In July of 1931, tensions between Japanese-run Korea and China was building. These hostilities eventually resulted in a dispute over land in the Manchurian village of Wanpaoshan.
The simple issue over the use of land by farmers would be sensationalized by the Korean and Japanese media to incite anti-Chinese violence that lasted for weeks and left many Chinese citizens dead and even more businesses destroyed. Although the incident itself was relatively minor, it sparked a rash of violence and hatred across Korea.
Wanpaoshan is a small village in Manchuria and through it flows the Itung River. The area is particularly suitable for rice cultivation due the extremely wet climate. 140 Korean farmers had moved to Wanpaoshan with their families to set up rice cultivation. In April of 1931, these 370 Koreans leased a plot of land from local Chinese landowners for a period of ten years. The cost was a crop rental fee totaling the equivalent of $3,500 USD annually. After the land deed was completed, the Korean farmers proceeded with a plan to construct an irrigation ditch several kilometers in length. This ditch would come to cut through several plots of land not owned by the Korean farmers. The Chinese land-brokers knew of the Korean intentions of building a ditch as well as its location. These brokers led the farmers to believe that the Chinese residents would have no objection to an irrigation canal being built across their land. However, the lease agreement that was signed contained no mention of the construction project. Further, the broker never informed the Chinese villagers of the Koreans' plan.
Chinese hostilities began almost immediately after the Koreans moved into their leased land. When construction of the dam began on May 20, Chinese opposition became active. A large body of Chinese farmers appeared at the construction site and forced the Koreans to stop their work. It was reported that some were injured during the demonstration but, Chinese police prevented any major violence. At the same time, the local Chinese vendors began refusing to sell food and equipment to anyone associated with the irrigation project. It was clear that the Koreans could not continue building the dam. The Chinese farmers believed that the construction of the dam and canal would hinder land navigation. They also feared that the backing up of water would cause their lands to flood washing away crops and topsoil. The Koreans insisted that the banks of their canal would be made high enough to contain the water and prevent flooding. If that did not satisfy the farmers, the Koreans would also provide drainage systems to further protect rice fields. They also promised to provide the Chinese with facilities of transportation once the project was complete.
In June negotiations began between the Japanese consul and Chinese government officials to resolve the issue. The talks did little to sooth the building hostility in the area. On the 14th, the Japanese consul...