The Japanese Colonial Legacy In Korea
North and South Korea are nations that while filled with contempt for
Japan have used the foundations that Japan laid during the colonial period to
further industrialization. Japan's colonization of Korea is critical in
understanding what enabled Korea to industrialize in the period since 1961.
Japan's program of colonial industrialization is unique in the world.
Japan was the only colonizer to locate various heavy industry is in its colonies.
By 1945 the industrial plants in Korea accounted for about a quarter of Japan's
industrial base. Japan's colonization of Korea was therefore much more
comparable to the relationship between England and Ireland then that of European
colonization of Asia or Africa. Japan's push to create colonial industry lead
Japan to build a vast network of railroads, ports, and a system of hydro-
electric dams and heavy industrial plants around the Yalu River in what is now
North Korea. The Japanese to facilitate and manage the industrialization of a
colony also put in place a strong central government.
Although Japan's colonial industrialism in Korea was aimed at advancing
Japanese policies and goals and not those of the Korean populace; colonization
left Korea with distinct advantages over other developing countries at the end
of World War Two. Korea was left with a base for industrializing, a high level
of literacy, experience with modern commerce, and close ties to Japan. Japan's
colonial heavy industrial plants were located primarily around the Yalu River in
North Korea. Because of this the North had an edge in industrialization. For
many years the North had the fastest growth rates of the communist countries,
and its cities were on par with those of Eastern Europe. It was not until the
early 1970's that the South surpassed the North in levels of industrialization.
Because most of the heavy industrial plants were either located in North Korea
or destroyed by the Korean War the groundwork for industrialization that South
Korea received from Japanese colonialism consisted mostly of social changes.
During colonialism Korea's populace in increasing numbers moved to cities and
became urbanized these new urbanites worked in factories and were used to the...