Opposition in Korea under the Japanese Colony

Opposition in Korea under the Japanese Colony

The last so-called emperor of Korea, Sunjong, the hapless son of Kojong, died in June 1926. His funeral, like that of his father, became an oppor-tunity for demonstrations against the Japanese colonization. This time the authorities were prepared. There was no written declaration to give focus to the demonstrations, and its organization was inferior to that of the March First Movement in other ways as well, reflecting the increas-ingly tight control over society.

Unlike the March First Movement, this movement did not spread widely but was controlled and suppressed by the Japanese police.A few years later a rather obscure event in the southeastern provin-cial capital of Kwangju became the catalyst for the second-largest dem-onstration against the Japanese rule.

On November 3, 1929, a number of students were riding a train between Naju and Kwangju. It was the birthday of the emperor of Japan, and the students were returning from worship at the local Shinto shrine, which was dedicated to the emperor. By coincidence, November 3 on the solar calendar was October 3 on the lunar calendar, Korean Foundation Day.

Perhaps the Korean stu-dents were struck by the irony of the date when they should have been celebrating Tangun, the first Korean ruler. In any case, when Japanese students began teasing a Korean female student, Korean boys came to her rescue. The scuffle between the two groups spilled off the train, into the city, and around the country.Many of the organizations that were chartered and allowed to func-tion in the early 1920s became the conduit of information about the student uprising in Kwangju.

These organizations helped spread word of the protest to the far corners of Korea, and this helped spread the demonstrations. At the time the Special High Police were tightening their grip, and the newly enacted Peace Preservation Law was further restricting the day-to-day freedoms of Koreans. Perhaps demonstrators saw the protests as their last chance before the impending crackdown.

The demonstrations lasted for days and spread to schools all across the peninsula. Thousands of students were arrested and expelled from schools, but the demonstrations were successful in one respect: They became the second-largest protest against the Japanese colonial rule in Korea.

The power of the military gradually increased in Japan until there was an incident in 1931 that vaulted it into leadership, which it would not relinquish until the end of World War II. The Cultural Administration period ended with the explosions in the Mukden Railroad yard, ushering in the last period of Japanese occupation, the “Assimilation Period.”