Japan and Korea
Did Japan modernize or exploit Korea? Scholars have debated this question with vigor throughout this century. I do not believe the answer is so black and white. While looking at the history of the colonization, evidence of both should appear. The word colonization alone generally means to move into another people’s land and exploit resources. However, positive results can appear during a negative situation.
Regardless of what point of view an individual takes, there is no doubt that Japan has dramatically influenced Korea. This is common with most nations in the industrialization period or the modernization period. Think about it, every treaty endorsed between nations leads to policy change. The lessons learned from previous agreements, aid in creating new policies.
Korea, suggested by Cummings, was a buffer zone between China and Japan. China acted as the big brother or role model for Korea. Culture, language values and society itself developed by free choices made by the Korean government. However, China was always ready to step in if Korea seemed to get to powerful or weak. Cummings makes this relationship sound as if everything was all right as long as Korea depended on the aid of China and respected China’s dominance of the region. Japan although at times respected China’s power believed that if Korea would consider themselves equal to China Japan could take the role of the regional superpower. Japan also, at times thought they were superior to both China and Japan and should incorporate them both into the Japanese empire and at times had been fairly successful in dong so.
Many factors allowed the Japanese colonization of Korea. For one, Korea had adopted an isolationist philosophy early in its history. Cummings has said many times that when you landed in Korea the first question asked was “when are you leaving?” In addition, Korean tradition did not place a high value on trade. Cummings went on to say that Korea was the only place that when a profit was made, it was not a joyous occasion. Do not be misled by that statement that would leave one to think that Korean people were inferior and should be exploited, for I do not believe that at all. The Confucianism heritage did not believe in profit. However, equitability was not forbiddened. Such led to the tributary and cultural exchanges between Korea and China. These beliefs show that the Korean people were not one to exploit other kingdoms and preferred to be left alone.
Japan and China have not always had that same isolationist view, although both of those countries did adopt this philosophy several times in their history, they were very eager in foreign affairs. With Korea’s, political in turmoil in the 1800’s Korea became an easier target for outside influences. The Korean nobles were trying to gain more power from the royal family. One strategy used to obtain power was to ensure the kings were weak. If a king died prematurely, they selected the weakest...