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Why did Japan invade Korea?

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Why did Japan invade Korea?

Annexation of Korea in 1910

In 1910, Japan annexed Korea and made it a territory under the “Treaty on the Annexation of Korea”. Thereafter, Korea was ruled as a colony for 35 years until 1945 through the Korean Governor-General’s Office.

Background Leading to the Annexation of Korea

Japan won the Sino-Japanese War in 1894 and had the Qing dynasty renounce its suzerainty over the Korean dynasty in the Treaty of Shimonoseki the following year. However, Russia returned the Liaodong Peninsula through the Tripartite Pact and it led to the rise of pro-Russian factions in Korea, and in 1895 Japan killed pro-Russian leader in an assassination attempt. In 1897. The Dynasty changed its name to the Korean Empire to make it clear that it was an independent country.

Russia was showing momentum in its expansion into Manchuria. In 1904, Japan launched the Russo-Japanese War based on the Anglo-Japanese Alliance. Victory in the Russo-Japanese War eliminated Russian influence in Korea and strengthened Japanese influence and control in Korea turning Korea into a protectorate and depriving it of its diplomatic and military authority as a sovereign nation.

Hirobumi Ito was appointed as the first governor. Japan eventually took over the internal administration of Korea and disbanded the Korean army.

However, fierce resistance was organized in Korea, and a righteous military struggle had been ongoing. Since Japan made Korea a protectorate and confiscated its rights as a nation, it caused dissatisfaction among Korean nationalist activists. The protests that followed the protectorate status of Korea led to the spread of a resistance movement on the Korean peninsula in which disbanded soldiers joined the people in resisting Japan with weapons.

The emperor of Korea also tried to appeal to the international community, but was ignored by the Western powers.

On the contrary, Japan’s right to protect Korea had already been recognized under the renewed Anglo-Japanese Alliance and the Treaty of Portsmouth

Merging Korea

Hirobumi Ito, who became the first Korean governor, initially adopted the policy of maintaining Korea’s independence while keeping it as a protectorate. This was because the founding principle of the Russo-Japanese War was to fight Russia in order to protect Korea’s independence. However, as the fierce military conflicts continued and the economic benefits were not as great as expected, there was a growing consensus in Japan that Ito’s government was lukewarm and that Korea should be merged and completely united with Japan. In the end, Ito agreed to the “merger,” and in July 1909, the Japanese government passed a cabinet decision to annex Korea at an appropriate time.

International Developments

The government’s greatest concern was interference by other powers. With the United Kingdom, the Second Anglo-Japanese Alliance had authorized Japanese control of Korea in exchange for recognition of British control of India. With the U.S., there was an agreement that had already mutually recognized U.S. control of the Philippines and Japanese control of Korea. The annexation of Korea was carried out after continuing “diplomatic efforts” to reach an agreement with the powers to prevent international condemnation.

Implementation of the Annexation of Korea

In 1909, Hirobumi Ito was assassinated while staying in Manchuria. The incident occurred in Harbin, Manchuria in 1909. The perpetrator was a Korean nationalist activist, Ahn Jung-geun. As chief of the Korean Nationalist Movement, Ito was resented by the Korean activists because of his political control over Korean politics and suppression of the righteous army movement.

After Ito Hirobumi was shot dead in Manchuria, the annexation of Korea was quickly put into effect. Also, a pro-Japanese organization in Korea expressed their consent to merge the two countries.

With Ito’s death, Japanese public opinion became more intransigent. Then, in 1910, Japan forced the annexation of Korea. However, the Japanese government’s decision to annex Korea was not made in response to the assassination of Hirobumi Ito.

The Japanese government had decided to annex Japan earlier by 1907 at the latest. The incident was used as a pretext for the annexation.

The Japanese government also alleged that they received the “statement of annexation”  in favor of annexation from within Korea. However, the statement was manipulated to make it appear that the annexation was at the request of Korea.

Thus, the Korean Empire ceased to exist, and the Korean peninsula became Japanese territory.

While the word “annexation” is used, Japanese invasion of Korea was a part of Japan’s Imperialism. Unlike Manchuria, China, Korea was not an immigration destination nor was it rich in natural resources. Japan invaded/colonized Korea because it was a part of its Imperialism.

Since Japan ended seclusion policy and established diplomatic relationships with Great Powers, there had always been a possibility that Japan would be invaded and colonized. Therefore Japan tried to form a strong military within a short period of time and they succeeded. Without the strong military, Japan could have been invaded and colonized, however, strong military also led to Sino-Japan war, Russo-Japan War and invasion of neighboring countries including Korea and in the end Japan entered World War II.

The Japanese Invasion of Korea in 1952 and 1598

Why did Japan invade Korea in 16th century?

After unifying the country of Japan in the late 16th century, Toyotomi Hideyoshi dispatched troops to Korea in 1592.

After Hideyoshi achieved unification of the country, all the feudal lords in Japan became his vassals and thought that the long period of warfare was finally over. However, Hideyoshi took up the challenge of a “new battle”.

He mobilized all the feudal lords in Japan and invaded Joseon (present-day Korea and North Korea) twice between 1592 and 1598.

The objective was to conquer Ming Dynasty (present-day China).

The Japanese occupied Hanseong (present-day Seoul) and advanced further.
However, they were repulsed by Joseon naval forces and Ming reinforcements, so they made a truce and withdrew from Joseon.

Why did Toyotomi Hideyoshi tried to invade Korea? The reason for Hideyoshi’s invasion is not known. In fact, the reason for Hideyoshi’s attempt to invade Korea is considered as the greatest mystery in Japan during the Warring States period and there are a few theories.

The first theory that has been told for a long time is honor and greed.
Having acquired all of Japan, he thought that with his power which enabled him to conquer Japan, he could rule even China. He actually set his sights on the continent. Originally, he did not intend to conquer Joseon . Hideyoshi’s original goal was the Chinese continent.

In attacking the Ming Dynasty, Toyotomi Hideyoshi asked Joseon, which was to be his transit point, to “obey Japan and guide the way to Ming”. However, Joseon refused, so Hideyoshi sent troops there.

After that, Hideyoshi tried to make peace with Ming Dynasty but could not reach an agreement, so he sent a large force to Joseon again in 1597. Again, however, the Joseon and Ming armies resisted fiercely, and the Japanese forces were forced to fight an uphill battle.

Under these circumstances, Hideyoshi died of illness in 1598, and the Japanese forces withdrew.

The devastated Korean peninsula took an enormous amount of time to recover, and the Ming rapidly lost power, probably due to the loss of many of its generals in the battle, and was eventually destroyed by a foreign tribe from the north and moved to the “Qing” dynasty.

Another theory is that Hideyoshi, who had no more land to allocate to his retainers as a result of his invasion of all of Japan, sought to acquire new land in order to meet the expectations of his retainers.

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