The Japanese Colonial Legacy in Korea, 1910–1945
A New Perspective
George Akita and Brandon Palmer
2015, 232 pages • index
ISBN 978-1-937385-70-5 Paper $38.00
ISBN 978-1-937385-71-2 Cloth $75.00
"Some readers may find this essay on the historiography of Japanese colonialism in Korea enlightening, and some may find it annoying, but they will surely come away with a deeper understanding of the debate on this contentious subject."
– Peter Duus, William H. Bonsall
Professor of Japanese History, Emeritus at Stanford University;
Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution
The Japanese Colonial Legacy in Korea reexamines Japan’s policies in Korea from 1910 to 1945. The authors contend that Japan’s policies were moderate considering the magnitude of the colonial endeavor and were proportional when compared to the imperialist practices of Western nations. Drawing on recent scholarship, this study effectively contributes to the growing field of historical revisionism in Korean colonial history. Historical remembrance in South Korea unabashedly portrays the colonial era in a wholly negative light; The Japanese colonial regime is presented as an authoritarian regime that exploited the innocent Korean people. In some cases, academic circles in Asia and America have adopted positions that mirror the Korean historical paradigm.
Dr. Akita and Dr. Palmer challenge the pro-Korean nationalist narrative by using a plethora of archival documents written by the highest echelons of Japan’s leadership. These documents, written by men such as Yamagata Aritomo and Hara Kei, reveal the origins and reasonableness of Japanese colonial policies, especially when shown in light of Japan’s strong legalist tradition. A more nuanced view of Japan’s rule in Korea is achieved by juxtaposing it to the Europeans’ record in Asia and Africa. Furthermore, this work highlights various ways that Japan’s colonial interlude contributed to South Korea’s postwar industrialization.
George Akita is Professor Emeritus, University of Hawaii
Brandon Palmer is Associate Professor, Coastal Carolina University