Korea's Fight for Freedom eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 277 pages of information about Korea's Fight for Freedom.

          “The good old rule ... the simple plan,
          That he shall take who has the power,
          That he shall KEEP, who can.”



The Japanese administration of Korea from 1910 to 1919, first under Count Terauchi and then under General Hasegawa, revealed the harshest and most relentless form of Imperial administration.  When formal annexation was completed in 1910 all the hindrances which had hitherto stood in the way of the complete execution of Japanese methods were apparently swept on one side.  The Governor-General had absolute power to pass what ordinances he pleased, and even to make those ordinances retroactive.  Extra-territoriality was abolished, and foreign subjects in Korea were placed entirely under the Japanese laws.

Japanese statesmen were ambitious to show the world as admirable an example of efficiency in peace as Japan had already shown in war.  Much thought had been given to the matter for a long time ahead.  The colonial systems of other countries had been carefully studied.  Service in Korea was to be a mark of distinction, reserved for the best and most highly paid.  National pride and national interest were pledged to make good.  Money was spent freely and some of the greatest statesmen and soldiers of Japan were placed at the head of affairs.  Ito, by becoming Resident-General, had set an example for the best of the nation to follow.

Between the annexation in 1910 and the uprising of the people in 1919, much material progress was made.  The old, effete administration was cleared away, sound currency maintained, railways were greatly extended, roads improved, afforestation pushed forward on a great scale, agriculture developed, sanitation improved and fresh industries begun.

And yet this period of the Japanese administration in Korea ranks among the greatest failures of history, a failure greater than that of Russia in Finland or Poland or Austria-Hungary in Bosnia.  America in Cuba and Japan in Korea stand out as the best and the worst examples in governing new subject peoples that the twentieth century has to show.  The Japanese entered on their great task in a wrong spirit, they were hampered by fundamentally mistaken ideas, and they proved that they are not yet big enough for the job.

They began with a spirit of contempt for the Korean.  Good administration is impossible without sympathy on the part of the administrators; with a blind and foolish contempt, sympathy is impossible.  They started out to assimilate the Koreans, to destroy their national ideals, to root out their ancient ways, to make them over again as Japanese, but Japanese of an inferior brand, subject to disabilities from which their overlords were free.  Assimilation with equality is difficult, save in the case of small, weak peoples, lacking tradition and national ideals.  But assimilation with inferiority, attempted on a nation with a historic existence going back four thousand years is an absolutely impossible task.  Or, to be more exact, it would only be possible by assimilating a few, the weaklings of the nation, and destroying the strong majority by persecution, direct killing and a steady course of active corruption, with drugs and vice.

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Korea's Fight for Freedom from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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