Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Beginning Sadness

The history of the world is a repeated cycle of the colonization and decolonization: weaker countries were conquered by powerful empires that exert their influences on the newly-acquired nations, colonies then became repressed and abused to suffer years of colonization, and eventually, the oppressed nations rebelled to win their independence and became decolonized.  The story of Korea was no different.  Though subjugated by various nations throughout history, Korea suffered most under the colonization of the Japanese from 1910-1945.  During these years under the Japanese rule, the Koreans suffered greatly as the men were forced into hard labor while the women were bounded into sex slaves.  It took a few decades for the Koreans to be empowered enough to drive out their colonialists and reclaimed their independence.  

            The end of the 19th century and the early beginnings of the 20th century was a period of chaos as various nations began to reshuffle to find their place in the new era.  In Japan, the success of the Meiji Restoration made the nation stronger and they began to think about becoming a modern colonial power. Korea, a weak neighbor, became a target and in January 1876, Japan employed gunboat diplomacy to pressure Korea into signing the Treaty of Ganghwa, forcing Korea to open up three Korean ports for Japanese trade and granting privileges to Japanese citizens. It is interesting to note that the rights granted to Japan under this treaty were similar to those granted to the western powers in Japan following the visit of Commodore Perry in 1854. (1)  It seemed that Japan learned a thing or two about colonization from the Western missionaries who entered and lived in Japan.

Things got worse for Korea when the Japanese Prime Minister Terauchi Masatake signed the Japan-Korea Annexation Treaty with the Premier of Korea, Wan-Yong Lee on August 22, 1910. (2)  Korea became a dominion of the Japanese Empire, officially losing its independence and henceforward, became a colony of the Empire of Japan.  As seen by the map below, Japan occupied the whole of Korea and ruled it as its own colony, subjugated to its rules and influences.
                               Map of 1930's Korea, with an unified Korea.

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