23 Photographs of the Japanese Occupation of Korea and the Liberation

The History Files

The Japanese occupation of Korea began in 1910 and ended at the end of World War II in 1945. The Empire of Korea was stripped of its diplomatic sovereignty and declared a protectorate of Japan with the signing of the Japan-Korea Treaty of 1905. This came after the Russo-Japanese War in which Russia was forced to concede that Japan had “paramount political, military, and economic interest” in Korea. On August 22, 1910, Japan officially annexed Korea.

Through this time, Japanese settlers had been migrating to Korea to combat overcrowding in Japan. By 1910 there were over 170,000 Japanese people living in Korea. The Japanese created a feudal state where they owned the land and the Koreans worked the fields. The Korean tenants were forced to pay over half their crop as rent which caused many farmers to send their wives and daughters to work in factories or to become prostitutes.

The March 1 Movement was a large anti-Japanese rally in 1919. A declaration of independence was read in Seoul. Over 2 million people attended these rallies which were violently suppressed by the Japanese.  The protests continued for about a year. It is estimated that 50,000 Koreans were arrested 7,500 were killed.

In 1939 Japan was plagued with labor shortages as a result of conscription for WWII military efforts. Koreans were recruited, first voluntarily and later by force, to move to Japan and work in the factories. In 1942, the National Mobilization Law extended to the conscription of Korean workers for factories and mines in Korea. Out of the 670,000 Koreans who went to work in Japan, 60,000 died from the horrendous work conditions. The total death toll from forced labor in Korea is estimated between 270,000 and 810,000 people.

After the United States dropped the atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and with the Russians poised to overrun Korea, Japan surrendered to the Allied forces on August 15, 1945. General John Hodge arrived in Korea on September 8, 1945 and the Americans and Soviets came to an agreement that Korea was to be divided along the 38 parallel.

One of the oldest photos of Korea shows a Joseon era military general sitting atop a strange, one-wheel sedan chair, 1863. pilgrimwithapassport
Japanese soldiers arriving in Seoul, Korea, during the Russo-Japanese War. Date: circa 1904-1905. yooniqimages
Japanese officers on horseback in a narrow street in Seoul. 1904. Willard Dickerman Straight and Early U.S.-Korea Diplomatic Relations, Cornell University Library. Pinterest
1) These fierce guerrilla troops are among a number of Koreans who rebelled against Japanese rule in the early 20th century. This photo was taken in 1907, three years prior to the Japanese annexation that essentially made Korea a vassal of the powerful island. warfarehistorynetwork
Japan Annexes Korea • 22 August 1910. Pinterest
Prince Ito Hirobumi, the First Resident-General of Korea and the first Prime Minister of Japan (center), wearing the traditional Korean attire Hanbok, and his wife (front row, second left). Hoping for Korea’s independence, Prince Ito respected Korean culture and tried to blend in with the Korean society. He was assassinated by a Korean nationalist. japanrevisited
Korean “Comfort Women” under the Japanese Empire. While Japan claimed these women volunteered their services to the Empire, many of the former prostitutes later testified that they were coerced, deceived, or kidnapped from their homes, and forced into the industry. Once recruited, the women were posted in “comfort stations” throughout the Japanese occupied territories, where they were frequently raped and beaten by Japanese soldiers. Around three quarters of comfort women died, and many survivors were left infertile due to sexual trauma or disease. Though the Japanese government has since made several formal apologies and provided compensation to victims, it’s understandable why many Koreans find it hard to forgive the country. pilgrimwithapassport
The first western hotel in Korea, The Chosun Hotel, built in 1914. President Herbert Hoover stayed her when he visited Korea in 1915. koreanhistory
A Japanese officer is seen taunting a senior Korean. imgur
Seoul during Japanese Occupation, OoCities
The March 1st Demonstrations, taking place in 1919, were one of the earliest displays of public resistance against Japanese occupation. Tens of thousands of Koreans were killed or injured during the protests, and many surviving activists were faced with the abysmal conditions of Seodaemun Prison. pilgrimwithapassport
Korean comfort women who survived and were protected in Lameng Yunnan September 3 , 1945. Seoul Times
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