Reading (Out of Print?) – “The New Korea” by Alleyne Ireland

I’ve been reading a lot of historical witness accounts of Korea. While searching, it seems many recommend reading “The New Korea” by Alleyne Ireland.

Professor Alleyne Ireland of University of Chicago was the leading expert on colonial administration in Asia. He gained deep knowledge of Japan’s annexation of Korea from his visit there in 1922. [*]

But, I could not find the book online. It’s out of print. Pity… There are an “unofficial” version is here and a Japanese translation at though.


About twenty years ago I published three volumes dealing with colonial administration in the Far East. They related to British rule in Burma, the Federated Malay States, the Straits Settlements, Sarawak, British North Borneo, and Hong Kong, American rule in the Philippines, Dutch rule in Java, and French rule in Indo-China.

It had been my intention to include an account of Japanese rule in Formosa; but by the time I had turned back east after two years of westerly travel the Russo-Japanese war was in progress, and a visit to Formosa was out of the question. When, in 1922, the opportunity presented itself to spend the greater part of the year in the Far East, I decided that a volume describing Japanese administration in Korea would make a more interesting contribution to the study of Government than a similar work about Formosa.

Formosa is merely one example among many of a civilized race ruling a people in a very low stage of development. Korea, on the other hand, presents the rare spectacle of one civilized race ruling another civilized race. It is true that at the time Japan annexed Korea, in 1910, the actual conditions of life in the Peninsula were extremely bad. This was not due, however, to any lack of inherent intelligence and ability in the Korean race, but to the stupidity and corruption which for five hundred years had, almost continuously, characterized the government of the Korean dynasty, and to the existence during that period of a royal court which maintained throughout Korea a system of licensed cruelty and corruption.

Such was the misrule under which the Koreans had suffered for generation after generation that all incentive to industry, thrift, and social progress had been destroyed, because none of the common people had been allowed to enjoy the fruits of their own efforts.

The title of the present volume gives the key to its contents. What I have attempted is to present in some detail the aims, the methods, and the results of Japanese administration in Korea. Of the right of the Koreans to govern themselves, of the right of the Japanese to govern them I have said but little, for the subject has been discussed exhaustively by other writers, both from the point of view of the Korean nationalists and from that of the Japanese imperialists, and is in any case of such a nature that a judgment one way or the other can reflect nothing but the individual temperament of the judge.

There is already in existence a voluminous literature relating to Korea, much of it of great interest and importance. Most of it, however, falls under one of two heads ─ writing descriptive of the country and of the people, or polemical writing in which Japanese administration in Korea is attacked or eulogized on the basis of material specially selected to serve one purpose or the other.

To the English-reading public there is available at present only one source of statistically-based information covering every phase of Japanese rule in Korea ─ the Annual Report on Reforms and Progress in Chosen , compiled and published by the Government-General. Although these reports contain a great deal of valuable comment and a considerable body of statistical data, a careful perusal of the volumes covering the past ten years convinced me that a work such as I had in mind could not be written from that material alone. It was clear that a good deal of the matter appearing in the reports had been condensed from departmental reports in which various subjects had been treated in full detail. Both as to data and to comment a large proportion of the contents of the present volume is taken from translations of official material which has not hitherto been accessible in English.

Where I have expressed my own opinion of Japanese administration in Korea, it has been derived from the consideration of what I saw in the country, what I have read about it in official and in unofficial publications, and from discussions with persons ─ Japanese, Korean, and foreign ─ who were living in the Peninsula at the time of my visit.



Chapter I


Korea is destined to occupy a position of constantly increasing importance with reference to the general problem of the Far East. Her geographical situation predetermines for her a future indissolubly linked with that of China, of Asiatic Russia, and of Japan, with two of which she has land frontiers, and from the third is separated only by a narrow strait. It is impossible to foresee any political, social, or economic developments in northeastern Asia in which Korea will not fill a role as significant as that of Turkey in respect of the Near East, of Egypt in respect of the British Empire, or of the Panama Canal Zone in respect of the United States.

The annexation of Korea by Japan in 1910 made waste paper out of bales of laboriously compiled reports and of ingenious predictions about Far Eastern affairs. It reflected, in brief, the determination of Japan to forestall any attempt which might be contemplated by China to reassert, and to make active, its former suzerainty over Korea, or on the part of Russia to secure in the Korean Peninsula a position of such dominance as would create the temptation, and furnish the instrument, to take the control of the country out of the hands of its weak, incompetent, and corrupt rulers.

Looking forward from 1910, one thing was clear where many things were obscure, namely that Japan, having decided to make Korea part of her Empire, would deem the permanence of her occupation to be a major element of her national policy, to be held intact, at whatever cost, against internal revolt or foreign intrigue.

In the field of international policy the Japanese annexation of Korea is perfectly suited to serve as a demarcating issue between two schools of political conviction–the imperialist and the nationalist–and according to whether the reader belongs to one or to the other of these schools, so will he convince himself that Japan has the “right” to rule Korea, or that the Koreans have a “right” to independent nationhood.

The common employment of the word “right” in this connection has done much to befog the actual matter in controversy between the imperialists and the nationalists, since the “rightness” of either doctrine when applied to a particular case can only be measured with reference to the particular circumstances.

The most extreme imperialist would balk at the suggestion that the United States should, on account of its great power and of its advanced social development, annex every backward and undeveloped country south of the Rio Grande. The most extreme nationalist would ridicule the idea that the “right” of the Australian aborigines to self-determination justified an effort to emancipate the island-continent from white rule. The pinnacle of absurdity would be reached if anyone should start a movement to restore the control of the North American Continent to the Indian tribes. Grotesque as these instances appear when viewed from the practical standpoint, they suffice to expose the fallacy of basing either an imperialist or a nationalist policy upon a principle of abstract right.

It is my purpose to examine Japanese rule in Korea as a concrete example of colonial administration, without reference to the legal or moral sanctions upon which it rests. The reasons for thus limiting the inquiry will be obvious to all serious students. I state them here in the hope that they will be accepted as valid by the general reader.

The annexation of weak countries by strong countries is a phenomenon which has persisted since the beginning of recorded time; practically every strong nation has practiced the habit.

The arguments for and against such a procedure have been stated and re-stated thousands of times in every country, and have been expressed in almost every language. They are familiar to, or accessible to, every person who will read this volume. I have nothing to add to them. A discussion of the moral, ethical, legal, political, social, and economic problems raised by an act of annexation, as such, is irrelevant to a presentation of the facts descriptive of a working system of colonial government, since the character of an administration is what it is, and can be fairly judged only on the basis of the data of its operation.

To combine a description of a colonial government with an essay on the moral quality of the imperialist principle would be to invite confusion of thought. Thus, in any given case, if the administration of an imperial government is found to be bad in fact, this badness will be used by nationalists as an argument against imperialism, whereas if bad administration is found in a popular government, nationalists will not tolerate any use of this badness as an argument against popular rule.

Conversely, with reference to good administration; if nationalists find that it exists in fact under a system of popular self-government, they will welcome the finding as a justification of that system; but if good administration is found in an imperial dependency, nationalists will not allow the finding to stand to the credit of the imperialist system; they will then shift the issue from the quality of the administration to the quality of the sanctions from which the government derives its authority.

In a word, to the nationalists good government is good government if it is self-government, and even bad government is good government if it is self-government–in the first case because both good government and self-government are good; in the second case because, under self-government, bad government will certainly lead to a demand for, and to the instituting of, good government. Thus, so runs the argument, bad selfgovernment is merely a passing phase in the evolution of good self-government.

This attitude of the nationalists is perfectly logical so far as it affects their desire for nationhood, since it enables them to use bad colonial administration as an argument in support of an independence agitation, and at the same time undercuts the position of those imperialists who seek to justify colonial rule by appealing to the visible evidences of what good colonial administration can do for the safety, health, cultural advancement, and prosperity of a colonial domain.

It is clear, then, that with reference to an accepted group of facts, a totally different evaluation will be made by a nationalist and by an imperialist. Japanese rule in Korea, and the opposition to it on the part of the Korean nationalists, furnish an excellent illustration of the point. The Japanese refer with pride to their road-building, to their great extension of educational facilities, to their effective protection of life and property throughout a country but recently overrun by bandits, to their rapid development of agriculture, trade and industry, to their technical training schools, to their scientific experiment stations which serve the farmer, the fisherman, the stock-breeder, and the manufacturer, to the enormous increase during the past fifteen years in every branch of production, with its connotation of increased employment for Koreans, to the constantly mounting number of Koreans appointed to the Government service.

The foregoing facts cannot be gainsaid, as will be proved by the data contained in subsequent chapters. But the Korean nationalists attribute to them a sinister significance. The roads, they say, are built solely for the purpose of facilitating the movement of Japanese troops; the educational system is nothing more than an ingenious scheme for destroying Korean nationality; the protection of life and property is merely an excuse for maintaining a large Japanese police orce; the economic development of the country is simply a device for swelling the profits of Japanese capitalists; the technical schools and the scientific bureaus have no other aim than to make Japanese rule profitable to the Japanese; the employment of Koreans in the Government service is an insidious form of bribery calculated to secure support for the Japanese occupation of the country.

The situation thus created is familiar to all students of colonial government. If the local administration builds roads, erects schools, and so on, it is wrong, because the motive is base; if it fails to do these things it is wrong, because it is the obvious duty of an imperial ruler to confer such benefits upon a dependency. So also in relation to developing the resources of a dependency; if the sovereign power invests money in the colony, it is wrong because all it amounts to is capitalist exploitation; if it does not invest money in the colony, it is wrong because the failure to do so reflects a determination to keep the people poor and weak in the interest of an easy domination; if it employs natives in the government service it is wrong because such a policy tends to weaken nationalist sentiment; if it fails to do so it is wrong because such a course discloses the purpose of making the colony the happy hunting ground of imperial officials.

To all colonial governors this is an old story.

All sincere and humane colonial governors–and none is more worthy of such a description than is Viscount Saito, Governor-General of Korea since 1919–are compelled to close their ears to the mutually destructive criticisms to which I have alluded, and must content themselves with carrying out from day to day measures designed to improve the general conditions of their dependencies.

The bulk of the present volume is devoted to a description of the administrative system of the Japanese in Korea, and to a statistical account of its results. The author feels it incumbent upon him to furnish his readers with a brief statement of the point of view from which he has approached his task.

During the past forty years he has lived about half the time in self-governing countries–England, the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan, France, Germany, and Denmark–and the other half in colonial dependencies–India, the British West Indies, the French West Indies, British and Dutch Malaya, French IndoChina, British Borneo, the Philippine Islands, and in a few scattered dependencies of various powers.

This experience has left him without any trace of prejudice in respect of forms of government, for he has seen government wisely and honestly administered under every form, and stupidly and dishonestly administered under every form; he has seen freedom cherished under a monarchy and destroyed under a republic, and vice versa; he has seen justice dispensed with an even hand under popular rule and under autocratic rule; he has seen judicial decisions bought and sold in self-governing countries and in the dependencies of imperial powers. In each class of territory he has seen, living side by side, persons content with their government (whilst favoring reforms in this or in that particular) and persons who are so discontented with the same government that nothing short of its complete destruction appears to offer an adequate guaranty of desired reforms.

When the strongly dissatisfied group exists in a sovereign state, its members become socialists of one kind or another, or communists, or syndicalists, or fascists, or anarchists, according to their individual temperaments; when the group exists in a dependency, its members create a party aiming at the achievement of independence from the sovereign state.

It is one of the most curious matters forced upon the attention of a student of comparative government that the chief object of the nationalist party in a dependency should be to obtain the status of an independent sovereign nation, since the obvious fact is that in most of the countries which already exist as sovereign states there are to be observed all the evil conditions for which a colonial independence party deems independent sovereignty to be the unfailing panacea.

If the opponents of imperially imposed rule could point to the self-ruled countries and say: “In these countries there are justice, toleration, honest and efficient administration, social equality, adequate protection of life and property, equal economic opportunity, and freedom from the exploitation of the weak by the strong, and of the poor by the rich,” the argument against imperialism would rest upon solid foundations. But the anti-imperialists cannot say with truth that the kind of dispensation described above exists in any marked degree in the general category of self-ruled states; nor can they say with truth that, in whatever degree it does exist anywhere, this degree is higher in self-ruled countries than it is in imperial dependencies.

No informed person would be prepared to maintain that Spain, Mexico, the Central American Republics, Russia, Rumania, and Bulgaria –all of them self-governing, independent states –enjoy a superior general social condition, or are better administered, than Burma, Java, British Guiana, the Federated Malay States, Korea, and the Philippine Islands–all of them ruled as dependencies.

Self-rule and dependent rule each have inherent in them the possibility of misrule. In selfruled countries the danger lies in the dishonesty and incompetence of which partisan politics and political machinery are the supple instruments and the staunch defenders. As between the good of the country and the good of the party, the latter is usually–by the liberal use of patronage, and by the unrestrained employment of sophistical oratory–accorded in practice the leading position.

In dependencies the threat to good government comes from another source–the stupidity, the incompetence, or the arrogance of colonial officials. In the matter of corruption I am convinced beyond all doubt that, allowing for an occasional exception, the government of selfruled countries is much more corrupt than that of colonial dependencies, and that, in the latter, malversation in public office is of very rare occurrence. In the twenty-five years during which I have kept in touch with the dependencies controlled by the India Office and by the Colonial Office in London I have not heard of a dozen cases of graft on the part of non-native government officials above the rank of mere clerks.

There exists, of course, in each type of government an obligation to govern well. This responsibility is rooted in morals, and where moral considerations do not operate with sufficient force to compel the ruling authority to govern well, the promptings of expediency will usually suffice to dip the scale on the side of reasonably humane and efficient administration.

It seems to me that these two factors, morality and expediency, act with greater effectiveness in colonial dependencies than in self-governing countries, and this chiefly for two reasons. In self-governing countries the moral responsibilty is split up among thousands, or millions of voters; in dependencies it is centered in a single person, the Governor-General, the Governor, the Chief Commissioner, or whatever the title may be. In the former case every voter can shift the blame for bad government on to some one else’s shoulders; each political party can shift it on to the shoulders of the other party, one branch of a legislature can make a gift of it to the other; both branches can leave it on the doorstep of the Chief Executive; the Chief Executive can hand it back to the voters with the comment that he is but the servant of the people, that they had demanded certain legislation, certain administrative measures, and that he had carried out their wishes; finally, the Chief Executive and the Legislature can combine to lay the blame upon incompetent or corrupt officials, who will presently be disciplined, reformed, dismissed, or denied re-election, as the case may be.

In a dependency the situation is totally different. A Colonial Governor, vis-à-vis his colony and his Colonial Office in the home country, occupies a position analogous to that of a ship’s captain vis-à-vis his ship and his owners. He is directly responsible for the conduct of affairs; he takes the credit for success, he must accept the penalties of failure; he can never plead an alibi.

Furthermore, the Colonial Governor looks for his advancement to the distant authority of a Secretary of State at the national capital. Promotion and other rewards will depend upon the way in which he administers his charge. He is little likely to earn them if, from preventable causes, his territory fails to advance in its health, prosperity, and general social condition; he is almost certain to miss them if, in consequence of harsh and incompetent administration, the people rise in revolt against his rule, or sink into the apathy and sloth which are the assured products of prolonged misgovernment. Briefly, the success of his rule will be the measure of his personal success.

Since he is directly responsible for the conduct of his subordinates, and for the appointment of most of them, and has in addition the power of promotion and dismissal, his officials have every incentive to earn their own advancement by rendering such service as will redound to the credit of the Governor.

I do not intend to imply that a home government may not, even in modern times, be actuated by the base motive of ruthlessly exploiting a colonial dependency–the earlier history of the Belgian Congo is a case in point–or that in such circumstances the administration may not be as bad as the motive. But such a situation is, year by year, falling in the scale of statistical expectation because, international relations being what they now are, the influence of publicity being what it now is, and party tactics in home countries demanding, as they now do, a diligent assemblage of material on which to base attacks on the party in power, the ventilation of grave abuses in colonial administration presents a very serious political problem to the home government which is responsible for them or which tolerates them.

The other important factor, which has to be taken into account when estimating the probability of government being competently administered in a dependency, is one to which recent political events in Europe have imparted a striking significance. It is that as social and economic conditions increase in complexity under the combined influences traceable to industrial development, to the growing size of commercial and banking enterprises, and to the gradual substitution of the community for the individual as the unit of social progress, the problems of government are, day by day, becoming less amenable to political solutions–to legislative debate, long ballots, and the popular election of public officials –and more clamorous of solutions dependent upon highly expert technical knowledge.

The assumption that politics would be the competent and all-sufficient handmaid of social service was given authoritative currency through the propaganda associated with the American War of Independence, the French Revolution, and the fight for Parliamentary Reform in England. These movements were spread over a period of about a century and a quarter, roughly from 1760 to 1890, a period during which public sentiment was strongly averse to the idea of government regulation, and was totally blind to the possibility that Government might become, as it has since become, not only the trustee of social progress but also its most powerful instrument. What these revolutionary and reform movements were chiefly concerned with was, in fact, settling what Government should not do to people, not with what Government should do for people.

It is safe, indeed, to infer that the liberalminded statesmen of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries would be horrified if they could witness the extent to which Government today intrudes upon everything, and regulates almost everything which happens to a citizen, or is done by him whilst he is moving from his cradle to his grave.

Whether or not Government should undertake its vast business of regulation and of social service is a question upon which opinions may well differ; but the obstinate adhesion to the belief that politics, whose life-blood is a mixture of contention, intrigue, and self-interest, can and will furnish the spirit, the knowledge, and the technique essential to the effective handling of social and economic problems is what has brought parliamentary government into disrepute in almost every country in which it is practiced.

The establishment of Fascism in Italy, the support which that principle is receiving in other countries, the adoption of the City-manager plan in the United States, the setting up, by the mutual consent of opposing interests, of “Czars” to administer the affairs of certain great American industries (baseball and the movies, for instance), and the recent dictatorship in Spain, are all in their essence revolts against the opento-all system of guidance and control.

If my observation has led me to believe that in countries where authority is vested in a small group of trained public officials there will, as a rule, be found a better administration of government than in countries where administration is subject to the influence of an uninformed and, ad hoc, unintelligent public, I do not from that belief infer that, because a country is ruled under a system of concentrated authority and of fixed responsibility, it is, therefore well governed.

So, with reference to Korea, there can be found in its history under Japanese rule instances of the abuse of power, of official incompetence, to some extent of corruption; but whether or not Korea has on the whole been well governed can be determined only from a study of the available data. From such a study, which has occupied me for more than three years, and of which the results are presented in this volume, I have formed the opinion that Korea is today infinitely better governed than it ever was under its own native rulers, that it is better governed than most self-governing countries, that it is as well governed as any of the British, American, French, Dutch, and Portuguese dependencies which I have visited, and is better governed than most of them, having in view as well the cultural and economic development of the people as the technique of administration. (*)


In 1894 Japan declared war on China, largely for the purpose of settling once for all the international status of Korea, about which there had existed for centuries a dispute which constantly threatened the peace of the Far East. During more than two thousand years Korea had been alternately independent, and under the suzerainty of China, or of Japan. She had been repeatedly invaded from the north–by China, under both the Chinese and Manchu dynasties, by Mongols, and by nomadic tribes–and in 1592 the Regent of Japan, Hideyoshi, attacked Korea with an army of 300,000 men, as part of a project for the conquest of China. These various invasions and raids, together with the prevalence of piracy in Korean waters led the Korean authorities to adopt and to enforce with the utmost rigor a policy of absolute national seclusion, a policy which was followed for several centuries and was enforced with great rigor. It was from this circumstance that Korea became known throughout the world as the Hermit Kingdom. History has proved that this attitude of no-intercourse cannot be indefinitely maintained. In the case of Korea the matter was complicated by the question of the Chinese suzerainty. Was Korea a vassal state of China, or was she not? The answer made by Korea and China was at one time yes, at another time no. Thus, whenever it suited the purpose of the Koreans to claim the protection of China, the plea was made that the suzerain must defend the vassal; when, however, China sought to make its suzerainty effective for some purpose of her own, the Korean argument was that the suzerainty was a mere figment, the annual tribute being paid solely on sentimental grounds in perpetuation of an ancient custom which had completely lost its practical significance.

Conversely, when Peking saw some advantage to be gained by insisting on the living force of the suzerainty the point was made very clear to the Koreans; but when, as occurred from time to time–as, for example, when French and American punitive expeditions attacked Korea in 1866 and 1871, respectively–foreign nations sought redress from Korea for wrongs done to their citizens, China disclaimed any kind of bond with Korea which made her responsible for the latter’s acts.

No country had more reason to be irritated by the posture of Korean affairs than had Japan. In 1875 a Japanese war-ship was fired on by a Korean shore-battery without the slightest provocation. The Japanese at once captured the fort, and seized all the arms and ammunition in it. Tokyo decided that the occasion was favorable for bringing to an end the equivocal relationship between Korea and China. General Kiyotaka Kuroda was sent to Korea as Envoy Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, charged with the task of concluding a treaty between Japan and Korea. This compact, known as the Treaty of Kwangha, was signed in 1876. It provided for the mutual opening of ports, for mutual permission to trade, and for the formal recognition by Japan of the independence of Korea. It is from this date that an account of Japanese-Korean relations, in modern times, may take its departure.

In 1880 a Japanese Legation was established at Seoul, and it was hoped by sober-minded Japanese statesmen that with direct representation at the Korean capital the relations between the two countries would assume a more friendly tone. These hopes were not destined to be fulfilled. There existed at the time a long-standing rivalry between a party headed by the King of Korea’s uncle, the Tai Wen Kun, and the rich and powerful family of the Mins, of which the Queen of Korea was a member. In this domestic quarrel China intervened on the side of the Mins, sending troops into the Peninsula for the purpose of suppressing a revolt started by the Tai Wen Kun. For years Korea was the scene of coups d’état and of insurrections, in the course of which the Japanese Legation was twice attacked –once in 1882 by a Korean mob aided by Korean soldiers, and once in 1884 by Korean and Chinese troops acting in co-operation. On each occasion the Japanese Minister, with his wife and children, had to seek safety in flight.



The conception undoubtedly entertained in Tokyo at the conclusion of the war with China was that, with the question of the Chinese suzerainty definitely and finally disposed of, Korea, reformed and strengthened by Japanese aid and advice, would serve as an effective buffer state as against China or Asiatic Russia, should either of them attempt to use the Peninsula as a base for operations against Japan. It is very doubtful whether the real independence of Korea could have been preserved even under the most favorable circumstances; and as time passed the circumstances became, from the Japanese point of view, as unfavorable as could be imagined.

A Japanese statesman called upon to defend the Korean policy of his country in the years following the Chino-Japanese War would present his case somewhat as follows.

In going to war with China, Japan had thrown her own fate into the scales. If she should suffer defeat–and when you fight a people which outnumbers your own by ten to one, and whose territory and natural resources present an equal disproportion, defeat is certainly a very serious possibility–she was prepared to suffer the consequences. That among these would have been loss of territory and the payment of an indemnity cannot be doubted.

If Japan secured a complete victory–as, in the event, she did–she expected to gather such fruits as she could compel her adversary to deliver as the price of a treaty of peace. Among these fruits was the cession to Japan of the Chinese Peninsula of Liao-tung. Before the treaty was signed, however, France, Germany, and Russia intervened, and forbade the cession to Japan of any territory on the Chinese mainland. It was impossible for Japan to offer any resistance to an ultimatum with such formidable backing: her victorious troops were withdrawn; the Liao-tung Peninsula was restored to China.

Within three years of the date on which the principle of an inviolate Chinese mainland had been used as the pretext for forcing Japan out of Liao-tung, the three defenders of China against Japanese “aggression” were all in comfortable occupation of various parts of the “inviolate” Chinese mainland–Germany in Kiaochow, on a 99 years’ lease; France in Kwangchouwan, on a 99 years’ lease; and, as a crowning triumph of international cynicism, Russia, on a 25 years’ lease of the very Liaotung Peninsula from which she had been chiefly instrumental in ejecting Japan.

Although Great Britain had refused to take any part in the coercion of Japan, her conception of her own national interest led her to adopt the policy of occupying Chinese territory on lease. In the south she secured a 99 years’ lease of 370 square miles on the mainland opposite Hong Kong, as an offset to the French lease of Kwangchouwan; in the north she leased the territory of Wei-hai-wei, 285 square miles, for so long a time as Russia should remain in possession of Port Arthur.

In what sense was Japan to interpret these manœuvres? Was it possible for her to see in them anything but a determination on the part of the great European powers to prescribe for and to enforce upon Japan a rule of conduct totally different from that by which they themselves would be bound; and which, if Japan should subscribe to it, would deprive her not only of every advantage attached to her geographical situation off the coast of Asia, but also of every further advantage which she might legitimately (according to the international code of ethics hitherto in force) expect to derive from her rapid development, from her strong and unifying sentiment of nationality, from her tireless industry, and from her heroic military qualities?

Was Japan, in brief, to accept the restrictions of a self-denying ordinance at the very moment when England had reached the climax of her territorial acquisitions in every quarter of the globe, when Russia and Germany were fortifying themselves on Chinese soil almost within sight of the Japanese coast, when France was reforming her administration, strengthening her garrison, and extending her control in Indo-China, when the United States had recently taken possession of the Philippine Islands?

To have yielded to such a preposterous demand would have constituted a betrayal of the Japanese nation in which no reputable statesman could conceivably have become an accomplice, since so to yield would have earned for the persons responsible the just execration of their own nationals and the just contempt of all men who esteem patriotism to be a virtue.

Thus, a hypothetical Japanese statesman. For my own part I am convinced that whatever chance there had ever been of Korea attaining independent nationhood, was destroyed when Germany, France, and Russia deprived Japan of the fruits of her victory over China, took those very fruits for themselves, and thus taught Japan the bitter lesson that if she wished to obtain a valid guaranty for her future security, to present to the world a valid sanction for her foreign policy, she must develop her own military strength.

This Japan proceeded to do. Prior to the Chino-Japanese War, Japan’s expenditure on her army had, for a number of years, averaged less than seven million dollars; in 1903 the army estimates exceeded 25 million dollars. At the outbreak of the Chino-Japanese War Japan’s navy consisted of about fifty vessels of a total tonnage of less than 75,000; at the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese War, 1904, the number of vessels had increased to 160, the tonnage to approximately 300,000.

I was in the Far East during the years 1902-4. Everyone with whom I discussed the matter, from Lahore to Wei-bai-wei, was confident that war between Japan and Russia was inevitable unless one or the other of two highly improbable contingencies should arise–one that Japan should decide to acquiesce in Russia’s obvious intention of making herself the dominating power in Korea; the other that Russia should reverse her historic policy of thrusting southward from the Trans-Siberian Railway until she found herself, at whatever cost of men and money, mistress of an ice-free port in northeastern Asia.

The Russian advance toward the north Pacific had been carefully planned and effectively executed. At the beginning of the twentieth century Japan saw her great rival occupying the Liao-tung Peninsula, in virtual control of the Chinese Province of Manchuria, and in possession of two of the most formidable naval and military bases to be found anywhere in the world-Vladivostock, within a few hours’ steaming of Korea’s northeastern boundary; Port Arthur, within a few hours of her southwestern boundary. That these fortresses were separated by the Korean Peninsula, that the former was ice-bound for six months in the year, that the latter was too small to serve adequately the naval and commercial needs of Russia in that quarter were facts to be set side by side with Russia’s diplomatic pressure on the Korean Court, her intimate relations with the anti-Japanese party in Korea, and her efforts to purchase land in or near Korea’s southern ports. There were a number of attractive possibilities: the excellent ice-free port of Masampo might be leased, thus giving Russia a naval base within two hundred miles of the Japanese coast; it might be feasible to secure control of the proposed railroad from Wiju, on the Manchurian frontier, for the construction of which a French company had obtained a concession, thus assuring an all-rail connection from northern Manchuria into the heart of the Peninsula; and other, similar, opportunities presented themselves.

During the summer of 1903 Japan decided that the time was ripe to make a definite stand against Russia’s steady advance through Manchuria to the Korean border, and to put an end to the ceaseless intrigues by which, within Korea itself, Russian agents were preparing for the day when the Russian flag would fly over the palace at Seoul. Negotiations were opened with St. Petersburg with a view to reaching some agreement on the broad question of Russian-Japanese relations in the Far East. Between August, 1903, and February, 1904, ten different drafts of a proposed treaty were discussed; but the evasive and otherwise unsatisfactory character of the Russian proposals and counter-proposals convinced the Japanese cabinet that it was hopeless to look for a peaceful solution of the problem. Japan having, in defence of her Korean policy, fought the most populous nation of Asia would now, in the same cause, fight the most populous nation of Europe. On February 5, 1904, the negotiations were broken off, and a few days later war was declared.

From this point onward Japanese policy toward Korea stiffened. The first evidence of the new attitude was the conclusion of a Protocol between the two countries on February 23, 1904. Although Japan reasserts her guaranty of the independence and territorial integrity of Korea, it is agreed that “. . . the Imperial Government of Korea shall place full confidence in the Imperial Government of Japan and adopt the advice of the latter in regard to improvements in administration”; and, further, that “in case the welfare of the Imperial House of Korea, or the territorial integrity of Korea, is endangered by the aggression of a third power, or by internal disturbances, the Imperial Government of Japan shall immediately take such necessary measures as the circumstances require, and in such cases, the Imperial Government of Korea shall give full facilities to promote the action of the Imperial Japanese Government. . . . Japan may, for the attainment of the above mentioned objects, occupy, when the circumstances require it, such places as may be necessary from strategical points of view.”

Another agreement, signed on August 22, 1904, makes it mandatory on the Korean Government to engage a Japanese financial adviser, whose advice must be heard before any financial matter is acted upon; and a foreign diplomatic adviser, recommended by the Japanese Government, without whose previous counsel no important matter concerning foreign relations is to be dealt with. The final article of the agreement reads: “The Korean Government shall previously consult the Japanese Government in concluding treaties and conventions with foreign powers, and in dealing with other important diplomatic affairs, such as the grant of concessions to or contracts with foreigners.”

It is obvious that one effect of this agreement was to make Korea a protectorate of Japan, whilst leaving public authority to be exercised in the name of the Emperor of Korea. The next step taken in the course which led, finally, to annexation, was an agreement dated November 17, 1905. The preamble contains the significant provision that “the following stipulations are to serve until the moment arrives when it is recognized that Korea has attained national strength.” The agreement provided that the external relations of Korea should in future be conducted by the Department of Foreign Affairs in Tokyo; that Japanese diplomatic and consular officers should have charge of the subjects and interests of Korea in foreign countries; that Japan should assume responsibility for the execution of treaties already existing between Korea and other powers; that the Government of Korea should not in future enter into any act or engagement of an international character except through the medium of the Government of Japan; and that the Government of Japan undertakes to maintain the welfare and dignity of the Imperial House of Korea.

Article 3 completely changed the character of Japan’s representation vis-à-vis the Korean Court. The envoy is replaced by a ResidentGeneral, having the right of private and personal audience with the Emperor of Korea, and the Japanese consuls are replaced by Residents, to be stationed at the several open ports and at such other places in Korea as the Government of Japan may deem necessary.

It is to be observed that in this agreement no mention is made of Korean independence, the fact being, probably, that by this time Japan realized the impracticable quality of a policy which on the one hand made her responsible for Korea’s national status, and on the other left her with no sufficient authority in the country to prevent the occurrence of events which might at any moment involve her in the most serious international difficulties.

On November 22, 1905, the Japanese Government issued a declaration to the powers in treatyrelation with Korea, in which is presented a clear and frank account of her new Korean policy. The document runs as follows:

The relations of propinquity have made it necessary for Japan to take and exercise, for reasons closely connected with her own safety and repose, a paramount interest and influence in the political and military affairs of Korea. The measures hitherto taken have been purely advisory, but the experience of recent years has demonstrated the insufficiency of measures of guidance alone. The unwise and improvident action of Korea, more especially in the domain of her international affairs, has in the past been the most fruitful source of complications. To permit the present unsatisfactory condition of things to continue unrestrained and unregulated would be to invite fresh difficulties, and Japan believes that she owes it to herself and to her desire for the general pacification of the extreme East to take the steps necessary to put an end once for all to this dangerous situation. Accordingly, with that object in view and in order at the same time to safeguard its own position and to promote the well-being of the government and people of Korea, the Imperial Government has resolved to assume a more intimate and direct influence and responsibility than heretofore in the external relations of the Peninsula. The Government of His Majesty the Emperor of Korea is in accord with the Imperial Government as to the absolute necessity of the measure, and the two Governments, in order to provide for the peaceful and amicable establishment of the new order of things, have concluded the accompanying compact. In bringing this agreement to the notice of the powers having treaties with Korea, the Imperial Government declares that in assuming charge of the foreign relations of Korea and in undertaking the duty of watching over the execution of the existing treaties of that country, they will see that those treaties are maintained and respected, and also engages not to prejudice in any way the legitimate commercial and industrial interests of those powers in Korea.

Both in respect of foreign and of internal affairs the new arrangement proved to be unsatisfactory. So far as reforming the Korean system of administration was concerned two circumstances combined to make the task hopeless; the Korean officials were bound to listen to the advice of their Japanese advisers in the various departments, but they were not bound to follow it; and most of these officials were dishonest and grossly incompetent. The situation might have prolonged itself had it not been for a highly injudicious step taken by the Korean Emperor, in 1907, in direct violation of that article of the agreement of 1905 under which Korea pledged herself not to enter into any act of an international character, except through the medium of Japan. In July, 1907, there appeared at The Hague three Koreans who sought recognition as delegates to the Peace Conference, offering as their credentials a document bearing the seal of the Korean Emperor. When this news reached Japan it created a good deal of excitement, since it appeared to contain the threat that the whole Korean problem was about to be opened up again. Public opinion was seriously disturbed, and the press was almost unanimous in demanding a strong course of action. Such a course the Government decided to adopt.

At the time, Marquis Ito (a sincere friend and well-wisher of Korea) was Resident-General in Seoul. To him was sent Viscount Hayashi, the Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs, with authority to act in the circumstances, after consultation with the Resident-General. He arrived in Seoul on July 18. During his service as Resident-General, Marquis Ito had reached the firm conviction that Korean affairs could never be put in any decent state of order as long as the throne was occupied by the Emperor, who had shown himself to be wholly untrustworthy, and who, moreover, had done everything possible to hinder the progress of internal reform. Fortunately there had recently been appointed a new Korean Cabinet, composed of men who saw clearly that unless the Emperor and his Court should cease their pernicious interference with the conduct of Government, it would be impossible to save the Imperial House from the most serious consequences. The present crisis put in the hands of the Cabinet a weapon which they were glad to employ in the general interest of the country. Even before the arrival of Viscount Hayashi the Cabinet had urged upon the Emperor the advisability of abdicating in favor of his son. The day after the Viscount’s arrival their arguments prevailed; and on July 17, the Korean Minister of Justice carried to the Resident-General the Emperor’s announcement of his abdication. Shortly after the matter became generally known there was serious rioting in Seoul, precipitated by a mutinous regiment of Korean troops.

After a series of conferences between the Japanese Representatives and the Korean Cabinet, and between the latter and the new Emperor, an agreement was signed between Japan and Korea on July 24, 1907.

This agreement left the Imperial Korean House still on the throne; but it placed Japan in practical control of the administration of the country, by making the appointment and dismissal of all high officials in Korea dependent upon the concurrence of the Resident-General, by providing for his previous assent to the enactment by the Korean Government of all laws, ordinances, and regulations, and by binding the Government to appoint as Korean officials any, Japanese subjects recommended by the ResidentGeneral.

Having in view the general conditions of the country in the period after the new agreement, it is difficult to see how Japan could long postpone an act of annexation, unless she was prepared to face indefinitely the risks and inconveniences of an anomalous administrative system. A Treaty of Annexation was negotiated between the two governments, and was signed on August 22, 1910, by Viscount Masakata Terauchi, Resident-General, and by Yi Wan Yong, Minister President of State.

In the first Annual Report compiled by the Government-General, which succeeded the Residency-General, the subject of the annexation is thus dealt with:

The Governments of both Japan and Korea, exerting for more than four years, their utmost efforts in the way of administrative reform, and looking forward to the consummation of the desired end, the improvements and progress made were by no means small. But they failed to find in the Protectorate régime sufficient guarantees of the permanent welfare of the Imperial Family of Korea and of the prosperity of the people.

In spite of the fact that a number of pacificatory measures with regard to insurgents were put into effect, insurgents and brigands continued to appear in certain localities, and could not be put down. Escorts of police or gendarmes were often needed for officials, individuals, and letter-carriers, travelling in the remote interior or mountainous regions. Even a certain class of peaceful people, instigated by reckless agitators, were led to believe that Japanese revenue officers would carry away to Japan the money collected as taxes; and thus, frequently, they attempted to do injury to these officials. In the blindness of fury and inspired by short-sighted superstition and mistaken patriotism, a band of Koreans assassinated Mr. Durham White Stevens, a citizen of the United States, Councillor to the Korean Government, in March, 1908, in San Francisco, on his way to Washington on furlough. In October of the following year, Prince Ito, who had filled the office of Resident-General in Korea till June, was also assassinated by a Korean in Harbin Station, when he was on a visit to North China. In the following December, a Korean further attempted to kill Mr. Yi Wan-Yong, the Prime Minister of the Korean Government. Thus distressing conditions still existed in Korea, and uneasiness and anxiety often kept the Imperial Family of that country in a state of misery, while the Ministers of State had to be constantly escorted by armed policemen.

In these conditions the Imperial Government failed to find in the régime of a Protectorate in Korea sufficient hope of realising the improvements which they had had in view, despite the fact that many reform measures had been introduced for the benefit of the Korean people. Stability of public peace and order not being firmly established yet, a spirit of suspicion and misunderstanding still dominated the whole Peninsula, and the mass of people were burdened with anxiety. Most of the Japanese and foreigners in Korea had to confine their residence to cities, ports, or towns along the railway lines and could not enter the interior to engage permanently in business.

In order to sweep away evils rooted during the course of many years as well as to secure the wellbeing of the Korean Imperial Family, to promote the prosperity of the country, and at the same time to insure the safety and repose of Japanese and foreign residents, it had been made abundantly clear that, the Protectorate system being unable to achieve these aims, Korea must be annexed to the Empire and brought under the direct administration of the Imperial Government. There being no other way to attain the object in view, the Japanese conceived the policy of annexation as early as July, 1909. Even afterward the actual condition of affairs in Korea had continued to grow worse and worse, with no apparent hope of improvement. The assassinations of Mr. Stevens and Prince Ito, and the attempt to assassinate Premier Yi, mentioned already, induced certain classes of Koreans to tender to their Sovereign and the Resident-General a petition for annexation, so that the question became a matter of public agitation among officials as well as among the people of Japan. In fine the necessity of annexation grew day by day, and the measure was finally carried into effect on August 29, 1910.

That the aims set forth in the foregoing quotation have been pursued during the past sixteen years with a great, and in some directions with an astonishing measure of success is made evident in the body of the present volume. For the first nine years of the Government-General’s existence Korea was administered under a system which, though it yielded many benefits for the Korean people, was applied with far too much military harshness and inflexibility. It was most unfortunate for everybody concerned that a rule of this character should have existed at the time when the extremely difficult and arduous work of organizing a new government was in progress. In such an undertaking the authorities could have found no more powerful ally than a spirit of friendliness among the people.

The measures taken to stamp out the Independence Movement of 1919, stupid, cruel, and unjustifiable as some of them undoubtedly were, accomplished their purpose. From that time onward Korea has enjoyed a period of internal tranquillity and of general progress for which the previous history of the country affords no remotest parallel.

Of the Independence Movement itself I have little to say in the present connection. The Independence Party contained many Koreans of excellent intelligence and education, inspired by a deep nationalist feeling. Whether or not the Japanese administration of the country had been so conducted as to justify an attempt to subvert it has no bearing upon the “right” of the Koreans to make the attempt. The “right” of revolt is inherent wherever Government exists, whether that government is of native origin or has been imposed from without.

Whenever such revolts occur those who take part in them fall into three groups–one is made up of men and women profoundly convinced that success will result in benefit to the general welfare, and who have no aim other than this; one contains those who, from selfish motives of personal advantage, wish to substitute themselves for those then in power; one is a nondescript rabble which welcomes the opportunity of fishing in troubled waters. Those who belong to the first group deserve and usually receive the respect which mankind pays to those who offer their lives and their property in support of an honestly held conviction; and of these sincere patriots the Korean Independence Movement contained an unusually large proportion.

It seems to me that there is absolutely no possibility of Korean Independence being reached by the road of revolt. The Koreans cannot drive the Japanese out of the country; and if the cause of Korean Independence were espoused by any nation powerful enough to create a serious threat to the Japanese occupancy, the first move made to carry out that threat would, without question, plunge Asia into war overnight, and would bring most of the balance of the world into the struggle within a month. There is one possibility, and one only, of an independent Korea. If at some future time the League of Nations, or some similar Association of Powers, should prescribe a universal surrender of all colonial dependencies to their native inhabitants, Korea would be one of Japan’s contributions to the general settlement. Such a possibility is, of course, too remote to call for present discussion.

I found informed opinion both in Korea and in Japan divided on the question of what, short of independence, would be the ultimate status of the Peninsula. Two theories held the field–one that it will become an integral part of the Japanese political system, sending elected representatives to the Imperial Diet; the other that it will eventually be given Dominion home-rule within the Japanese Empire.

Speaking as a person in whom the idea of Korean Independence incites neither mental nor moral resistance I may express my belief that those Koreans will be doing their country the greatest service who co-operate with the Japanese in building up the cultural and economic conditions favorable on the one hand to the granting, and on the other to the successful use, of local self-government.

During the past year the news from Korea justifies the hope that a trend in this direction has already set in. To whatever extent it exists the credit is due chiefly to the humane and conciliatory attitude of Governor-General Saito toward the Korean people, and to the wise measures which, for more than six years, have been the fruit of an unstinting employment of his unusual energy and of his still more unusual administrative talents.




Author: Alleyne Ireland (1871-1951)

Born and raised in England, Mr. Ireland was a leading authority on Colonial Administration and a F. R. G. S. (Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society).

While he wrote largely for American magazines, he was appointed Colonial Commissioner of the University of Chicago, U. S. A. in 1901, and was sent to the Far East where he spent three years studying the British, French, Dutch and Japanese systems, and stayed six months in the Philippines.  During his career, he served as a lecturer at Cornell University, the University of Chicago and the Lowell Institute.



The books by Professor Alleyne Ireland and Professor Atul Kohli make it clear that the common perception in the West — the Japanese invaded Korea, exploited Korean people and committed atrocities — is a myth. If Japan is to annex North Korea right now, kick out Kim Jong-un and liberate majority of the North Koreans, wouldn’t they welcome Japan’s annexation with open arms? That was exactly what happened in 1910.

“The New Korea” by Professor Alleyne Ireland


There are too many western so-called “historians” and journalists who talks about Japanese annexation of Korea or Japan-Korea relation without reading the materials.


Since (or even before) the Edo period, Japanese vigorously translated books and news from all over the world including French, German, Dutch, Spanish and Chinese.

How many of so-called “historians” in the west read Japanese, Chinese, and Korean? If you call yourself an expert of East Asian history, you have to be able to read at least Japanese and Chinese. But, in reality, most of the historians in the West don’t even read any of the languages while Japanese historians do read both.

This book, the most comprehensive book on the annexation  of Korea is OUT OF PRINT. And the English version of “Histoire de L’Eglise de Corée.1874″ by Claude-Charles Dallet is also OUT OF PRINT. I can get them from Amazon Japan and read them in Japanese just fine, but how the heck English speaking historians learn history without reading the original materials.

Today, the most of American and European “historians” and journalists talks about Japan with very limited and superficial knowledge. And they are still trapped in a bias of “Japan; evil enemy we defeated”. Anything to refute the image/bias is considered as “a challenge against our battle of justice” and they begin justifying their side of story by attacking Japan’s past wrong doings. They are unable to see the whole picture straight.

See: the pictures of before and after.


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