“Life won’t be as comfortable as it used to be”: Anti-Western Japanese violence in Korea, 1900-1910


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This paper deals with European and American communities in the Great Korean Empire. Profiting from the institution of extraterritoriality and consular jurisdiction, a small but influential group of diplomats, foreign experts, merchants and missionaries had formed out in Seoul and the treaty ports since the 1880s. The decade from 1900 to 1910 saw a considerable movement of Japanese settlers to the Korean peninsula. In particular, the onset of the Russo-Japanese War entailed the influx of Japanese soldiers and petty traders. Concomitantly, Japan imposed and formalised its political power in Korea. Based on French and German diplomatic records as well as reporting in the Korea Daily News and Korea Review, this paper proposes a close reading of cases of anti-Western violence committed by Japanese during the last decade of Korean independence. These included physical attacks as well as the violation of property and houses by Japanese coolies and soldiers. Accusations against Japanese settlers walking naked in public areas were also a repeated item of criticism. In this way, it will be discussed how the Europeans and Americans experienced the processes of Japanese take-over from an everyday perspective. The small Korean expatriate world, in which the Europeans and Americans had comfortably arranged to live, it seemed in the eyes of the concerned individuals, was coming to an end. Additionally, sympathies for Japan’s imperial project, although varying in degree, had been widespread among the European and American community. The experience of violence could put this support in jeopardy. In some cases, a distinction was made between an ‘uncivilised’ lower class settler community and a civilised and enlightened administration. In other cases, however, grievances were formulated against the Japanese police which was accused of not efficiently acting against perpetrators, committing crimes themselves and outrightly bullying Europeans and Americans. These accusations questioned the Japanese civilising mission more directly.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2017


Dittrich, K. (2017, April). “Life won’t be as comfortable as it used to be”: Anti-Western Japanese violence in Korea, 1900-1910. Paper presented at the 28th Biennial Conference of the Association of Korean Studies in Europe (AKSE), Charles University in Prague, Prague, Czech Republic.

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