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Comparative Colonial Response: Korea and Taiwan

Author(s): Dennis L. McNamara

Source: Korean Studies, Vol. 10 (1986), pp. 54-68
Published by: University of Hawai'i Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23718831
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Comparative Colonial Response:
Korea and Taiwan
Dennis L. McNamara

A comparison of the responses of Korea and Taiwan to Japanese colonization

during the early years of the twentieth century does much to clarify the distinctive
ness of the Korean reaction to Japanese rule. The presence and strength of struc
tural bases for ethnic autonomy in Korea, at least through 1919, encouraged the
survival of an indigenous racial identity, despite the imposition of colonial struc
tures. This survival reflected a history of political and economic autonomy in
Korea, and was central to the subsequent evolution of Korean nationalism.

The similarities and differences between Korea and Taiwan as col

onies have prompted various comparative studies.1 Affinities such as the
strong cultural influence of China in both areas, geographical proximity
to Japan, and their status as Japan's leading colonies have caught the
attention of scholars of East Asian colonialism. Certainly the fact of Japa
nese colonization itself was the most obvious continuity between the two
areas in the early twentieth century, and the basis for subsequent com
parative analysis.2
Japan acquired both colonies at the turn of the century. The Treaty
of Shimonoseki was signed on April 17, 1895, marking the formal con
clusion of the Sino-Japanese War. Treaty terms provided for an indemnity
and the cession of the Liaotung Peninsula, the Pescadores, and Formosa
to Japan. The islands of the Pescadores and Formosa (Taiwan) remained
colonial possessions of the Japanese Empire until 1945. Some ten years
after the acquisition of Taiwan, the Japanese imposed a Protectorate
Treaty on the Korean government, followed by annexation in 1910. Korea
also remained a colony of Japan until the end of World War Two. Japa
nese colonial administrations ruled the two Asian colonies by similar pol
icies, particularly in the early colonial period prior to the administrative
reforms of the early 1920s.

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Yet there were striking differences between Korea and Taiwan

through 1919. The kingdom of Korea was united by race and language,
Taiwan less so. The population of Taiwan in 1920some 3,655,000 in
habitantswas small in comparison to Korea's seventeen million.3 Apart
from a small minority of aborigines, the vast majority of the population
of Taiwan was Chinese of relatively recent origin, either the Hoklo people
from Fukien Province, or the Hakkas from Kwangtung Province. The
population of Korea was ethnically homogeneous, though with some
regional differences in climate, custom, education, and so on. The total
area of Taiwan itself was a mere 16 percent of the area of the Korean
The geographical positions of these two colonies were also quite
different. Only the Yalu and Turnen Rivers in the north separated the
Korean peninsula from southern Manchuria and the Maritime Province
of Russia. The Chinese mainland lay to the west across the Sea of China,
while the main Japanese island of Honshu was off the southern coast of
Korea, separated by the straits of Korea and Tsushima. Vladivostok,
Peking, and Tokyo were not far distant from Seoul. Conversely, the island
of Taiwan lay some twelve hundred miles south of Japan, directly off
the Chinese province of Fukien.
Sharp historical differences further distinguished the colony of Korea
from the colony of Taiwan. The continuous rule and stable borders of the
Yi Dynasty, from 1392 to 1910, permitted Koreans a long experience of
political, economic, and cultural autonomy. Koreans had an extensive
history of relations with their Chinese and Japanese neighbors, including
trade, diplomatic relations, and invasions. The "neighborly" relations
with Japan prior to 1876 were characterized by mutual equality. Con
versely, prior to forty years of Dutch colonization in the seventeenth
century, Taiwan had been an undeveloped wilderness with an aboriginal
population. The adventurer Koxinga later drove out the Europeans and
briefly established the island as a base for the declining Ming Dynasty.
The Ch'ing Dynasty in turn drove out the Koxinga force, and in 1863
established a garrison and declared the island a dependency. The Chinese
administration on the island came to pay more attention to island develop
ment in the years prior to 1895, but had only minor success. In brief, the
Taiwanese had no experience of autonomy or equality in their relations
with Japan comparable to the experience of the Koreans.
Given such a combination of similarities and broad differences, one
might question the usefulness of comparing the colonies. The comparison
seems pertinent for the study of Japanese colonialism, but is it appropriate
for a comparison of indigenous reaction to colonial policies? I find that the
comparison sheds light on both the distinctiveness of reactions through
1919, and, in a broader sense, on the issue of the comparative colonial

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legacy pertaining to an understanding of more recent processes of socio

economic development in Korea and Taiwan. However, I focus in this
article on the more limited topic of distinctive patterns of indigenous
political response, especially of Korean response.
Differences in the effects of political and economic control in colonial
Korea and Taiwan have been analyzed and discussed elsewhere.4 But less
attention has been devoted to the actual impact of such control on the
indigenous populations. My purpose here is to relate differences in the
effects with a closer study of the political reactions of the populations in
the two colonies. These alien structures did not simply cause particular
reactions. The response of the colonized populations must be understood
in terms of distinct indigenous factors, such as continuities with preco
lonial sociopolitical and economic legacies.
With these legacies in mind, I shall consider both the effects of colo
nial dependence, and the patterns of indigenous response. The structures of
control applied by the Japanese represent their efforts to establish domin
ion in both Korea and Taiwan, and to somehow integrate these colonies
into the polity and economy of the mtropole.5 Patterns of reaction indi
cated not only the immediate response to alien control, but also reflected
the legacy of earlier experiences of political participation and economic

Effects of Alien Control

Despite generally similar administrative policies in the two colonies,

there were differences in the structures and effects of Japan's economic,
political, and sociocultural domination. An exchange of agricultural
goods from the colony for manufactured goods from the mtropole typifies
a situation of colonial economic dependence.6 While the colony of Korea
sent rice and soybeans to Osaka and Tokyo, the colony of Taiwan exported
rice and sugar to these markets. Alien administrations in both colonies
vigorously promoted increased agricultural production and export to
Japanese markets, and improved transport and port infrastructures to
facilitate domestic and international marketing. Yet the experiences of
economic dependence for the indigenous populations were different in the
two colonies. Such discrepancies were due in part to differences between
the two areas in earlier experiences of development from the midnineteenth
The Taiwanese ports of Tamsui and Keelung in the north and Kao
hsiung and Anping in the south were opened to foreign trade by the early
1860s. Merchants exported rice, sugar, and tea, while opium and textiles
were brought in from abroad. A portion of these goods was carried by
British and American shipping concerns, but much of the trade was ferried
on smaller vessels between the islands of Taiwan and the coast of the

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Chinese mainland. There was little expansion in the production and export
of rice and sugar between 1860 and 1895,7 though exports of tea to the
United States and Europe grew significantly.8 It is important to note here
that Japan's role in Taiwan's foreign trade at the time was minimal.9 Apart
from foreign trade, there had been little economic growth on the islands
prior to annexation. The harbors and Keelung-Hsinchu Railroad were in
disrepair and post and telegraph services inadequate. The islands lacked
both stable financial organs and a reliable currency system. Plagues and
disease were frequent due to poor hygiene and a lack of sanitation facilities
in the tropical climate. This situation of economic underdevelopment
through 1895 made even modest accomplishments under the Japanese
administration appear significant.
In contrast, indigenous reform programs, together with the gradual
economic penetration of the Korean peninsula by the Japanese for the
twenty years prior to the Protectorate of 1905, encouraged development
of a market economy and a growing foreign trade in grains while Korea
was still independent. Grain cultivation was intensified, a marketing and
transport system developed, and the trade in rice and soybeans expanded.
There was also greater attention given to economic infrastructures than
in Taiwan prior to its annexation. The Seoul-Inch'n and Seoul-Pusan
railroads were in operation before 1905. The volume of Japanese shipping
traffic in the ports of Inch'n, Pusan, and Mokp'o had increased remark
ably prior to annexation. The use from 1902 of Daiichi Bank notes as
a yen currency symbolized the growing reliance of the peninsula upon
Japanese banking facilities even before the Protectorate. And finally,
disease and epidemics were less severe in the continental climate of Korea
than in tropical Taiwan. Such economic accomplishments in Korea prior
to 1905 dulled the glamor of development under the Japanese through
The administrations in Korea and Taiwan pursued similar "agri
culture first" policies through 1919, together with investment in support
ing infrastructures such as harbors and railroads. Cadastral surveys were
undertaken to ascertain land ownership in both colonies. Initial surveys
were completed by 1903 in Taiwan, and government bonds exchanged for
hereditary land rights beginning in 1905. The Cadastral Survey in Korea
was completed in 1918, after eight years of surveys, decisions, and ap
peals.10 There was no similar program in Korea of government bonds
being exchanged for land rights. The surveys in both colonies spurred re
sentment at the outset, for the historical complexity of ownership rights
was not easily resolved by interviews and reviews of land registers. But
two differences were apparent in the land survey projects in these colonies.
First, former hereditary landowners in Taiwan who reinvested capital
from government bonds in business and industry were already benefitting
by 1919 from growth in the Taiwanese economy. In Korea the advantages

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of clear title for purposes of industrial reinvestment would not have been
apparent until textile and other light manufacturing projects had begun
in the mid-1920s or later. Secondly, the relatively rapid completion of the
land survey in Taiwan, as against the extended Korean project, indicates
the greater size of Korea and complexity of landownership rights. Reforms
and adjustments in the relatively more complex Korean economy would
take more time.
Grain production and export were expanded in both colonies
through 1919. The annual rice crop in Taiwan increased from 4,354,000
koku (Korean: sk) in 1905 to 4,842,000 koku in 1920.11 The annual average
rice crop in Korea grew from 11,816,000 koku between 1911 and 1914,
to 13,694,000 koku between 1915 and 1919.12 Rice exports represented 16
percent of the Taiwanese rice crop in 1915 and 13 percent in 1920. Korean
exports of rice represented an annual average of 10 percent of the total
rice harvest between 1910 and 1914 and 16 percent between 1915 and
1919. Koreans also exported soybeans and other grains, while Taiwan's
other major export item was sugar. The production and export of Taiwan
ese sugar grew remarkably in the early colonial period, with a growth in
average annual production of better than 300 percent in the first two de
cades of the twentieth century.13 There was no comparable development
of a cash crop in early colonial Korea. Clearly the effect of the adminis
tration's economic policies was more dramatic in Taiwan than in Korea.
The colonial administration in Taiwan quickly organized communi
cation networks as a basis for development. A three-hundred mile rail
road system was in place by 1905 and soon expanded, together with
development of a network of feeder lines for the light pushcars [daisha].
The ports of Keelung in the north and Kaohsiung in the south were
connected by rail in 1908.14 By 1920 there were some 398 miles of public
railways in Taiwan.15 This system enabled the Taiwanese to move large
quantities of agricultural and forestry products, as well as light manu
factured goods, with efficiency and speed. The main railway lines in Korea,
completed prior to annexation, had likewise facilitated marketing of
agricultural and light manufacturing goods. Military priorities later
prompted extension of the Korean line to Siniju in the north and to the
naval port of Masan in the south.
Differences in railroad construction exemplified the differences in
administrative priorities in the two colonies, and consequently the differ
ences in the effects of colonial control experienced by the two populations.
While the earlier Seoul-Pusan and Seoul-Inch'n lines served the greater
Korean population, military railroads in the sparsely populated areas of
northern Korea were of little economic benefit to the majority of Koreans.
Yet railroads in Taiwan were dramatic examples of development benefit
ting the wider population.

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Railroad construction in the two colonies coincided with differences

in the strategic positions of Korea and Taiwan. The Japanese needed only
to establish military control on the island of Taiwan, and could then focus
on economic development. Expansion southward from this island base
was not a pressing concern in the early colonial period. Conversely, ex
pansion from Korea into southern Manchuria was already an immediate
military concern of the Japanese in these years. Neighboring Korea was
a Japanese foothold for military and economic expansion on the continent,
while distant Taiwan remained a remote outpost for Japanese economic
development in the early colonial period. Military priorities thus affected
economic policies, and in time the effect on the native population of alien
economic control as well.
Two factors strongly colored the Korean experience of economic
development in this period: the experience of agricultural and commercial
growth preceding 1905, prior to the Protectorate; and the blend of econo
mic priorities with military considerations evident in the administration's
economic policies. The economic benefits of the Japanese administration
were more salient in early colonial Taiwan. The size and complexity of
the Korean economy, traditional Korean suspicion of Japanese inten
tions,16 and the strategic importance of Korea as a military foothold on
the continent precluded the more carefully planned economic program
undertaken on the island of Taiwan.
There were also differences in the structures of political control in
the two colonies. Control denotes the metropole's direction of both do
mestic administration and indigenous political activity, as well as super
vision of the colony's relations with other nations. The colony has no
choice but to rely on the political administration and direction of the
mtropole. As with economic matters, different experiences of political
control prior to annexation influenced Korean and Taiwanese reactions
to Japan's political domination. Taiwan had been administered as part
of the Ch'ing Empire prior to annexation. The exodus of Chinese adminis
trators and even of leading local literati following annexation deprived
the Taiwanese of many of their experienced political and cultural elites.
With the severing of ties with mainland China, it became clear that the
Taiwanese had little sense of an indigenous political identity, and few
symbols defining an autonomous polity. On the other hand, despite
annexation and Japanese political control, the Korean royal family and
an experienced political elite were the legacy of centuries of domestic
political autonomy in Korea. Taiwan's political reliance on administrators
sent from the mainland was superceded by reliance on Japanese adminis
trators; Japanese administrators simply replaced the mainland Chinese.
But political dependence for the relatively independent kingdom of Korea
was a novel and disturbing experience.

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Some differences were also evident in the political administration of

the two colonies. The prestige and authority of the position of governor
general in Korea far exceeded that of his counterpart in Taiwan, reflecting
the greater strategic importance of the peninsula. Resident-General Ito
(1906-1909) and Governor-General Terauchi Masatake (1910-1916) both
served as prime ministers, while Governor-General Hasegawa Yoshimichi
(1916-1919) was a field marshall. The governor-general in Korea likewise
exercised greater political, military, and legislative authority than his
counterpart in Taiwan.17 Local systems of control in the two colonies also
differed. There were more police per capita in Korea than in Taiwan,
probably due to the efficiency of the ho-kd system in Taiwan, assessing
joint local responsibility for crimes.18 It is ironic that despite Korea's rel
atively greater strategic importance in this early colonial period, and
larger Japanese police commitment, there were more incidents of rural
disturbances in Korea.
Although there was more Korean participation in higher-level pro
vincial administration as governors or advisors than in Taiwan, there was
still very little indigenous participation in political structures in either
colony. In sum, both Taiwan and Korea were clearly politically sub
ordinate to Japanese direction. Taiwan was more secure for the Japanese
and more firmly controlled on the local level. Less strategically vulnerable
and better controlled, Taiwan could be more easily integrated into the
political structures of the home government. There were also better than
twice as many Japanese residents per capita in Taiwan than in Korea.19 In
contrast to the relatively secure Taiwan, Korea was strategically vulner
able and yet crucial for continental expansion. Despite a larger police
presence than in Taiwan, there was less Japanese control in rural areas.
The more volatile colony of Korea thus remained more politically distinct
from the home government, ruled rather by a powerful government
general on the peninsula. There was less opportunity and less attraction
in Korea for political integration with the metropolitan government of
A curious mix of cultural, mainly linguistic integration with ethnic
segregation was a third aspect of Japan's rule in the colonies of Korea and
Taiwan. But fostering a cultural domination through assimilation policies
such as Japanese language training, respect for the Japanese emperor, and
so on, proved more difficult than establishing initial political control, or
advancing economic integration between agriculture in the colonies and
markets in the home islands. The slower pace of cultural integration in the
early colonial period was due to both the ambiguity of the administrations'
policies and especially to the depth of precolonial indigenous ethnic

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The ambiguity was evident especially in Korea. Yanaihara Tadao

pointed to one problem in Japan's assimilation policy:

The theory of the assimilation policy is that the Koreans should first become
Japanized, after which political rights will become theirs as a matter of course.
In the execution of this policy, the government plays the part of an undemocratic
and despotic organization.20

Subjected through 1919 to the authoritarian regimes of Terauchi and

Hasegawa, few Koreans saw hope for eventual representation in a Japa
nese state. The assimilation policy entailed the loss of indigenous ethnic
identity in return for gaining recognition as members of the empire. But
what would membership in the empire mean for nonethnic Japanese?
While the administrations in both colonies promoted cultural assimilation
on the one hand, on the other they ruled out political enfranchisement,
and carefully maintained distinctions between Japanese residents and the
indigenous populations.21 It was obvious from the early colonial period
that Koreans and Taiwanese were not to be accorded political and
economic rights comparable to ethnic Japanese. This ambiguity in Japa
nese colonial assimilation policies contrasted with the clear direction of
their early political and economic policies.
The social and cultural policies of the administrations in the two
colonies were similar, despite disparities in their respective cultural con
texts. Both administrations permitted relative freedom of religion, and
only gradually imposed stricter controls on private schools. Presbyte
rian and Methodist churches,22 and the Church of the Heavenly Way
[Ch'ndogyo] grew dramatically in Korea in the early colonial period.
The churches and their associated schools served as bases for encouraging
ethnic solidarity in a manner relatively free of government interference.
The Spanish Dominicans, as well as English and Canadian Presbyterian
missionaries, were active in Taiwan and established a few schools.23 But
the relatively small number of Christian schools in Taiwan was com
parable neither in size nor prestige to the eminent Christian schools in
Seoul, like Paejae High School or Ynhi College. Parallel to the mission
schools, the "New School Movement" in Korea up to 1910 produced a
large number of a new kind of school, one which encouraged both patriot
ism and Western learning.
The number of traditional local schools for the study of Chinese
classics (shu-fang in Taiwan, sdang in Korea) declined sharply in Taiwan
through 1906, but then remained at about the same number through
1918.24 Yet the number of these schools grew in Korea during the same
period.25 Such schools remained a channel for reinforcing a more tra
ditional Confucian identity. One purpose of this network of local schools,

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and especially of the Confucian institutes of advanced learning, was prepa

ration for the civil service examinations. Graduates of the more prestigious
institutes were well represented among the local gentry, scholars, and civil
administrators, as a core elite of literati.
The Japanese were anxious to gain the support of these literati,
and receive recognition and legitimation within the tradition of Confucian
political and social ethics. Accordingly the administrations in both col
onies generally supported the prestigious centers of Confucian learning,
such as the Kynghagwn in Seoul, as well as Confucian shrines in Korea
and Taiwan, and treated the literati with respect. But many of the more
prestigious literati in Taiwan had returned to the mainland at the time of
annexation.26 In contrast, the literati in Korea not only remained, but cer
tain of them helped mobilize peasant forces against the Japanese, through
the Righteous Armies [ibyng], and although leading Korean Confu
cian scholars did not initially participate with Christian and Heavenly
Way leaders in the March First demonstrations, they later joined in peti
tions for independence.
Looking to the colonies themselves, there were clear differences in
the precolonial cultural legacies. Korea was an "historic culture,"27 while
the various groups in Taiwan were less firmly linked by a common ethnic
identity. There were also contextual differences in the strength and char
acter of religious groups, systems of education, and even in the literati
elite, despite their common respect for Chinese Confucianism. Such his
torical and contextual differences, together with differences in the timing
of annexation, conditioned the impact of the cultural policies of the admin
istrations in Korea and Taiwan. By 1919, after twenty-five years of Japa
nese control, strong ties with Japan had appeared among the elites in
Taiwan, but Korean elites had been able to maintain at least a limited
ethnic autonomy through that period.
Our analysis suggests significant differences in the effects of alien con
trol in the two colonies through 1919. First, economic benefits of colonial
dependence were more apparent in Taiwan, even in the early colonial
period. Land reform, rice and sugar production, and investments in hy
giene and communications provided salient evidence of economic devel
opment on the island. The benefits of similar efforts at basic development
were less prominent in Korea. Second, although structures of poltical con
trol and the political exclusion of indigenous elites were similar in the
two colonies, the governor-general in Korea was more powerful and
more independent than his counterpart in Taiwan. The elites in Taiwan
appeared more amenable to foreign political direction than their counter
parts in Korea, though both populations resented economic discrimina
tion. Finally, the effects of ambiguous cultural assimilation policies were
quite different in the two colonies. Confident in their own distinctive ethnic

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identity, the Koreans especially took advantage of this ambiguous situa

tion to promote a limited ethnic autonomy through 1919.

Reactions to Alien Control

A comparison of indigenous political reactions to colonial control

reveals different stages in the growth of national solidarity in the two col
onies through 1919. Three patterns of reaction were evident: armed revolt,
cooperation, and nonviolent resistance. The Japanese faced armed resis
tance in Taiwan between May and October of 1895, mainly from remnants
of mainland and island troops. But Japanese troops quickly gained con
trol. Even sporadic local uprisings had faded by 1902, and apart from
disturbances among the aborigines and the abortive Lo Fu-hsing plot of
1913, there was little armed resistance to the administration. The Righ
teous Armies in Korea revolted briefly in 1896, and then again from 1905
to 1909, before the Japanese Army forced the rebels to disperse or flee
across the northern border. Armed resistance continued sporadically in
the northern border regions and southern Manchuria through 1913, and
flared up again in the early 1920s. But there was little armed resistance
to the Japanese within the colony of Korea itself after 1910.
One important difference between armed resistance in the two col
onies was the organization, ideology, and persistance of the Righteous
Armies in Korea. Literati ideologues among these armies stimulated
awareness of a Korean ethnic identity, while effectively mobilizing anti
Japanese sentiments. A second difference was geographical. In the early
colonial period, Korean rebels could always move their sanctuaries further
north on the continent, and recruit from among Korean immigrants in
Manchuria. The Taiwanese rebels were limited to the main island of
Taiwan itself.
Cooperation with the colonial administration took many forms in
both colonies, from grudging, sullen coexistence to enthusiastic collabora
tion. Forms of political cooperation by the elites were more salient within
the structure of the colonial administration in Korea, such as through the
Central Advisory Council (chsin; chungch uwn) advisors, or provincial
governors. But through 1919 there was no effort for political integra
tion in Korea comparable to the assimilationist movement in Taiwan.
Liu Hsien-t'ang, a respected landlord of Central Taiwan, had sought the
help of the prominent Japanese liberal Itagaki Taisuke to form a joint
Japanese-Taiwanese political movement. Itagaki in turn helped found the
Assimilation Society in December 1914, to promote "harmonious relations
between Japanese and Formosans based on the concept of racial equal
ity."28 This society of some 3,198 members included mostly Taiwanese
intellectuals and even administration employees, but only forty-four

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Japanese. Uncomfortable with proposals for equal rights, the government

general soon prosecuted the society for financial mismanagement and
withdrew government recognition. On the one hand, suppression by the
colonial administrators reflected the ambiguity of the metropole's policy
of colonial assimilation; on the other, the emergence and popularity of
the movement among Taiwanese intellectuals in the early colonial period
was also significant. Taiwanese participation in this movement contrasted
with the generally uncooperative and independent spirit of Korean
intellectuals, despite government participation by some indigenous
political elites.
If cooperation in the Assimilation Society highlighted the response
of Taiwanese intellectuals, nonviolent resistance in the March First move
ment highlighted the response of Korean intellectuals through 1919. A
strong tradition of nonviolent effort for Korean autonomy had developed
in the activities of the Independence Club between 1896 and 1898, and
again from the turn of the century in the Patriotic Enlightenment Move
ment \aeguk kaemong undong]. Earlier ideas of enlightenment and auton
omy provided a context supportive of aspirations for independence, while
the precedents of nonviolence provided an acceptable patriotic alternative
to an armed struggle. Prominent among the leaders in 1919 were Korean
intellectuals and religious leaders who had been exposed to ideas of auton
omy and self-strengthening in the earlier campaigns. Moreover the net
works of private schools and of the Christian and Heavenly Way churches
provided a structural outlet for more autonomous thought and activity.
These institutions, elites, and the ideological legacy of earlier efforts for
autonomy provided support on the peninsula itself for aspirations and
activities on behalf of Korean independence. There were also associations
of Korean exiles abroadin China, Manchuria, Japan, and the United
Statesactively promoting Korean independence. Korean students in
Japan were especially active, anticipating the March First declaration of
independence with their own more aggressive declaration of February 8,
1919.29 In sum, there were strong bases for Korean independence efforts
both within and beyond the peninsula, while such bases were much less
robust in Taiwan through 1919.
Despite similar colonial administrations, differences were apparent
in the reactions to colonial control in the two colonies. Intellectuals, busi
ness leaders, and political elites in both colonies resented political exclu
sion and discriminatory economic policies. But indigenous elites in the two
colonies attempted to ameliorate the situation in quite disparate ways. The
alternative of violent resistance had proved futile for both. Cooperation in
the form of assimilationist efforts proved more attractive among Taiwanese
elites in the early colonial period than among their Korean counterparts.
Conversely, a remarkable solidarity for independence and resistance to

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dependence had developed in Korea by 1919. This salient disparity be

tween responses of cooperation and resistance again reflected the legacy
of cultural and political autonomy on the Korean peninsula, and the cor
responding reluctance to tolerate cultural and political assimilation to
Japan. Revolt and resistance in Korea reinforced the legacy of cultural
autonomy, while forms of cooperation did not undermine this same legacy,
at least through 1919.


This study of the effects of colonial dependence and of patterns of

political reaction in the two colonies brings to the fore a number of critical
differences in the two areas between 1895 and 1919. For instance, there
were differences in the method and timing of annexation, and also differ
ences in Japanese military strategy regarding the two colonies. China ceded
Taiwan to Japan in 1895, following defeat in the Sino-Japanese War. A
Japanese administration on the island replaced a Chinese administration.
In the case of Korea, Japan had recognized Korea as an independent,
sovereign state in 1876, and continually reiterated her aim of securing and
protecting the independence of the Korean monarchy.
Second, timing was also important. Liberal influences abroad and
within Japan itself created an atmosphere supportive of change and greater
colonial autonomy after World War I. But by that time the Japanese had
been in Taiwan for twenty-five years and their control was firmly estab
lished. Conversely, the demonstrations for Korean independence occurred
only nine years after annexation.
Third, Japan's military objectives differed in the two areas. The
strategic importance of the Korean peninsula and its close proximity to
the Japanese home islands made control a high priority in Korea. The dis
tance and relative isolation of the island of Taiwan permitted more con
cern for economic development apart from immediate military priorities.
But there were also more fundamental differences in the very fabric
of the two societies. Ethnic and historical bases for autonomy were com
paratively strong in Korea and weak in Taiwan. Racial and linguistic
homogeneity in Korea contrasted with the mixing in Taiwan of a Chinese
immigrant population from Fukien and Kwangtung provinces with an
aboriginal minority. The long tradition of Korean ethnic homogeneity and
domestic political autonomy within stable geographical boundaries was
lacking in Taiwan.
The comparison of the two colonies highlights the distinctive factor
of a limited ethnic autonomy evident in the Korean reaction to Japan's
colonial control. Japanese attempts at political domination and economic
control constrained but did not erode Korean ethnic autonomy through

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1919. At the same time, resentment over alien control and especially over
economic discrimination between Japanese residents and Koreans fueled
anti-Japanese sentiments. The Japanese served as enemy, a negative stimu
lus for ethnic identity. Structures of political and economic dependence
thus served to limit ethnic autonomy, but ironically also encouraged
Korean efforts to sustain whatever autonomy was possible.
Although the structures of colonial dependence limited ethnic auton
omy, the earlier heritage of independence in turn affected the very im
plementation of those structures. For instance, the heritage of political
autonomy affected Japanese political penetration and annexation of
Korea. Korea was annexed through treaty agreement between two nom
inally sovereign states. The legacy of sociocultural autonomy likewise
strongly affected colonial efforts to establish structures of cultural depen
dence. A network of Korean private schools was already in place prior to
annexation, affecting colonial educational policies on the peninsula. The
variety, organization, and strength of indigenous religious groups in Korea
also hampered administration efforts to promote pro-Japanese sentiments
among the wider population. Thus while structures of political and eco
nomic dependence in some ways limited development of a modern Korean
indigenous identity, the legacy of independence itself conditioned the shape
and effects of these same structures.
Limited ethnic autonomy, based on linguistic and racial ties as well
as on a long tradition of domestic autonomy, was a critical factor in pat
terns of Korean reaction to Japanese colonial control. Aspirations for re
covery of such autonomy inspired the literati leadership in the Righteous
Armies. Enlightenment activists came to focus their hopes on cultural in
dependence as providing a link with Korea's past and as a path towards
modern political and cultural sovereignty.
Our comparison suggests not only the relative strength of the
Korean ethnic autonomy in contrast to the situation in Taiwan, but also
the substance of such an identity. Korean elites developed ideologies in
these years supportive of such autonomy. They emphasized symbols of
autonomy such as the monarchy; Korea's language, territory, and re
sources; and a Korean civilization. These elites also enjoyed structural sup
port in their efforts to sustain a native identity. For instance, there were
domestic networks for information sharing, with a network of socie
ties, shrines, and rural schools that was especially strong in the south.
Enlightenment intellectuals were active in private schools, particularly in
Christian schools throughout the country. There were also groups of
Korean intellectuals in exile in China and elsewhere, devoting their careers
to active support of Korean autonomy. Religious organizations such as
the Presbyterian and Methodist churches and members of the Church of
the Heavenly Way provided an independent network supportive of efforts
to preserve an indigenous Korean identity.

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This study of Japan's two leading colonies sheds light on the pres
ence and strength of structural bases for a limited ethnic autonomy in
Korea through 1919. Such bases were strong enough to sustain an indig
enous racial identity despite establishment of the political and economic
structures of colonial dependence.


Editor's Note: This article originated as a paper presented at a conference on "The

Roots of Modern Korean Nationalism, 1876-1920," sponsored by the Center for Korean
Studies at the University of California at Berkeley in April of 1984.
1. Yamabe Kentar, "Nihon teikokushugi to shokuminchi," Nihon rekishi gendai 2
(Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1963), pp. 202-246; Hyman Kublin, "The Evolution of Japanese
Colonialism," Comparative Studies in Society and History 2, no. 1 (October 1959), pp. 67-84;
Ramon H. Myers and Mark R. Peattie, eds., The Japanese Colonial Empire, 1895-1945
(Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1984).
2. Regarding a methodology for comparative analysis, see the following: Neil Smelser,
Comparative Methods in the Social Sciences (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall,
1976); Ivan Vallier, ed., Comparative Methods in Sociology: Essays on Trends and Applications
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971).
3. Andrew Grajdanzev, Formosa Today. An Analysis of the Economic Development and
Strategic Importance of Japan's Tropical Colony (New York: Institute of Pacific Relations,
1942), p. 23. See also his study of Korea, Modern Korea (New York: Institute of Pacific
Relations, 1944). For comparative studies of development in the two colonies, see the fol
lowing: Mizoguchi Toshiyuki, Taiwan Chosen no keizai seichd (Economic growth in Taiwan
and Korea) (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1975); James Nakamura, "Incentives, Productivity
Gaps, and Agricultural Growth Rates in Prewar Japan, Taiwan, and Korea," in Japan in
Crisis: Essays in Taish Democracy, ed. Bernard S. Silberman and H. D. Harootunian
(Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1974), pp. 329-373.
4. See Edward I-te Chen, "Japanese Colonialism in Korea and Formosa: A Compari
son of its Effects upon the Development of Nationalism," Ph.D. dissertation, Harvard
University, 1973; Edward I-te Chen, "Japanese Colonialism in Korea and Formosa: A Com
parison of the Systems of Political Control," Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 30 (1970),
pp. 126-158; see also Yamabe Kentar, "Nihon teikokushugi to shokuminchi," and Myers
and Peattie, The Japanese Colonial Empire.
5. Regarding dependence in colonial situations, see George Balandier, "The Colonial
Situation: A Theoretical Approach," in Social Change: the Colonial Situation, ed. I.
Wallerstein (New York: John Wiley, 1966), pp. 34-61; Raymond Kennedy, "The Colonial
Crisis and the Future," in The Science of Man in the World Crisis, ed. Ralph Linton (New
York: Columbia University Press, 1945), pp. 306-346; and Albert Memmi, Dependence
(Boston: Beacon, 1984). For references to recent studies primarily of economic dependence,
see Daniel Chirot, Social Change in the Twentieth Century (New York: Harcourt, Brace and
Jovanovich, 1977).
6. Theotonio Dos Santos, "The Structure of Dependence," The American Economic
Review 60, no. 2 (May 1970), pp. 231-237.
7. Samuel P. S. Ho, Economic Development of Taiwan, 1860-1970 (New Haven: Yale
University Press, 1978), p. 313, Table A 11.
8. Ibid., p. 22, Table 2.5.
9. Ibid., p. 29. An annual average of less than one percent of Taiwan's imports came
from Japan between 1885 and 1895, and an average of only ten percent of Taiwan's annual
exports went to Japan in these years.
10. Pak Kyng-sik, Nihon teikokushugi no Chosen shihai (Administration of Korea
under Japanese imperialism) (Tokyo: Aoki Shoten, 1973), vol. 1, pp. 57-60.
11. Grajdanzev, Formosa Today, p. 55.
12. Chng To-yng, "Korea's Foreign Trade under Japanese Rule," Journal of Social
Sciences and Humanities 27 (December 1967), p. 29.

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13. Ho, Economic Development, p. 357, Table A 43. See also Ramon H. Myers and
Adrienne Ching, "Agricultural Development in Taiwan under Japanese Colonial Rule,"
Journal of Asian Studies 23, no. 4 (1964), pp. 555-570.
14. Ho, Economic Development, p. 28.
15. Ibid., p. 35. The figure cited is 637 kilometers.
16. Lee Yong-hee, "The Spiritual Aspect of Korea-Japan Relations: A Historical
Review of Complications Arising from the Consciousness of Peripheral Culture," Social Sci
ence Journal (Seoul) 3 (1975), pp. 20-45; Koh Byung-ik, "The Attitude of Koreans Toward
Japan," in Listening to Korea, ed. Marshall R. Pihl (New York: Praeger, 1965), pp. 43-52;
Hatada Takeshi, "Kindai ni okeru Chsenjin no Nihonkan" (Koreans' view of Japan in the
modern period), Shis 520 (October 1967), pp. 59-73.
17. See Edward I-te Chen, "Japanese Colonialism in Korea and Formosa: A Com
parison of the Systems of Political Control."
18. Ho described the ho-kd or pao-chia system as "a mutual responsibility scheme for
holding both the village and family responsible for the conduct of their members;" Economic
Development, p. 11, fn. 12. See also Ching-chih Chen, "Police and Community Control
Systems in the Empire," in Myers and Peattie, The Japanese Colonial Empire, pp. 213-239.
19. Japanese resid nts represented 4.5 percent of the total population in Taiwan in
1920, but only two perce-it of the population in Korea. See Ho, Economic Development, p.
312, Table A 10; Government-General of Chosen, Chosen in Pictures (Keijo: Government
General, 1921), Table 1.
20. "The Problems of Japanese Administration in Korea," Pacific Affairs, 11, no.
2 (June 1938), pp. 198-206.
21. Kajimura Hideki, "Shokuminchi to Nihonjin: zai Chosen Nihonjin shi no Ket
suraku" (The Japanese in colonial lands: omissions in the history of Japanese residents in
Korea), in Nihon seikalsu bunkashi, vol. 8, ed. Miyagawa Torao (Tokyo: Kawa Shutsu
Shb Shinsha, 1974), pp. 79-92.
22. There were about 318,000 Christians in Korea in 1919, or about 2 percent of the
population. See Arthur Judson Brown, The Mastery of the Far East (New York: Scribner's,
1919). p. 514. See also Spencer J. Palmer, Korea and Christianity: The Problem of Identifica
tion with Tradition (Seoul: Hollym, 1967); George L. Paik, The History of Protestant Missions
in Korea, 1832-1910 (P'yngyang: Union Christian College, 1920).
23. There were some 37,000 Christians among the 3,600,000 Taiwanese in 1924,
about 1 percent of the population. See George H. Kerr, Formosa: Licensed Revolution and
the Home Rule Movement, 1895-1945 (Honolulu, University of Hawaii Press, 1974), p. 134.
24. E. Patricia Tsurumi, Colonial Education in Taiwan, 1895-1945 (Cambridge, Mas
sachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1977), Table C.l, p. 246; see also her comparative
study, "Colonial Education in Korea and Taiwan," in Myers and Peattie, The Japanese
Colonial Empire, pp. 275-311.
25. O Ch'n-sk, Han'guk sinkyoyuksa (A New History of Korean Education)
(Seoul: Hyundae Kyoyukpsa, 1964), p. 253.
26. Harry Jerome Lamley, "The Taiwan Literati and Early Japanese Rule, 1895
1915," Ph. D. dissertation. University of Washington, 1964, pp. 210-282.
27. The term is used by Peter Worsley in The Third World (Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 1964), p. 64. The term suggests a basis of pre-colonial ties of race, language
and religion.
28. Edward I-te Chen, "Formosan Political Movements under Japanese Colonial
Rule, 1914-1937," Journal of Asian Studies 31, no. 3 (May 1972), p. 479. For a review of
Taiwan resistance groups in the 1920s, see E. Patricia Tsurumi, "Mental Captivity and Re
sistance: Lessons from Taiwanese Anti-Colonialism," Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars
12, no. 2 (April-June 1980), pp. 2-13.
29. The text of the student declaration can be found in Sin Sk-ho, "Samil undong
chngae" (The unfolding of the March First Movement), in Samil undong osip nyn
kinymjip, ed. Dong-A Ilbo (Seoul: Dong-A Ilbosa, 1963), pp. 160-162. For a study of the
students' role in the movement, see Kim Sng-sik, "Han'guk haksaeng undong i sasangjk
pagyng" (The ideological background of the Korean student movement), Asea Yn'gu 12,
no. 1 (March 1969), pp. 3-21.

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