Thursday, March 1, 2012

Japanese Occupation of Korea

Korea has had a long and violent history of foreign occupation. Although there have been many offenders, none is worse than the nation of Japan. Colonial rule of Korea began in 1910 and extended until 1945 upon the surrender of the Japanese Imperial Army. Over these thirty-five years the people of Korea lived under an iron fist as the Japanese strove to strip Korean citizens of their independence and cultural identity. Although the Japanese were cruel and stern in their occupation they, at the time, argued that they were improving Korea and the change was good for the Korean people. This idea of improving peoples lives and the world through mass murder and suppression is a common theme among genocides throughout history.

During the thirty-five year occupation of Korea, Japan strove to destroy any aspect of Korean culture. During the first ten years of Japanese occupation the Japanese military was the main force behind the campaign as they pushed Korean culture and ways of life out of the minds of the citizens. In a history of Korea during the 20th century the author writes, "People were forced to adopt Japanese names, convert to the Shinto (native Japanese) religion, and were forbidden to use Korean language in schools and business." These actions taken against the Korean people are a direct attack and are a clear attempt to dehumanize an entire ethnicity. Even more disturbing is the fact that these two countries are neighbors to one another and share many of the same ethnic roots.

Although the Japanese were cruel  and ruthless they truly believed that their occupation of Korea was just. So, as Hitler crusaded to create a better world in Europe the Japanese strove to do the same to the West. Japan claimed that by occupying Korea they were actually helping the Korean people, ushering them into the modern world. In an online article about development of Asia the author touches on said topic. They write, "many recognizably modern aspects of Korean society emerged or grew considerably during the 35-year period of colonial rule. These included rapid urban growth, the expansion of commerce, and forms of mass culture such as radio and cinema, which became widespread for the first time. Industrial development also took place..." This justification resembles very much what Hitler told the German people to justify the killing of millions of Jews. I believe, however, that this is not true. Japanese occupation of Korea took place while Japan was wrapped up in imperialism and expansion. This is the reason for occupation, not to build up Korea. japan has never been in the business of nation building so why all of a sudden start.

There have been many horrific cases of genocide throughout the course of history. Japanese occupation of Korea, I believe, falls into the category as being one of the worst. This is true because of it's length and the content of which the Korean people were stripped of. Although it may not be the same as taking a life, (not to say the Japanese didn't do that as well) being stripped of your identity and being forced to follow foreign customs is still a daunting blunder to try and deal with.

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