Japan annexed Korea in 1910. This was based on the Japan-Korea Annexation Treaty and followed the Eulsa Treaty signed in 1905. Korean people tried to resist Japanese control. The suppression of the Korean people prior to and after the annexation was quick and involved extreme violence. In 1919 there was an uprising staged and it resulted in over 6,500 Korean people being killed.

Eulsa Treaty

Japan was victorious in the Russo-Japanese War. The victory in 1905 surprised many governments around the world. It was the first armed conflict in the modern era where an Asian military was able to defeat a European military. It ended with the signing of the Taft-Katsura Agreement. In the agreement, the United States agreed to not interfere with matters involving Japan and Korea. This made it possible for Japan to increase its sphere of influence in Asia. During 1905 Japan and Korea signed the Eulsa Treaty. At the time of its signing, the Korean Imperial palace was under the control of Japanese troops. Japanese Army units were also located in essential locations around Korea. In 1910, Korea was officially annexed into Japan based on the Japan-Korea Annexation Treaty.

Eliminating Korean Culture

Under Japanese control, the Korean language was not permitted to be spoken in schools and universities. Manual labor and loyalty to the Japanese Emperor were emphasized. There was an edict that films made in Korea would be in Japanese. It became a crime for non-approved books to be used for teaching history. Japanese authorities burned hundreds of thousands of Korean historical documents and more.

Korean Labor

The labor force in Japan in 1939 was unable to keep up with the demands of Japan’s war in China. It needed more manpower. Koreans were initially recruited to work at Japan’s mainland. In time, Koreans were forced to go to Japan and work as laborers. Japan passed a mobilization law in 1942 enabling it to take Korean workers to Japan. At the end of World War II over 5,000,000 Koreans were laborers working for Japan’s war effort.


Some individuals from Korea were able to hold a Japanese public office at the local as well as national levels. In 1945, Korea was given permission to fill 18 seats in Japan’s parliament. Over 75 of Japan’s peerage titles were awarded to aristocratic Koreans. Several princesses from Japan were married to princes in the Korean royal family.

World War II

Japan needed more soldiers. In 1938, Koreans were able to serve in Japanese Army units. Koreans initially did anti-insurgency work in Manchukuo. During the height of the war in the Pacific, Koreans were in all areas of the Japanese military. Many of them fought bravely for Japan. Korean males not working in war-related industries were required to enlist in the Japanese army starting in 1944. By the end of 1945, there were more than 240,000 Koreans serving in Japan’s military. Over 22,000 were killed during World War II. Korea had seven generals in the Japanese Army and many field grade officers. During World War II, many Korean women were taken from Korea and used as comfort women. They were forced to work in Japan’s military brothels.

Japanese Rule Ends

World War II devastated the Korean Peninsula. In 1945, the Russian military entered Korean territory taking control of the northern portion. After Japan surrendered in 1945, the American military went into southern Korea to limit Russian influence. This ended Japan’s rule over the Korean Peninsula. It resulted in the peninsula being divided into two separate occupation zones. The separation was intended to be temporary. A unified nation was not given to the Korean people. It eventually resulted in the Korean War. The Chinese and Soviet-backed North Korea, and the United States and United Nations-backed South Korea.

After the conclusion of World War II, many Korean guards and officers who had worked at prison camps were convicted of war crimes and over 22 were put to death. The 1950’s Korean war destroyed over 80 percent of Korea’s infrastructure. Postwar efforts in the 1960s and 1970s are considered to have led to South Korea’s current financial success.


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