By Imperial Ordinance No. 357, promulgated on September 10, 1910, provision was made for local government in Korea. The country was divided into thirteen provinces. The Organic Regulations for Provincial Government established a central authority in each province, headed by a Provincial Governor, and equipped with the administrative staff necessary to conduct the provincial business connected with Finance, Medical and Sanitary Service, Police, Education, Harbors, Forestry, Public Works, and so on.
Each province was subdivided into districts of three types--municipal prefectures, rural counties, and insular districts. The last-named group comprised two of the larger islands lying off the coast of Korea.As originally designed, the Government of Korea presented the following administrative pattern:
13 Provincial Governments,
12 Municipal Prefectures,
218 Rural Counties, and
2 Insular Districts.
The problem presented to Japan by its responsibility for the Government of Korea was one of extreme complexity. The task had neither that kind of simplicity which exists where a powerful and "superior" race assumes control of a people low in the scale of civilization, weak in physical resources, and devoid of the sentiment of nationalism, nor that kind of simplicity which exists when a mere transfer of political control occurs between two peoples of somewhat similar economic and social status.
In a word, the problem was neither that of England ruling the native tribes of New Guinea, nor that of Italy taking over the Austrian administration of Fiume.
The situation was, in fact, almost without precedent in modern times. Measured by the standards of Asiatic civilization the people of Korea constituted an advanced race; like the Japanese they owed much of their culture to China; unlike the Japanese they had been little affected by the political and economic progress of the Western world. Down to the middle of the nineteenth century the description "Hermit Kingdom" would have applied with equal force to Japan and to Korea. Each country possessed an ancient religion, an ancient philosophy, an ancient culture, an ancient aristocracy, and an ancient social organization. If the two countries had been compared at that time on the basis of their national evolution as Asiatic states it would have been impossible to attribute to the Koreans any inherent inferiority to their Japanese neighbors.
At the present time a comparison of such a character would be wholly irrelevant to any practical issue. Since 1858 Japan has become westernized. If the process has conferred upon her many of the alleged advantages of Western progress, it has also infected her with the many evils which appear to be inseparable from the Western type of civilization. Her own problems are now those of the West; their solutions will be found, it at all, by adopting Western methods and by improving upon them, not by attempting to make Asiatic theories and Asiatic practices serve the necessities of a modern society of the Western type.
For my own part, having spent a number of years in various parts of Asia, I am unable to entertain the conviction, so commonly held in Europe and in the Americas, that Western civilization is superior to that of the East. But the question now before me is not one into which any speculations of this kind can enter. It is that of describing the Japanese administrative system in Korea, as an example of an attempt to govern an Asiatic dependency by Western methods.
For the purposes of such a discussion it is essential that two separate subjects should be kept separate--the right of. Japan to govern Korea, and the way in which Japan is actually governing Korea. The former subject is one of great interest and importance, viewed from the standpoint of Imperialism as a phenomenon of statecraft; but it can receive no more than incidental treatment--as it does in the introductory chapter--in a volume devoted to a discussion of matters subsequent to the acquisition of a dependency.
Any description of the Government of Korea, as it is now constituted, must start from the fact that Japan took over the responsibility in 1910, that she was confronted immediately by the condition of the country as it then was, and that in view of that condition she had to establish a Government, formulate a public policy, and construct an administrative machine.
Approaching these tasks from the base line of her own experience of half a century under a westernized Constitution, she found that the immediate situation was full of difficulty; but that, on a long view of her undertaking, the future held out the possibility of a success at least as great as that achieved by any other nation in the direction of governing dependencies.
The chief difficulty with which the newlyformed Government-General was faced was that in respect of modernizing the public administration of the country it could count upon little aid from the past. The existing body of Korean officials were for the most part indifferent, and in some part violently hostile, to reform along Western lines; the mal-administration which, by common consent, had for many years characterized the Government of the native Yi Dynasty, had affected adversely the whole of the Korean public service; the economic stability of the country had been wrecked by an unsound system of taxation and by a debased currency; means of communication were wretched; the country districts were overrun by bandits banking facilities were inadequate for the development of commerce and industry; above all, the Korean people had been reduced by many years of stupid misgovernment and oppression to a state of patient lethargy.Even if there be attributed to Japan no higher motive than that of making a profitable investment out of the annexation of Korea, the pursuit of such an aim could only end in success if the general condition of the country was improved.The general policy through which this improvement was to be achieved was announced in a Proclamation issued on August 29, 1910, by Viscount Masakata Terauchi, the Japanese Resident-General. The Proclamation made official announcement of the annexation, and it was supplemented by a statement in the form of general instructions to the high Japanese officials who would be responsible for the administration of Korea until the Government-General had been organized.Divested of the rhetorical phrases which are to be found in all documents of this character, the Proclamation outlined a clear policy.
(1) To afford relief to the people by abandoning the Government's claim on unpaid'land taxes, by making a reduction of twenty per cent in the land tax about to fall due, by making a donation of seventeen million yen (about $8,500,000) from the Imperial Japanese Treasury for promoting education and for the relief of famine and other disasters.
(2) To establish law and order throughout the country, in order that life and property might be secure and the people supplied with an incentive to industry.
(3) To improve the means of communication and transportation, thus aiding material development whilst affording occupation to large numbers of Koreans.
(4) The creation of a Council of responsible and experienced Koreans to be consulted with reference to proposed administrative measures.
(5) The establishment of a charity hospital in each province to extend and supplement the work of the Central Hospital at Seoul, and of the three charity hospitals, institutions which had been put in operation by the Japanese before annexation.
(6) The extension of educational facilities and the adoption of an educational policy which should "instil into the minds of the young men the detestation of idleness and the love of real work, thrift and diligence."
(7) The guaranty of freedom of religious belief. The paragraph in the Proclamation of Annexation which deals with this matter was framed as follows:
The freedom of religious belief is recognized in all civilized countries. There is, indeed, nothing to be said against anybody trying to gain spiritual peace by believing in whatever religious faith he or she considers to be true. But those who engage in strife on account of sectarian differences or take part in politics or pursue political intrigues under the name of religious propaganda, will injure good customs and manners and disturb the public order, and, as such, will be dealt with by law. There is no doubt, however, that a good religion, be it Buddhism, or Confucianism, or Christianity, has as its aim the spiritual and material improvement of mankind, and in this not only does it not conflict with the administration of Government, but really helps it in attaining the purpose it has in view. Consequently all religions shall be treated equally and, further, due protection and facilities shall be accorded to their legitimate propagation.
The Instructions issued to Japanese officials at the time of annexation include a paragraph which is quoted in full here, because it discloses the fact that up to that time the relations between the Japanese and the Koreans had been marked by an attitude of contempt towards the natives, and that the Resident-General was fully aware of the obstacles which such an attitude would place in the way of his general policy of conciliation and development.
The aim and purpose of the annexation is to consolidate the bonds uniting the two countries, to remove all causes for territorial and national discrimi. nations, necessarily existing between separate powers, in order that the mutual welfare and happiness of the two peoples may be promoted. Consequently, should the Japanese people regard the annexation as a result of the conquest of a weak country by a stronger one, and should speak and act under such an illusion in an overbearing and undignified manner they would act in a spirit contrary to that in which the present step has been taken.
Japanese settlers in Korea seem hitherto to have considered that they were living in a foreign land, and have often fallen into the mistake of adopting a superior attitude toward the people of the country. If, in connection with the inauguration of the new, order of things, they were to increase their self-conceit, and were to subject the people just incorporated into the Empire to any sort of insult, they would arouse ill-feeling, with the result that in everything they would be in collision with the natives, and the opportunity would be denied of establishing an intimate relation between the two peoples, which would be an unmeasurable calamity for the future. It is opportune that things have now assumed a new aspect. Let the Japanese settlers take this occasion to change their ideas and their attitude toward the people of Korea. Let them always bear in mind that they are our brothers, and treat them with sympathy and friendship, thus, by mutual help and co-operation, enabling both peoples to contribute their share to the growth and progress of the whole Empire.