacted, ostensibly with a view to securing the position of tenant farmers. In fact, these measures resulted only in recognizing the exploitation of farmers through high-interest farm rents. An agency set up by the Government-General to settle the tenant disputes served only to protect the interests of landlords.
Governor-General Ugaki, who had advocated rural development, enforced cotton cultivation in southern Korea early in the 1930s when Japan's import of cotton was restricted for financial reasons. As a result, cotton output increased from 689,000 kun (1 kun equals about 0.6kg) in 1910 to 213,749,000 kun in 1934. In order to give a helping hand to Japan's import of raw wool as well, he forced the northern district of Korea to raise sheep, thereby subordinating Korea to Japan's textile industry.
As the 1930s dawned, the Government-General gave priority to the police in budget allocation, surpassing the outlay for general administration and education. The Japanese police were further armed with a set of oppressive laws designed to crush any national or social opposition: laws governing rebellion, riot, disturbance, publication, press and crimes against the Japanese royalty (lese majesty), political offenses and maintenance of public order. After 1919, the Korean criminal ordinances and the Korean civil ordinances underwent revision. In particular, the revised Korean census registration ordinance imposed strict surveillance and repression on the routine daily activities of Koreans.
Whereas the rate of increase in general crimes was relatively slow, that of political offenses showed a rapid increase, reflecting intensified ideological oppression. The strengthening of physical restraint measures was accompanied by strict enforcement of the colonial education policy.
The colonial university was given the task of the compilation of the history of Korea under the Korean History Compila-tion Society founded by the Government-General. Their objective was to negate the creativity, originality, and autonomous spirit of the Korean people in their cultural and historical traditions. In order to achieve such an aim, they kept historical documents and royal library collections from Korean scholars.
Colonial Policy in Action
The independence movement, meanwhile, improved in organization and methods. More militant, systematic, and diversified resistance was effected. Japan's colonial policy in Korea remained unchanged although fancy appellations such as "new administration" or "cultural administration" were used to gloss it over after the March First Independence Movement.
The reorganization of the police brought about a rapid increase in the numbers of organization and in budgetary appropriations. The police budget quadrupled in the 1920s, comprising 12-13 percent of the total budget. In contrast, educational outlays were less than 1.8 percent of the police appropriations.
The police did their utmost to suppress all spontaneous activities by Koreans. The depth of police penetration was evident in the number of inhabitants per policeman - one policeman for 722 persons in Korea, compared with one for 1,150 in Japan.
As a result of judicial reforms designed to crack down on political offenses, so-called "thought" prosecutors and "thought" judges were appointed and "special high police" squads were added to each police organization. Communist circles, which spread rapidly in Korea following the trend of the times, were among the main targets of the Japanese police. Strikes, labor disputes and tenant farmer protests were largely motivated by anti-colonial and nationalistic sentiments directed against the Japanese.
Various laws and ordinances were utilized to halt all critical expression and acts of sabotage or sedition against the Japanese colonial authorities. In enacting and promulgating the laws, Governor-General Saito expressed his determination to suppress all resistance movements.
By the 1930s, the peasants were on the verge of starvation. The only way out of such a condition was to desert the farm. Many went to Manchuria or Japan, only to find it no easier to settle there. According to the statistics of the Government-General for 1925, of all the farm deserters, 2.88 percent went to Manchuria and Siberia, 16.85 percent to Japan, and 46.39 percent were scattered in cities of Korea with marginal jobs.
A dwindling of the international market following the close of World War I had a decisive bearing upon the colonial policy of Japan. The Japan Nitrogen Fertilizer Co., Onoda Cements and Japanese textile businesses found cheap labor available in Korea. The invasion of massive Japanese capital gradually forced native landowners and tenant farmers to abandon farmland in return for nominal compensation. Korean-owned lands were bought or virtually expropriated at about one percent of the then current value to accommodate Japanese industrial plants. The Government-General granted eminent domain to Japanese capitalists in an arbitrary manner.
Expansion of Japanese colonial capital during the 1920s resulted in increased poverty and depression for Koreans, and it became a target of the resistance struggle. Colonial capitalism also stimulated the rise of socialist movements that were in vogue at that time. Japanese laborers frequently joined Koreans in disputes over Japanese capital interests.
The exiled Provisional Government of Korea made efforts to appeal before the great powers at the League of Nations Conference in Geneva in 1932, but leading countries with colonies of their own refused to discuss the Korean problem. Nevertheless, some countries made persistent efforts to recognize the Provisional Government. The Moscow government of Lenin approved the granting of a loan in the amount of 2 million rubles, while the Canton government of Sun Yat-sen extended formal recognition to the Provisional Government.
Secret organizations continued to operate at home, attacking and destroying Japanese police stations and government buildings. Korean leaders were also active in supplying funds to independence fighters in Manchuria and Shanghai to promote their military and political activities. Along the northern border many small groups of Korean soldiers continued attacks against the Japanese troops. The Eiyoltan, organized in Manchuria in November of 1919, as an independence organization, infiltrated its commandos into Seoul and Tokyo to carry out the mission of attacking Japanese government offices and assassinating officials. There were frequent explosion incidents in Korea and Japan, and even in China. Yun Pong-gil (1908-1932), a member of the Aeguktan (Patriotic Association), succeeded in killing several Japanese army commanders in China with a bomb at their gathering in Shanghai in April 1933. His success raised the morale not only of Koreans but also of the Chinese who were faced with mounting Japanese aggression.
Manchuria lay just across the Amnokkang river, so many loyal troops went there after 1906, and when Korea was overtaken by Japan, groups of patriotic leaders sought exile there. They engaged in reclaiming farmland, educating the children of exiled patriots and organizing military training centers. Manchuria was also an ideal military base for launching quick attacks on the Japanese, and the independence troops operating in eastern and southern Manchuria were gradually integrated under the leadership of the Provisional Government.
The independence army suffered severe financial hardship, while Japan tried to obtain the cooperation of the Chinese in an attempt to oust it from Manchuria or to annihilate it altogether. Despite such adversities, the Korean troops fought well and achieved significant results. The Ch'vongsan-ri Battle of October 1920, in which a Korean force outnumbered eight to one triumphed over the Japanese, will remain a landmark in the history of the Korean independence struggle.
Venting their rancor on the Koreans for that disastrous defeat, Japanese troops slaughtered many Korean residents in Manchuria. Some others were buried alive in random massacres, and other atrocities were committed in horrible scenes, as witnessed by a Presbyterian missionary from America.
As the independence army's resistance in Manchuria and its penetration into Korea intensified, the Government-General concluded an agreement designed to block Korean activities in that area with Chang Tso-lin, a strongman in Manchuria. In order to overcome the crisis, many separate units were incorporated into a 15,000-man force. The reorganized independence army continued its struggle even in 1933, when Japan succeeded in annexing Manchuria. But, by making use of mounted bandits, the Japanese troops slaughtered many Korean residents.
Most impressive among various activities at home after the 1919 independence uprising was the press movement aimed at promoting national consciousness by criticizing and attacking Japanese colonial policy. In 1920, three newspapers came into being, the Dong-A Ilbo, the Chosun Ilbo and the Shisa Shinmun. These dailies spread the use of the Korean language and made significant contributions in the traditional fields of literature, drama, films, music and fine arts, and also in the dissemination of information from abroad.
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The educational movement began to awaken the masses on a broad scale to the necessity for anti-Japanese struggle. Private institutes and night courses for workers were established by the Koreans themselves. Youths and students who came to cities from rural villages could earn their school expenses through affiliation with organizations of self-supporting students. The determined effort to establish a private college in order to provide higher learning was repeatedly rejected by the Government-General.
Prominent among social projects at that time were the movement for women's liberation, the juvenile protection movement and a movement designed to eliminate discrimination on the basis of class. These movements were carried out in close association with the national liberation movement, and at times were connected with the socialist movement which first made its debut in Korea in 1920, as well as with Christian churches.
A nationwide movement for a self-supporting economy was also launched in order to shake off the colonial economic shackles. The Korean YMCA began a rural enlightenment campaign on a nationwide scale, and the successors to Tonghak followed suit. These movements aimed at economic self-sufficiency, and called for the boycott of Japanese commodities.
A common front between nationalist and Communist leaders mounted a vigorous campaign against the Japanese, and a nationwide student movement erupted on June 10, 1926. The Communist Party secretly sent Kwon O-sol home from Shanghai to lead the independence demonstration, a mass struggle as large in scope as the March First, 1919, Independence Movement, by capitalizing on the masses gathered because of the demise of former Emperor Sunjong in April of 1926.
Preservation of Korean Culture
A group of about 10 Korean teachers in private schools organized the Korean Language Society (Choson Cohak'oe) in December 1921, with the mission of "contributing to the education of our next generation by studying the principles of the Korean language." The Dong-A Ilbo and Chosun Ilbo dailies and monthly magazines rendered full cooperation to the Korean language movement. The Chosun Ilbo designated a Han-gul Day, when the daily carried a special supplement presenting treatises by scholars specializing in the study of the Korean language.
A journal devoted to Han-gul was published and by 1932 had secured for itself a firm position as the organ of the Korean Language Society, which not only conducted research but also subsidized scholars faced with financial difficulty. The society fixed a new spelling system for the Korean language in 1933 and standardized Korean and the transcription system of foreign words. Also, the task of editing and publishing a Korean dictionary was undertaken in 1929 and continuously pursued by the society. Ch'oe Hyon-bae's works on Korean grammar and linguistic theory contributed immensely to the promotion of the national language movement under Japanese rule. Meanwhile, the daily newspapers launched a mass enlightenment campaign. The Dong-A Ilbo adopted the newly proclaimed spelling system April 1, 1933, and the Chosun Ilbo soon followed suit. Furthermore, the newspapers sponsored a literacy campaign, enlisting the participation of middle school students. The Chosun Ilbo upheld the slogan, "the Movement toward the People." However, beginning in October 1942, leading members of the society were arrested and imprisoned, and only the Japanese surrender of August 15, 1945, ended the long ordeal of some of these patriots.
The Japanese embarked upon rewriting Korean history from a strongly Japan-centered viewpoint which tried to denigrate the nation. Korean historians in their struggle for independence had to refute and discredit the Japanese historiography on Korea, and describe the results of Japanese aggression as they witnessed it. Pak En-shik, Shin Ch'ae-ho, An Chae-hong and Chong In-bo made the most outstanding contributions by refuting the distorted history of the Japanese colonial scholars.
Pak En-Shik (1861-1926) attempted to find the means to convey to contemporary Koreans and future generations the reality of the nation's efforts to achieve overall reform, and to do justice to Korean experiences during the armed resistance against alien invaders. During his exile, he wrote two books with cooperation from his colleagues. These books, which were published at the same time, made a lasting impact upon the minds of Koreans.
Song Sang-do (1871-1946) was a unique researcher who compiled biographies of each of the independence fighters after gathering facts through on-the-spot inquiries. Undertaken under the shadow of Japanese surveillance and oppression, his work, concentrating on the period between 1919 to 1945, supplemented Pak En-shik's works dealing with activities abroad until 1919.
Shin Ch'ae-ho (1880-1936), who wrote on the early history of Korea, actively participated in the armed independence movement in Manchuria, Shanghai and Beijing. He continuously made public the results of his studies on Korean history.
Modern literature, written in Han-gul, called upon the public to achieve social and national awakening, and sought to absorb the spiritual heritage of modern European literature. Two main streams developed in the process of absorbing foreign literature: one group of writers produced satirical works in an effort to stimulate a spirit of independence and patriotism, while the other group looked to foreign influences in their efforts to stimulate modernization in Korea. Pak En-shik, Shin Ch'ae-ho and An Kuk-son produced works belonging to the first category, and representative among writers of the second group included Yi In-jik. Both groups suffered from the degradation of their spiritual ethos under Japanese domination.
The essence of modern Korean literature can be found in the literary activities of a group of writers who in the 1920s contemplated the colonial reality from a nationalist viewpoint and tried to overcome their dilemma through literary works. The move toward what was called "new literature," replacing the traditional literature, started as early as 1908. It was impossible for Korean writers to produce enlightening works before 1919, because of the press law forced upon the Korean government in 1907. The Government-General allowed the Koreans publish their works only through the Maeil Shinbo, the Japanese propaganda medium in Korean; thus it was difficult to create a literature reflecting the true Korean consciousness.
In 1919 Kim Tong-in and Kim Ek founded a literary magazine, Ch'angjo (Creation) marking the starting point of modern Korean literature. The magazine was followed by P'yeho (The Ruins), published in 1920 by Hwang Song-u and Yom Sang-sop; Paekcho (White Tide) published in 1922 by Yi Sang-hwa and Hyon Chin-gon; and Kumsong (Gold Star) published in 1923 by Yi Chang-hui and Yang Chu-dong. Through such literary works, these writers tried to grasp the dominant current of thought and show the future course Korea should take.
Other literary magazines which appeared during the 1920s and 1930s laid the basis for the future development of modern Korean literature. Almost all of these magazines were ordered to discontinue publication in the 1940s as the Japanese tightened their grip with the spread of their aggressive war to the Pacific and all of Southeast Asia. The important task of the 1920s was to work out ways of introducing foreign elements into literary works dealing with the reality of colonial rule in Korea.
Shim Hun's Sangnoksu (Evergreen Tree, 1943) was based on the theme of rural development pursued by the Koreans. Yi Ki-yong's Kohyang (The Home Country, 1932) described the process of infiltration of Japanese colonial capital into the rural areas. In these works and others, the poverty of Korean rural villages of the 1930s was delineated with a romantic touch. Hong Myong-hui's Im Kkok-chong described a confrontation between corrupt government officials and a group of bandits led by Im Kkok-chong and stirred the people's antagonism toward Japanese colonial rule.
There were many poets as well who appealed to the national sentiment. Perhaps the greatest pioneer of modern poetry was Han Yong-un. His Nimui Ch'immuk (The Silence of My Beloved, 1925) expressed his affection for a homeland deprived of sovereignty. The beautiful spirit of another poet, Yi Sang-hwa, sang his boundless love of his homeland in a symbolic way, and Yi Yuk-sa, who was arrested, imprisoned and tortured to death by the Japanese military police, expressed his endless hope for the future of his fatherland. These were the main themes in the Korean literary spirit throughout the colonial period.
Yom Sang-sop was one writer who pursued national consciousness in historical perspective. He tried to describe the independence struggle in the 1920s in terms of the interaction between nationalism and communism. In Samdae (The Three Generations, 1932), a literary masterpiece, he gave expression to the dilemmas and frictions faced by Koreans in the process of transition from a traditional to a capitalist society.
In deriving their themes from such transitional phenomena, writers of the 1930s had to part from Yom's naturalistic, realistic style and resort to satirical touches. One of these writers, Ch'ae Man-shik, made his debut late in the 1930s. His T'aep'yongch'un (The Peaceful Spring on Earth, 1937) ridicules the outdated vestiges still found in colonized Korea, and his T'angnyu (The Muddy Stream, 1941) satirizes Korean society in general, sharply criticizing Japanese capital for its devastating effect on Korean society.
Shin-ganhoe: A Unified National Organization
Founded on February 15, 1927 in Korea under the Japanese rule, Shin-ganhoe (New Stem Association) was a unified national organization. The association attempted to form a joint front by combining leaders of the nationalist and Communist camps. The plan to organize Shin-ganhoe was first proposed by nationalist leaders keenly realizing the necessity of combining leaders of the nationalists and Communists into one of the various independence organizations. The Communist camp, under a directive from the Comintern, also felt the need of forming a joint front in cooperation with the nationalist camp.
At the time of its founding, Shin-ganhoe was headed by Yi Sang-jae, president, An Chae-hong, secretary-general, and Hong Myong-hui, in charge of organization. Yi Sung-bok distinguished himself in raising operational funds. From the beginning, the association was subjected to extreme oppression by the Japanese police. Although not all of the aims of the association proclaimed upon its inception were implemented, its main platform - the call for political and economic awakening, unity of purpose and rejection of any compromise with Japan - continued to be the ideological mainstay of the association.
The association sponsored local meetings which were aimed at discussing such measures as: the exemption of school fees for children of proletarian families; demands for the teaching of the Korean language; opposition to the Japanese emigration policy; the denunciation of compromising political movements; abolition of the "Laws and Ordinances of 1919" and of special control laws against Koreans (laws aimed at oppressing the nationalist and Communist movements); opposition to all county agricultural associations (Japan's exploitation agencies); enforcement of education for the benefit of Koreans; the acquisition of freedom for the study of social sciences; opposition to imperialistic colonial education policy; and the abolition of hyanggyo and acquisition of the right to dispose of property.
The Shin-ganhoe was, however, plagued by disunity and pressure from the Comintern, which soon ordered the Korean Communists to work for its dissolution. Early in 1931 the leftist leaders of Shin-ganhoe asked for its dissolution. The Pusan branch was disbanded, and at a Seoul meeting on May 16, 1931, the resistance organization finally disappeared, succumbing to maneuvering by its left-wing elements. Its nationalist leaders were arrested by the police, and there emerged no other resistance organization of comparable scale that replaced it.
Resistance Against Japan's Policy of Assimilation
The beginning of Japan's war of aggression on the Asian continent and its spread into the Pacific brought further tightening of Japan's reins over Korea. The Japanese colonial policy was aimed at transforming Korea into a logistical base for continental aggression, the closing phase of Japanese colonial rule in Korea.
Invading Manchuria on the pretext of a fabricated provocation in Mukden, the Japanese soon took over the whole region. The venture was sparked by Japan's quest for an overseas solution for its economic depression at home.
Monopolistic capital from Japan flowed into Korea to create the arsenal for invasion of the continent. Cheap labor was available as the result of Korean impoverishment caused by Japanese exploitation. Rapid advances had been made in some manufacturing, but it was a "dependent" industrialization, geared to colonialism.
Japan carried on its war of continental invasion from Manchuria into mid-China. During the 1930s in Korea, the industrial emphasis of the Japanese gradually shifted from foodstuff manufacturing to such heavy industries as machines, chemicals and metals. In 1939, heavy industry constituted more than 50 percent of all industrial sectors. Production of agricultural commodities steadily declined in value from 60 percent of the gross national product in 1931 to 32 percent in 1942.
Despite marked progress in industries, the native capital invested was minimal. As the war went on, the exploitation of Korean labor became ever greater. Koreans were excluded from positions of skilled work and forced to do heavy manual labor at wages less than half those received by their Japanese counterparts. The official enforcement of industrial development went hand in hand with the colonial agricultural policy of increasing rice production.
As the tide of the war turned against the Japanese, they squeezed more and more agricultural products out of the peasants by means of kongch'ul or "quota delivery." Farmers were compelled to grow rice with expensive fertilizers to fulfill their assigned quotas.
In March 1944, the Japanese placed production quotas on major mining and manufacturing industries for the purpose of securing military supplies, and medium and small enterprises were consolidated. Alignment of colonial industries was undertaken with an emphasis placed on iron and light metal industries and the production of raw materials. These economic restrictions were accompanied by further infringement upon freedom of thought and civil liberties.
For example, in the course of invading China in 1937, the Japanese began to suppress freedom of religion, substituting compulsory worship at Japanese Shinto shrines. In 1938, Korean-language teaching was banned from secondary school curricula. From April 1941 onwards, the curricula of Japanese schools was imposed upon Korean schools. As the war intensified, the education of Koreans under the Education Decree of March 1943 was increasingly geared to the Japanese war establishment. No longer was the Korean language taught in primary schools.
But such high-handed oppression by the Government-General could hardly fail to bring about persistent resistance. Many were arrested on charges of "seeking to attain the ambition of liberating the Korean people." Nationalists were the most active group in the most oppressive period (1937-1945). In 1941, a Thought Criminals Preventive Custody Law went into force, and a protective prison was established in Seoul, where almost all anti-Japanese activists were held. The Government-General declared that preventive custody was intended to isolate from society these unruly "thought criminals" and to discipline them. It was the first step in a drive to uproot the will to independence from the minds of the Koreans.
In 1942, the Government-General came under the central administrative control of the Japanese government, and a massive mobilization of Korean manpower and materials was integrated into the war effort. From 1943, Korean youths were drafted into the Japanese army, and the Student Volunteer Ordinance of January 20, 1944, forced Korean college students into the army,
Moreover, under the National General Mobilization Act of Japan, Korean labor was subjected to forcible removal from the peninsula. The drafting of laborers began in 1939 and many were sent to Japan, Sakhalin or Southeast Asia. Statistics up to August 15, 1945, show that 4,146,098 workers were assigned inside Korea and 1,259,933 in Japan. Many Korean workers were sent to coal mines in Japan; some of them remain in Japan and Sakhalin even to this day.
The course of the Sino-Japanese War forced the Chinese Nationalist Government to move to Chongqing, and in 1940, the Provisional Government of Korea as well had to move there. On August 28, 1941, the Provisional Government, in response to the declaration by President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill, issued a statement demanding recognition of the Korean government; military, technical and economic assistance for the prosecution of anti-Japanese campaigns; and Korean participation in deciding the fate of Korea after the war.
After Japan's surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, the Provisional Government of Korea set up a Euro-American Liaison Committee in Washington for the purpose of active diplomacy with European and American states. An aid agreement was concluded with the Nationalist government of China, and efforts were made to strengthen the internal organization of the government. When the three powers, the United States, China and Britain, met in Cairo in 1943, Kim Ku of the Provisional Government sought the aid of Chiang Kai-shek, while Liaison Committee Director Syngman Rhee ordered Chong Han-gyong (Henry Chung) to go to Cairo to promote the cause of Korean independence. Upon the proposal of Generalissimo Chiang, the three powers agreed to include a call for Korea's self-determination and independence in the Cairo Declaration.
In February 1944, the Provisional Government brought some leftist personalities into its fold and formed a sort of coalition cabinet, with Kim Ku as chairman and Kim Kyu-shik as vice chairman. In February 1945, it formally declared war against Japan and Germany by taking part in active campaigns; altogether after 1943, more than 5,000 Korean troops joined the allied forces in military operations throughout the Chinese theater of war. Korean college students and youths drafted into the Japanese army deserted their units to join the ranks of China's anti-Japanese resistance war. In the United States as well, a number of Korean immigrants volunteered for the U.S. army to fight against the Japanese in the Pacific. Korean Communists in Kando, northeast Manchuria, also joined the Soviet Union or Chinese Communists.