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Japan's Colonization of Korea

Discourse and Power

Alexis Dudden

Publication Year: 2005

From its creation in the early twentieth century, policymakers used the discourse of international law to legitimate Japan’s empire. Although the Japanese state aggrandizers’ reliance on this discourse did not create the imperial nation Japan would become, their fluent use of its terms inscribed Japan’s claims as legal practice within Japan and abroad. Focusing on Japan’s annexation of Korea in 1910, Alexis Dudden gives long-needed attention to the intellectual history of the empire and brings to light presumptions of the twentieth century’s so-called international system by describing its most powerful—and most often overlooked—member’s engagement with that system. Early chapters describe the global atmosphere that declared Japan the legal ruler of Korea and frame the significance of the discourse of early twentieth-century international law and how its terms became Japanese. Dudden then brings together these discussions in her analysis of how Meiji leaders embedded this discourse into legal precedent for Japan, particularly in its relations with Korea. Remaining chapters explore the limits of these ‘universal’ ideas and consider how the international arena measured Japan’s use of its terms. Dudden squares her examination of the legality of Japan’s imperialist designs by discussing the place of colonial policy studies in Japan at the time, demonstrating how this new discipline further created a common sense that Japan’s empire accorded to knowledgeable practice. This landmark study greatly enhances our understanding of the intellectual underpinnings of Japan’s imperial aspirations. In this carefully researched and cogently argued work, Dudden makes clear that, even before Japan annexed Korea, it had embarked on a legal and often legislating mission to make its colonization legitimate in the eyes of the world.

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press


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p. vii

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pp. ix-x

I am grateful to too many teachers, friends, and family members for these few paragraphs to suffice, and many of these people fall into each category anyway, so my attempts are muddled from the start. I simply wish that I could win the lottery and get everyone together for a “Babette’s feast” to thank you all....

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pp. 1-5

Translating international law into Japanese and using its terms in practice were among the most transformative aspects of Japan’s Meiji era (1868–1912). Doing so gave Japanese rulers a new method of intercourse with the United States and Europe and enabled them to reorder the vocabulary of power within Asia. Moreover, this discourse inscribed the legitimacy of Japan’s...

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1. Illegal Korea

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pp. 7-26

In the summer of 1907, the world declared Korea illegal. The previous autumn, Emperor Kojong of Korea sent three representatives on his behalf to the Second International Conference on Peace at The Hague. Their mission was to register the emperor’s protest against Japan’s 1905 protectorate agreement over Korea. According to the well-known account of their travels overland...

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2. International Terms of Engagement

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pp. 27-44

International terms won the twentieth century. Terms such as independence and sovereignty became the means of discursive exchange in markets and parliaments around the world, but their everyday usage has obscured the historical process that made them the vocabulary of modern international relations. Use of these terms has simply become common sense. The new, post–9/11...

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3. The Vocabulary of Power

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pp. 45-73

For centuries, a shared knowledge and practice of kanji had facilitated official relations in what is now called the East Asian world. When the Meiji government chose to engage Japan in international terms, however, it ruptured this order. Politicians and diplomats went beyond scholars’ word lists and dictionaries and entrenched the terms in practice. They made these international...

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4. Voices of Dissent

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pp. 74-99

International terms empower the strong. At the same time, the potential represented by these terms inspires those who resist domination. For the architects of the Japanese empire, any debate over the relationship between power and words would have seemed nonsensical. The terminology of statecraft, through which modern Japan made sense internationally, defined power itself....

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5. Mission L

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pp. 100-129

The international politics of imperialism taught Meiji state aggrandizers that, if they were to gain full legitimacy in Korea as an enlightened exploiter, they should establish new legal codes in their protectorate. Before annexing Korea in 1910, in the absence of formalizing a Japanese code of law for Korea, Japanese colonial rulers realized that they ought to at least convey a desire and a...

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Coda: A Knowledgeable Empire

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pp. 131-146

The Meiji state aggrandizers’ mission to declare Japan a legitimate imperialist power came at enormous expense both to Japan and the countries Japan colonized. I mention this not to encourage us now to feel sorry, as it were, for the hardships the colonizers endured. Instead, it is important to recognize that by inscribing Japan in the early-twentieth-century world as a so-called first-rank...


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pp. 147-184


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pp. 185-208


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pp. 209-213

E-ISBN-13: 9780824863142
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824828295

Publication Year: 2005

OCLC Number: 256488856
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Japan's Colonization of Korea

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Korea -- Foreign relations -- 1864-1910.
  • Korea -- History -- Japanese occupation, 1910-1945.
  • Japan -- Foreign relations -- Korea.
  • Korea -- Foreign relations -- Japan.
  • Japan -- Foreign relations -- 1868-1912.
  • Korea -- International status.
  • Law -- Japan -- History.
  • Law -- Korea -- History.
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