“COOPERATIVE IMPERIALISM” IN COLONIAL KOREA

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  • ABSTRACT

    While the international community recognized Japan as a dominant foreign power in Korea following Japan’s victory in the Russo-Japanese War, it was not an easy task, in terms of international law, for Japan to annex Korea, which was already a member of the international community bound by international treaties. Japan was eventually able to annex Korea because it coordinated and negotiated with the foreign powers invested in Korea. Considering its sovereign rights over Korea, however, the Japanese government could not continue indefinitely to recognize the foreign claims to administrative rights in Korea. After a consultation between the Government-General of Korea and the Japanese government in Tokyo, a plan for the liquidation of foreign settlements was created. The Japanese government obtained approval for settlement abolition by accepting demands to safeguard Western economic interests to the extent that they would not violate the principles of national sovereignty. The Government-General of Korea eliminated the final obstacle to implementing provincial administrative reform through the “Protocol on the Abolition of Foreign Settlements in Korea” on April 1, 1914. By recognizing Western privileges in Korea, Japan was able to maintain its cooperative relationship with the Western powers. As can be seen, the Western powers played a role in stabilizing Japanese colonial rule over Korea. The Western powers tolerated Korean suffering under Japanese colonial rule as long as their privileges were safeguarded. By recognizing Japanese hegemony over Korea, the Western powers maintained a system of “cooperative imperialism” in Korea.


  • KEYWORD

    Cooperative imperialism , Colonial Korea , the Western Powers , Abolishing Foreign Settlements , Western economic interests

  • INTRODUCTION

    On April 1, 1914, the Government-General of Korea announced two grand plans relating to the management of the colonized Korean peninsula. One would reform the local administrative system. The Government-General intended to transform colonial Korea’s existing local administrative system, known as the pu system (puje 府制), into a new form of local administration, which would continue to be in use for the remainder of the colonial period.2 The other was the “Protocol on the Abolition of Foreign Settlements in Korea.”3 The institutionalization of foreign settlements (kŏryuji 居留地) was one of the special privileges extorted by the Western powers from the Chosŏn dynasty during its moribund state in the pre-colonial period. This leads us to ask how were these two plans, which were issued on the same day, interrelated, and, more specifically, in what political contexts could the Japanese colonial rulers in Korea implement this offensive policy, which might have contradicted the interests of the Western powers?

    The establishment of foreign settlements typified the unequal relations between colonizers and colonized during the colonial period. Beginning in the late nineteenth century, the Sinocentric premodern regional order in East Asia, generally referred to as the tributary system, rapidly weakened and eventually developed into the so-called modern treaty system. Thus, the Western powers transplanted the East Asian nations to the periphery of the global capitalist system. During this period, Japan expedited its modernization under the slogan of “rich country, strong army,” seeking dominion over the regional order of Northeast Asia while enduring disgrace at the hands of the Western powers.4 After signing the humiliating Kanghwa Treaty, the Korean government recognized the urgent need to open its doors actively to the Western powers in order to counter Japan’s growing influence over Korea. Under these circumstances, Korea abandoned its previous isolationist policy and negotiated modern treaties with the Western powers. Beginning with the signing of the “Treaty of Amity and Commerce between the United States of America and Corea” on May 22, 1882, Korea was rapidly drawn into the international community by concluding official treaties with the Western powers.

    In signing these treaties, the Korean government, like those of many other East Asian countries, was forced to offer additional, unequal privileges to the Western powers, including the right to foreign settlement and extraterritorial rights. The establishment of foreign settlements represented the glaring inequity of these treaty relationships; not only was the Korean government forced to provide land for foreign settlements, it also had to finance their maintenance.

    In light of Korea’s unequal position, the “Protocol on the Abolition of Foreign Settlements in Korea” bears great historical significance for the study of imperialism. This protocol could be perceived as a declaration of diplomatic warfare by Japan against the Western powers, with Japan attempting to confiscate the Western powers’ treaty privileges. However, as this article will show, Japan and the Western powers worked cooperatively toward the abolition of the foreign settlements.

    To date, scholars in the field of Korean history have not paid sufficient attention to the importance of Japan’s abolition of the foreign settlements. The material conditions of the foreign settlements have been revealed in previous works, which, for the most part, focus on Japan’s occupation of foreign settlements in Korea.5 While the existing literature has highlighted the conditions of the takeover and management of foreign settlements, it only touches upon the process of their abolition as an adjunct to their establishment.6 A notable exception, Ogawara Hiroyuki analyzed the abolition of foreign settlements in colonial Korea by focusing on the rights of land ownership and perpetual lease.7 His work detailing the negotiation process between the Japanese government and Western powers toward abolishing the foreign settlements was important for the researching and writing of this article. However, Ogawara’s microscopic studies failed to grasp the relationship between the abolition of the foreign settlements in Korea and the international order surrounding colonial Korea. He did not consider the material conditions of the foreign settlements at the time of their abolition. As a result, he overlooked the importance of abolition for the Westerners residing there.

    By investigating the process of Japan’s abolition of foreign settlements, this work demonstrates that the system of “cooperative imperialism” was maintained through Japan’s efforts to cooperate with the Western powers in order to retain its hegemony over Korea after the annexation.8 In particular, this work demonstrates how the Japanese government accepted most of the Western powers’ privileges in Korea in order to obtain their consent and how it received the Western powers’ cooperation in return. This work pays special attention to the fact that the reorganization of Korea’s local administration occurred simultaneously with the abolition of the foreign settlements, suggesting a partial resignation of their privileges, and thus explaining how the Western powers’ cooperation played an important role in Japan’s rule over Korea.

    2The newly introduced local administrative system was also called the pu system. It refers to a municipal administrative system which took “pu” as its basic unit; however, it was substantially different from the former system insofar as it considered the “pu” to be the most basic unit in place of “myŏn”and promoted, ostensibly, local autonomy. For more on this, see Son Chŏngmok, Han’guk chibang chach’i chedosa yŏn’gu [A study on Korean local governmental history] (Ilchisa, 1992), 122.  3Government-General of Korea, Chosŏn Ch’ongdokpu kwanbo [The Government-General of Korea official gazette] April 1, 1914.  4See Kim Key-hiuk, The Last Phase of the East Asian World Order: Korea, Japan, and the Chinese Empire, 1860–1882, (University of California Press, 1980).  5See Yi, Hyŏn-jong, Han’guk kaehangjang yŏn’gu [A study on Korean open ports ], (Ilchogak, 1980); Son Chŏngmok, Han’guk kaehanggi tosi pyŏnhwa kwajŏng yŏn’gu [A study on the modern city evolution process in Korea] (Ilchisa, 1982).  6See Harold J. Noble, “The Former Foreign Settlements in Korea,” The American Journal of International Law, Vol. 23, No. 4 (1929).  7Ogawara Hiroyuki, “Chōsen ni okeru kakkokukyoryuchi teppai kosho to joyaku kankei,” [The negotiations for the abolition of the system of foreign settlements in Chōsen] Bunkaku kenkyu ronshu [Literature journal series] 14 (2001).  8W. G. Beasley used this term to describe the acts of cooperation among the Western powers to acquire foreign settlements in East Asia, and I believe we can apply the same term to the case of Korea. See W. G. Beasley, Japanese Imperialism 1894–1945 (Oxford University Press, 1987). Given the fact that the foreign settlements were a form of privilege acquired by the Western powers, the Japanese government needed their consent to abolish the settlements. After Japan’s annexation of Korea, various forms of dissension and cooperation emerged between Japan and the Western powers in response to the different events in the Northeast Asian international order, and such conditions aided Japan’s colonization of Korea. However, around 1910, the European powers were unable to exert significant influence in East Asia owing to the tensions between the nations of the Triple Alliance and those of the rival Triple Entente.See Walter LaFeber, The Clash: U.S.-Japanese Relations Throughout History (W. W. Norton, 1998). 41. While the United States had the power to counterbalance Japan in the region, it cooperated with the latter on the issue of Korea despite significant instances of dissension on other issues. See Ch’oe Mun-hyŏng, Kukche kwan’gye ro pon Rŏ-Il chŏnjaeng kwa Ilbon ŭi Han’guk pyŏnghap [The Russo-Japanese War and the annexation of Korea by Japan from the perspective of international relations] (Chisik Sanŏpsa, 2004); Ku Tae-yŏl, Han’guk kukche kwan’gyesa yŏn’gu 1-Ilche sigi Hanbando ŭi kukche kwan’gye [A study on the international relations of Korea—The international relations of the Korean Peninsula in the Japanese colonial period] (Yŏksa Pip’yŏngsa, 1995).

    THE ANNEXATION OF KOREA AND THE FOREIGN SETTLEMENTS

      >  (1) The Immediate Abolition of Extraterritorial Rights and the Postponement of the Abolition of Foreign Settlements

    During the early twentieth century, the foreign powers actively involved in Korea were Japan, Russia, Great Britain, and the United States. In addition to Russia, the country with which Japan had fought an expansionist war, Japan was also occasionally in conflict with the United States and Great Britain—countries with which it sought to maintain the treaty ports system. While Japan won the RussoJapanese War with support from the United States and Great Britain, it had a conflict with the United States over its victory in Manchuria.9

    After annexing Korea, the Japanese government was most concerned with the Western powers’ reactions. Japan attempted to convince the powers that the annexation did not imply any aggression toward Manchuria and that Western privileges in Korea would remain protected. Around this time, the Western powers were more concerned with maintaining their acquired privileges in Korea than with the changes the annexation would cause in international relations around Korea, and they focused on the issues of tariffs and extraterritorial rights. Great Britain was particularly interested in tariffs. In return for recognition of the annexation, London pressured Tokyo to maintain the tariff rate in Korea. The Japanese government accepted this and announced that it would not revise the rate for the next ten years.10

    When the Japanese police committed frequent acts of violence against foreign nationals and arrested Koreans working in organizations operated by Westerners, the Western powers realized that the issue of extraterritorial rights could not be approached as a matter of improving the legal order. In particular, the British Consul General Henry Bonar opposed the abolition of extraterritorial rights by citing human rights violations, inadequacies in the prison system, the practice of torture, and inadequate provisions in the system of commercial and civil law, as was revealed in the case of the trial of Yang Kit’ak.11 Bonar also raised the issue that, within the settlements in Korea, there was no guarantee of British property rights and autonomy in jurisdiction, administration, and police authority, which were the key elements of extraterritorial rights.12

    Though it made concessions on the issue of tariffs, the Japanese government had a vested interest in abolishing the extraterritorial rights of the Westerners in Korea. Immediately after the annexation, the Government-General of Korea notified the nations that had “most favored nation” status under treaties concluded with the Korean government (including Germany, the United States, Austria-Hungary, Belgium, China, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Italy, and Russia) that the treaties were now void. The Japanese government abolished the extraterritorial rights of foreign nationals in Korea and subjugated all jurisdictions to the Japanese legal system.13 On August 29, 1910, the Government-General of Korea issued regulation number two—“On the Administrative Affairs of the Settlements”14 —seizing police power from the Western settlements including those in Inch’ŏn (Ch’emulp’o), Mokp’o, Kunsan, Masan, and Sŏngjin, as well as the Qing settlements in Inch’ŏn, Pusan, and Wŏnsan. Through this measure, the police force under the Japanese Government-General took over policing in the foreign settlements. In the case of Inch’ŏn, the settlement associations of the countries involved held a meeting to discuss the transfer of police power, including the resignation of seven police officers currently in service. They eventually agreed to accept the Government-General’s demand without much dissension.15

    The Government-General of Korea sought to minimize any backlash by providing a grace period during which the settlements could exercise their remaining administrative powers. The legal basis for the associations of foreign settlements in Inch’ŏn was the “Agreement Respecting the General Foreign Settlement at Ch’emulp’o” signed on October 3, 1884.16 The Government-General extended the date when the agreement would be invalidated. So long as the existence of foreign settlement associations was recognized, the several provisions within the agreement were effectively valid. The Western powers were particularly concerned with the issue of private property; therefore, the Japanese guaranteed the recognition and protection of private property owned by Westerners. Those who possessed the official paperwork for the land were free to exercise their rights over it. While consultation between nations could resolve official and institutional issues, it would not have been easy to interfere in the matter of private property.17

    While the Western powers accepted the transfer of police power; they nonetheless sought to maintain the privileges of their nationals residing in foreign settlements. Great Britain emphasized that the rights of land ownership and mining must not be altered after the annexation of Korea. The British also demanded that the Japanese government guarantee that the legal rights of British nationals living in Korea would not be any less than those of British nationals living in Japan. The British government was satisfied when it was confirmed that Japanese law in Korea would be revised to maintain the equal application of the law to British nationals living in Korea and Japan.18

    The Japanese government also stated, however, that there was room for future restrictions or even the abolition of the rights of foreigners in accordance with changes in Japanese law. Furthermore, Japan claimed that the rights that had been guaranteed could not be considered legal or indefinite. Such a proclamation exposed Japan’s intention to eventually abolish the foreign settlements. The Japanese government did, however, guarantee that it had no intention of revising or abolishing the Western rights to owning land or mining in Korea in the foreseeable future.19

      >  (2) Material Conditions of Foreign Settlements and Cooperation between Japan and the Western Nations

    The number of settler households and settlers in Korea in 1912, recorded by the Government-General of Korea during the process of discussing the abolition of foreign settlements, is listed in Table 1. As can be seen here, the total number of Westerners was much smaller than that of Chinese.20 The French and British, who made up the majority of the Western nationals in Korea, numbered eighteen each. There were fifteen Americans and three Norwegians. The total number of Russian, Greek, and Danish households in Korea was one each.21

    While the total number of Westerners living in the foreign settlements remained small, the number and size of their land holdings and the rent collected were disproportionately large. In the case of Austria-Hungary, while none of its nationals were actually residing in Korea, the country had rights over land in foreign settlements (See Table 2). This example suggests that Westerners invested in land in Korea as a future asset without expressing an interest in living or trading in the country. Rather than the settler population, what made foreign settlements an important issue was the Westerners’ political and economic status.23

    Table 3 shows the revenues and expenditures of the foreign settlements. While the different countries’ associations on the foreign settlements in Korea were unable to compensate for the high settlement operating costs with the much smaller tax revenues collected, they could still balance out the budget with the enormous profits collected from the auctions in which they participated.25 Table 4 lists out the amounts obtained at land auctions as well as the original prices for the same lands. The records include the numbers from the foreign settlements in Inch’ŏn, Chinnamp’o, Kunsan, Mokp’o, and Sŏngjin from the times of their respective establishments. The records reveal that the prices at which the lands were sold were more than seven times the original prices, suggesting that these auctions were important sources of revenue for the foreign settlements in Korea.

    Chinnamp’o and Mokp’o, signed on October 16, 1897. The legal basis for the associations of Kunsan, Masan, and Sŏngjin was the “Regulations for the Foreign Settlement at Kunsan, Masan, and Sŏngjin.”

    With the issue of the abolition of foreign settlements on the table, the representatives of the different Western countries demanded that the Government-General of Korea notify them of the actual conditions for land ownership within the foreign settlements. As a result, the foreign affairs bureau chief of the Government-General, Komatsu Midori, ordered those responsible for the administration of the foreign settlements in Korea to research and report on the conditions of land ownership. In response to British Consul General A. M. Chalmers’ request, Komatsu confirmed that landowners existed only in Chinnamp’o and Masan.28 He ordered the local officials in Chinnamp’o and Masan to conduct research into both individual and corporate British property ownerships in the regions.29 The officials reported the British owners’ names, whether or not they were residing in Korea, the representatives of those not residing in the country, and a record of their tax payments.30 The submitted report included the levels of land owned, number and size of properties, number of tenants, amount of rent, and the representatives in Korea.31 As can be observed in this example, the Government-General responded to such requests in earnest in order to avoid unnecessary conflict with the Westerners and to build mutual trust in the process of the abolition of the foreign settlements in Korea.

    The issue of settler rights and interests was central in the process of the abolition of the foreign settlements in Korea. Because large profits were made in the land auctions, a significant body of records on the transactions was produced. The Westerners were, for the most part, able to receive permits from the Government-General for the auctions held in Mokp’o, Kunsan, Sŏngjin, and Chinnamp’o if they requested or reported an auction to the Governor-General, inspector general, or foreign affairs officials.32 In the case of Mokp’o, reports to the Government-General even included research on the original prices that had to be paid to the government, receipts of the transactions, and itemized accounts of the auctions.33 Other reports included lot numbers and the areas of those lands or even maps of the city section that included the auctioned lands.34

    In the process of auctioning foreign settlements, there were instances of auction fraud.35 When a fraudulent case was detected in Kunsan, the local police office sent the paperwork to the Kunsan prosecutor’s office for further investigation. Although the indicted Japanese managed to reach an intercession after hiring a lawyer, they did not ultimately fulfill what they had promised. When they failed to perform their part of the deal, the Kunsan prosecutor interrogated them and sent them to the prosecutor’s office.36 With an interest in smooth negotiations on the abolition of foreign settlements and fearful that such illegal acts might interrupt the abovementioned negotiations, the Government-General swiftly clamped down on such cases of auction fraud committed by Japanese civilians.

    In order to clarify their rights to the lands, Westerners in the different settlements requested proper paperwork regarding land ownership for the unregistered park sites and cemeteries. The Government-General’s Foreign Affairs Bureau quickly permitted the issuing of missing paperwork.37 Hence, the Japanese government recognized the Westerners’ property rights in order to provide them with a sense of security that their rights and privileges would be safeguarded even after foreign settlements were abolished in Korea.

    9Ch’oe Mun-hyŏng, ibid., 345–418.  10See Song Kyu-jin (Song Kue-jin), “Chosŏn ŭi kwanse munje wa singminji kwanse pŏp ŭi hyŏngsŏng,” [Tariff-related issues in Chosŏn and the formation of the colonial tariff law] Sahak yŏn’gu [The Review of Korean History] 99 (2010).  11When the British journalist Ernest Thomas Bethell (dispatched to report on the Russo-Japanese War) published the Taehan maeil sinbo in Korea, and Korean writers such as Yang Kit’ak, Pak Ŭnsik, and Sin Ch’ae-ho, who were working for the same newspaper, criticized Japan’s policies, the Japanese government used diplomatic routes to launch a lawsuit against Bethel, bringing him to trial in 1907–1908. The Japanese government also tried Yang Kit’ak on the charge of embezzling money from the Korean National Debt Repayment Movement. The British government not only emphasized their consular jurisdiction over Bethell but also over Yang Kit’ak.  12Ku Tae-yŏl, ibid., 128.  13Considering it a unilateral decision, at first, the United States did not recognize the Japanese abolition of extraterritorial rights. On the basis of protecting the rights and interests of American citizens in Korea, the U.S. government continued to hold discussions with the Japanese government on the issues of the laws applicable to U.S. nationals, the sanitary conditions of prisons in which American nationals would be detained if found guilty, resolutions for the lands and real estate owned by Americans, and other measures the Japanese government could take to protect the properties of foreigners in Korea. However, the U.S. government altered its stance, accepting Japan’s demands in order to maintain its privileges in Korea, when the British abandoned their extraterritorial rights under the Japanese promise that the Government-General would carefully oversee the issues of foreign-land ownership and continue to protect the rights of Western powers in Korea. Ibid., 131–136.  14Government-General of Korea, Chosŏn Ch’ongdokpu kwanbo [The Government-General of Korea official gazette] August 29, 1910.  15CJA0002262, 537. Most of the Government-General’s sources are now accessible online at the website of the National Archives of Korea (http://archives.go.kr/next/main.do), and I intend to rely on these sources for this article. When quoting, I will note the National Archives of Korea’s source designation number as well as the page number.  16Kukhoe Tosŏgwan [National Assembly Library], Kuhan mal choyak which’an [The complete collection of laws and regulations of the late period of the Chosŏn dynasty] 2 (Kukhoe Tosŏgwan [National Assembly Library], 1965), 299–310. The legal basis for the Chinnamp’o and Mokp’o associations was the “Regulations for the Foreign Settlement at Chinnamp’o and Mokp’o” signed on October 16, 1897. The legal basis for the associations of Kunsan, Masan, and Sŏngjin was the “Regulations for the Foreign Settlement at Kunsan, Masan, and Sŏngjin,” signed on June 2, 1899. Ibid., 311–365.  17Even the Japanese settlers claimed that, despite the apparent similarities, the two systems differed at a fundamental level. They did so in order to have their property rights guaranteed at the settlements. CJA0002282, 540–556.  18CJA0002287, 685–686.  19Ibid., 687–688.  20The Japanese Government-General of Korea dealt with the abolition of the Chinese settlements in separation from that of the settlements of the Western powers. In recent years, Pak Chun-hyŏng discussed the issue of the abolition of Qing settlements in Korea using a spatialstructure analysis. See Pak Chun-hyŏng, “Kindai Kankoku ni okeru kukankoso no saihen to shokuminchi zakkyo kukan no seiritsu,” [Reorganization of space structure in modern Korea and the formation of colonial mixed residence] (Ph.D. diss, Waseda University, 2012).  21Ku Tae-yŏl argues that there was no other problem in the negotiation process for the abolition of foreign settlements because the only parties involved in the issue of property rights in the settlements were the United States and Great Britain, with the exception of one German. This is a misunderstanding that stems from reviewing only the American and British diplomatic papers. Ku Tae-yŏl, ibid., 139.  22CJA0002289, 1324.  23Within the foreign settlements, the Westerners were eager to promote their self-interests. The term that best describes and captures the mood within the foreign settlements is “Chemmulp’o Politics,” popularized and commonly used in 1897. This term criticizes the self-interested Westerners who became official representatives of their country’s settlements for their own personal gains, obtaining privileges such as favorable decisions at land auctions, installing lights in the front yards of their homes, and building roads for their personal conveniences. The existence of such a term indicates the strong political and economic statuses of the Westerners in Korea. Son Chŏngmok, ibid., 1982, 463–466.  24CJA0002289, 1318.  25CJA0002289, 1470–1477.  26CJA0002289, 1468.  27CJA0002293, 837.  28CJA0002282, 524.  29Ibid., 527–528.  30Ibid., 525–526.  31Ibid., 523.  32Land-auction records comprise the largest number of records in the CJA0002282 data.  33Ibid., 483–484.  34Ibid., 488–490.  35Ibid., 581–590. In the case of Inch’ŏn, the number of crimes committed in the Western settlements was much higher than that in the Japanese or Chinese settlements.  36Ibid., 593–606.  37Ibid., 499–501.

    DISCUSSIONS AND RESULTS ON THE ABOLITION OF FOREIGN SETTLEMENTS

      >  (1) The Japanese Decision to Abolish and the Western Reaction

    The Government-General of Korea did not immediately abolish foreign settlements following the annexation. The takeover of police power served as a precursor to the eventual abolition. Prior to the official abolition, the Government-General conducted research into the land, population, number of households, associations, finances, and extant rules of each foreign settlement.38

    The Government-General officially discussed the abolition of the foreign settlements for the first time on March 4, 1912.39 Governor-General Terauchi Masatake expressed his opinion to the Japanese Foreign Minister Uchida Yasuya that the continued existence of separate administrative powers for the foreigners living in Korea, even after the abolition of extraterritorial rights, could no longer be tolerated, because the issues were related to Japan’s national sovereignty. On April 5 of the same year, the Governor-General requested Yasuya to contact the governments of the foreign settlements and carry out preliminary negotiations. On June 13, Yasuya notified the Governor-General of the requested format for negotiations, and the latter agreed a week later. On August 28, the Japanese foreign minister informed the ambassadors of Great Britain, the United States, Germany, France, Russia, Italy, and Belgium (in the case of Belgium, the chargé d’affaires) in Tokyo of the Japanese government’s decision to abolish the foreign settlements in Korea, and asked them to transfer the administrative affairs of their settlements in accordance with the reorganization of the local administration of Korea.40

    The French ambassador requested the Japanese foreign minister to reconsider the issue of transferring the settlements’ public funds and property to local officials in Korea. The foreign minister discussed this with the Governor-General of Korea on October 3, 1912. The Governor-General replied on October 14, referencing Japanese precedents where public funds and property belonging to foreign settlements in Japan were transferred to the local authorities. He stated clearly that the funds and properties in Korea’s foreign settlements should not be used for the settlements’ purposes. On October 29, the Japanese foreign minister notified the ambassadors of the relevant nations of the Governor-General’s statement and requested the Government-General to commence negotiations on the abolition of the foreign settlements in Korea.41

    Ikebe Ryuichi, secretary of the Government-General of Korea, notified the British consul general on January 20, 1913; the German consul general (Dr. Friedrich Krüger) on January 25; and the Belgian consul general (J. Bribosia) of the Government-General’s stance on abolition.42 In response, the German consul general requested a modification to the Japanese plan. Noting that the total value of the properties owned by the settlements (including lands, buildings, furniture, etc.) amounted to 125,000 Japanese yen, the German consul general claimed that it was unfair to turn them over to the Japanese free of charge.43 On January 29, the secretary to the Government-General of Korea sent an official request to create a preliminary council to discuss the matter.44 Dispatching the paperwork on the abolition on February 5, 1913, the director of the Foreign Affairs Bureau suggested that the foreign consuls appoint a council to discuss this matter on February 17.45 The German consul general and the French chargé d’affaires (R. André) sent their mutual agreement on February 7.46 On the same day, the Governor-General notified the Japanese foreign minister that the preliminary council on the issue of the abolition of foreign settlements would commence on February 17, 1913.47 The uninvited Chinese representatives fiercely protested the creation of this council stating that the council was a private gathering of interests.48

    Prior to the commencement of the preliminary negotiations, the GovernorGeneral of Korea invited and gave his assurance to the consuls general on February 15.49 To arrive efficiently at a resolution, the Governor-General claimed that the issue of the abolition of foreign settlements had only been postponed during the annexation for the sake of convenience, but he gave the consuls his word that the legal rights and interests of foreigners would be preserved in the future. The German consul general, representing all the consuls general involved, also agreed that the rights of foreign settlements were not indefinite and would eventually be terminated. However, emphasizing the constructive role the foreigners had played in “building beautiful parks, new roads, and the sewage system,” he expressed his willingness to cooperate in the spirit of friendship while stating that he trusted the Japanese government would not trample over Western rights and interests.

    Thus, the negotiations for the abolition of foreign settlements in Korea proceeded between the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the embassies of the countries involved, following the preliminary negotiations held between the Government-General Bureau of Foreign Affairs and the consulates of the participating countries. Prior to the negotiations, the consuls general in Korea expressed their active willingness to cooperate, assuming that the Japanese would continue to guarantee the rights of foreigners even after the abolition of the foreign settlements.

      >  (2) The Opening of Preliminary Negotiations for the Abolition of Foreign Settlements and the Process of Agreement

    The preliminary negotiations for the abolition of foreign settlements proceeded swiftly but carefully and lasted for nine rounds, with the first meeting held on February 17, 1913, and the last on April 21 of the same year.50 On the Japanese side, the Governor-General of Korea, Foreign Affairs Bureau Chief Komatsu Midori, translator Honda Komataro, and Secretary of the Government-General Ikebe Ryuichi participated in the negotiations. On the foreign side, the participants were German Consul General Dr. Friedrich Krüger, American Consul General G. H. Scidmore, Belgian Consul General J. Bribosia, Russian Consul General J. Lutschg, British Consul General A. M. Chalmers, French Chargé d’Affaires R. André, and Secretary S. Tchirkine. Katayama Koryu transcribed for the Government-General and the American Vice Consul General E. L. Neville transcribed for the consuls.51

    The nations that sent representatives to the negotiations were Great Britain, the United States, Germany, France, Russia, and Belgium. Austria-Hungary did not participate. When questioned by the German consul general about AustriaHungary’s absence despite its interests in the foreign settlements, the Japanese negotiators responded that Austria-Hungary had not signed or approved the treaties on foreign settlements in Korea and did not send a representative owing to a separate agreement with Japan. The German consul general then stated that owing to an agreement between Germany and Austria-Hungary on the matters of consular service, Germany would represent the interests of Austria-Hungary in this situation.52

    The Government-General’s director of the Foreign Affairs Bureau presided over the negotiations. The director proposed the Japanese government’s items first and the consuls general then questioned or proposed alternatives to the items. The Government-General accepted some of the Western powers’ demands, and a final agreement was agreed upon at the eighth meeting, held on April 14, 1913. The transcriber of the consular body read out the articles of the final agreement and the participants agreed to them.53 The final agreement was made possible by discussion of specific matters, including public property within the settlements, perpetual lease, land tax, and land rent.

    During the ninth meeting, held on April 21, 1913, the Government-General’s director of the Foreign Affairs Bureau, the German consul general, the Belgian consul general, the American consul general, the Russian consul general, the British consul general, the French chargé d’affaires, and the Italian representative (deputized by the British consul general) signed the official agreement.54 Throughout the negotiations, the Western representatives tried their best to retain the privileges they had previously enjoyed in the foreign settlements. The Government-General focused on the abolition of foreign settlements but allowed many privileges the Westerners had enjoyed because it desired to establish a system of colonial rule throughout Korea by implementing a new local administration system that included the areas of foreign settlements. The German consul general—the representative of the consular body—expressed his satisfaction in the details of the agreement while claiming that he had done his best work in protecting the interests of German nationals.55

    Once the agreement was signed, the Government-General of Korea dispatched the Foreign Affairs Bureau chief to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tokyo to explain the details of the agreement to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Makino Nobuaki, on May 29, 1913.56 On June 24, Nobuaki requested Prime Minister Yamamoto Konbe’s approval of the cabinet.57 After a discussion between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Legislative Bureau of the cabinet, and the Government-General of Korea,58 the Legislative Bureau slightly edited the language of the agreement and returned it to the cabinet.59 The cabinet confirmed the agreement on August 15.60

    Even after the agreement, the governments of the Western powers delayed their official approval. In response, the Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs urged the British Ambassador, Conyngham Greene, U.S. Ambassador G. W. Guthrie, German Ambassador Kaiserlich, Russian Ambassador N. Malewsky Malewitch, Italian Ambassador Guiccioli, and Belgian Diplomatic Minister C. della Faille to obtain their respective governments’ approval of the agreement, while noting that the Japanese government had made a number of concessions during the negotiations.61 Upon informing the Government-General of Korea of the current state of the respective Western nations, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs demanded preparations for detailed countermeasures.62

    On August 30 (received on September 1), the Russian Ambassador to Japan expressed his willingness to approve the agreement by welcoming the clause that would “exempt all taxation of the lands and buildings on the properties of foreign governments that are being used as consulate buildings” and thanking the Japanese government.63 The Belgian minister (on September 2) and the French ambassador (on September 17) also affirmed their willingness to approve the agreement on a similar basis.64 The Italian ambassador (on September 21) and U.S. ambassador (on October 2) joined in approving the agreement and stated that the Japanese government handled the foreign settlement issue in a fair manner. The U.S. ambassador added that, were there to be any future modifications, American nationals should be held at the same or a more advantageous position vis-à-vis those from the other nations involved.65

    The German government was initially unwilling to approve the agreements, and the Japanese government investigated the reasons behind their hesitation. The Japanese learned that, though the German consul general had played an active role as the head representative of all the foreign settlements in Korea, he ended up changing his mind when Mayer & Co.66 protested the agreement.67 Mayer & Co., with its massive land holdings in the foreign settlement area in Inch’ŏn, understood that it would have to pay a massive land tax after the settlements’ abolition. Fearing that further delay could cause problems for the local administrative reforms in Korea68 and the abolition of the foreign settlements, the Government-General of Korea requested the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs to urge the German government to approve the agreement quickly.69 Finally, on January 14, 1914, the German ambassador notified the Japanese government that the German government would approve the agreement on the condition that any additional rights for foreigners related to the acquisition and concession of land would be applied equally to German nationals.

    On October 8, 1913, the British ambassador notified the Japanese government of his intention to postpone the approval. He pointed to potentially problematic areas in the handling of the foreign settlements issue, linked to the reform of local administration. Noting that there was no uniformity in the English translation of the word “pu” (government), the British ambassador first suggested the creation of uniformity in the translation. Second, he questioned the issue of “obligations and responsibilities” for local governments. He also argued that the designation of the lease contracts of Inch’ŏn’s Ch’emulp’o Club and Tennis Club would be an obligation of the local governments. Third, the ambassador pointed out the obscurity in the foreign right to future land purchases, despite the Japanese guarantee of perpetual leases. Fourth, the British ambassador demanded guarantees for the possible transfer of land to the Japanese as well as foreign buyers. He also asked the Japanese government to guarantee that there would be no discrimination or limitation against foreigners in terms of living in Korea.70 Considering that the British consulted other nations before communicating with the Japanese government, these demands were most likely not limited to the British side alone, 71 demonstrating that the Western powers often cooperated with each other to secure their interests in Korea.

    While announcing that he would accept most of the British demands, the Governor-General of Korea declared his refusal on the issue of land rights by stating that the British government already approved the matter at the time of annexation.72 On March 17, 1914, after being made aware of the GovernmentGeneral of Korea’s stance, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Makino Nobuaki, informed the British ambassador to Japan that the annexation itself invalidated all of Korea’s previous treaties with the Western powers, and the treaties Japan had signed with the West would be applied to Korea. He also noted that British Foreign Minister Edward Grey had publicly expressed satisfaction when the Japanese Ambassador, Kato Takaaki, notified him of the Japanese government’s intention to temporarily maintain the existing laws without confirming that anything would be indefinite. Makino refused the British demand, claiming that the power to modify or annul the existing laws in Korea remained entirely in Japan’s hands.73 When the British government continued to delay approval, the Japanese government notified the British ambassador to Japan that the local administration reform scheduled to begin on April 1, 1914, could be delayed74 and promised that the existing laws regarding landholdings in Korea would be maintained for the time being.75 Because their demands would be permitted for the time being, the British government notified the Japanese government on March 29 of its willingness to approve the agreement.76

    The Japanese government was able to elicit approval from the Western powers on the agreement by accepting many Western demands related to the foreign settlements.77 The transfer of administrative duties was executed efficiently in the foreign settlements after the foreign governments gave their official approval of the agreement. The transfer was also smooth for privately owned companies.78 After the abolition of the foreign settlements, the Government-General of Korea and the consulates thanked and assured each other. In addition, the GovernmentGeneral provided some compensation for the board members, staff, and affiliates of the settlement associations. Board members were given letters of appreciation in the Governor-General’s name.79

    38A representative document is CJA0002274. In this document, the data on the parks, waterworks, hospitals, streetlights, fire stations, precautionary measures for the spread of diseases, regulations on haircuts and food, and rules on home building can be found. These data provide a glimpse into the social lives within the foreign settlements.  39The Japanese concessions to the Western powers at the time of annexation included postponements of tariffs and settlements. Around March 1912, however, when the issue of the abolition of settlements first appeared in official papers, the Government-General of Korea reorganized the laws on tariffs in the country. This could be considered a display of confidence on the part of the Japanese toward the Western powers after regaining complete tariff autonomy in 1911. Song Kyu-jin, ibid., 210–215.  40Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. Nihon gaiko bunsho [Foreign relations documents of Japan] Meiji 45–1, (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, 1962), 439–445.  41Ibid., 445–451.  42CJA0002288, 1267–1270.  43Ibid., 1243–1247.  44Ibid., 1259.  45Ibid., 1257.  46Ibid., 1231–1232.  47Ibid., 1236–1237.  48Ibid., 1167–1168. With regard to the decision not to invite China, the Japanese government explained that the post-Xinhai Revolution Chinese regime had not yet been internationally recognized and, therefore, Japan would carry out separate negotiations with the Chinese. The Japanese government, at first, attempted to rescind the Chinese rights for a perpetual lease while recognizing those of the Western powers. When the Chinese representatives fiercely resisted, the Japanese government eventually recognized the Chinese perpetual lease and signed the “Agreement on the Abolition of the Republic of China’s Settlements in Korea” on November 22. Son Chŏngmok, ibid., 1982, 433–434.  49“Ch’ongdok wesa wa tapsa,” [Response to Governor-General of Korea’s Address],” Maeil sinbo, February 18, 1913.  50CJA0002286 carefully notes the details of the negotiations.  51Ibid., 416–418.  52Ibid., 150–151. On March 20, Russia questioned why Denmark did not participate in the negotiations. The Japanese representatives claimed that there was no reason for Denmark to join the negotiations as Denmark had not signed an acquisition of foreign settlements and did not have autonomy within the foreign settlements. Ibid., 257–259.  53The official name for the agreement was “Protocol Agreed to at the Conference Held between the Foreign Affairs Bureau Chief of the Government General of Chosen and the Consular Representatives of Treaty Powers Concerning Relations to the Abolition of the System of Foreign Settlements in Chosen.” Ibid., 524–533. Kukhoe Tosŏgwan [National Assembly Library], Ibid., 35–43.  54CJA0002287, 781–782.  55CJA0002288, 846.  56Ibid., 848–853.  57Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, Nihon gaiko bunsho [Foreign relations documents of Japan] Taisho 2–1, (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, 1962), 315.  58CJA0002287, 805–806.  59Ibid., 790–791. The main topic discussed in the Legislative Bureau of the cabinet was the agreement’s relationship to the domestic laws of Japan. Ibid., 795.  60Ibid., 768.  61Ibid., 745–746.  62Ibid., 743–744.  63Ibid., 738–741.  64Ibid., 724–729.  65Ibid., 712–713.  66Mayer & Co. was a commercial company established by the Hamburg merchant Heinrich Constantin Edward Meyer immediately after the opening of Inch’ŏn in 1883. It was the first Western commercial company to operate in Inch’ŏn and played an important role in Korea’s trade.  67CJA0002287, 583.  68The Japanese expressed particular concern over sub-clause number 3, which stated, “The association members have an important responsibility to participate in the administration as representatives of the people.” While foreign nationals would not be employed in the local administration, the quoted clause can be read as implying this. CJA0002292, 952–594.  69CJA0002287, 560–564.  70Ibid., 681–688.  71Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, Nihon gaiko bunsho [Foreign relations documents of Japan], Taisho 3–1, (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, 1962), 711.  72CJA0002287, 615–623.  73Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, ibid., 691–692.  74Ibid., 700.  75Ibid., 701.  76Ibid., 703.  77At the final stage of the abolition of foreign settlements, Westerners also paid attention to the financing for the maintenance of cemeteries. On March 30, 1914, the head of the foreign settlement associations, Dr. Friedrich Krüger, entreated Director Komatsu Midori to cooperate with the maintenance of cemeteries. CJA0002293, 895–898.  78Messrs Townsend & Co. obtained guarantees from the Government-General on their perpetual leases in Korea through direct negotiations. CJA0002293, 999–1007.  79CJA0002292, 814–824.

    CONCLUSION

    International order, on both the regional and the global level, is a particularly time-bound pattern in which international issues operate and international relations stabilize. The dominant force of such an order, regardless of what it represents on the surface, is the relationship between hegemonic states. While the international community recognized Japan as the hegemon of the international order in Korea following its victory in the Russo-Japanese War, in terms of the existing international laws, it was not an easy task to occupy Korea—a member of the international community bound by modern international treaties. The reason why Japan could eventually occupy Korea had to do greatly with the international community’s collaboration. Even after recognition, close cooperation with the Western powers was necessary for Japan to retain its control over Korea. This article presents a concrete example of how Japan and the Western powers maintained the system of “cooperative imperialism.”

    While carrying out the annexation of Korea, the Japanese government paid close attention to the Western powers in order to maintain a cooperative relationship with them. While the Japanese government made it public that the Western powers’ privileges in Korea would be preserved, the Western powers were, nevertheless, on their guard about the issues of tariffs and extraterritorial rights. When London expressed a special interest in the issue of tariffs, the Japanese government extended Britain’s tariff for the ten years following Japan’s annexation of Korea. At the same time, Tokyo abolished the extraterritorial rights of all foreigners living in Korea and designated all legal jurisdictions to the Japanese courts. Before long, the Japanese government had taken over policing in foreign settlements. However, it did recognize a temporary grace period for the foreign settlements—the Japanese government allowed the settlements to have temporary administrative rights with the exception of policing. The Japanese government sought to minimize any backlash by promising to preserve other privileges, such as land ownership and the mining rights of foreigners, thus endeavoring not to weaken the cooperative imperialistic relationships it shared with the Western powers.

    In 1912, when negotiations on the abolition of foreign settlements began, the total number of Western households and settlers in Korea was small. Yet, compared to the number of Chinese settlers in Korea, their land holdings and the rent collected were disproportionately large. For the Western powers, what really mattered about the foreign settlements was their political and economic status. Though the different countries’ associations of foreign settlements in Korea were unable to offset their operating costs with the much smaller tax revenues collected, they were still able to balance out the budget using the enormous profits collected from the land auctions in which they participated. The Japanese government remained largely conciliatory in preserving the Western powers’ demands for economic privileges in Korea, because it was well aware that international recognition of Japan’s annexation of Korea would result in better and larger benefits for Japan.

    Bearing in mind its sovereignty over Korea, however, the Japanese government could not indefinitely recognize foreign claims to administrative rights in Korea. After a consultation between the Government-General of Korea and the Japanese government in Tokyo, a plan for the liquidation of foreign settlements was formulated. Formal requests for the transfer of administrative power to local Japanese administrative bodies in Korea went out to the countries involved in settlements. After agreeing to a meeting to be held on February 17, 1913, the Governor-General of Korea, Terauchi Masatake, invited consular representatives from all the Western nations involved and assured them that all the rights and interests of the Westerners would be protected. The German consular representative, who acted on behalf of all the Western nations involved in this case, also expressed his willingness to cooperate in the spirit of the close relationship shared between the Western nations and Japan.

    Commencing on February 17, 1913, negotiations on the abolition of foreign settlements continued for nine meetings. Matters of public property within the settlements, leases in perpetuity, land tax, and land rent concerned the Government-General of Korea the most. The Government-General successfully obtained the signatures of all the parties involved (the Government-General’s Foreign Affairs Bureau chief, the German consul general, the Belgian consul general, the U.S. consul general, the Russian consul general, the British consul general, the French chargé d’affaires, and the Italian representative) by promising significant concessions. Despite their acceptance of the agreement, however, the Western powers delayed their official approval in order to safeguard their privileges in Korea for the future. Although the Japanese government resisted the demands at first, it eventually gave in to the Western powers’ demands by promising to maintain the content of the existing agreements regarding land ownership due to the planned reform of local administration and the abolition of the foreign settlements (scheduled to be enforced on April 1, 1914). The Japanese government earned official approval of the agreement by accepting the Western powers’ demands, but only up to the extent that the demands did not considerably infringe upon Japan’s national sovereignty.

    The Government-General of Korea eventually overcame the final obstacle to its implementation of local administrative reform by implementing the “Protocol on the Abolition of Foreign Settlements in Korea” on April 1, 1914. The unequal treaties with the Western powers were finally voided with the official abolition of the foreign settlements, which had once been a demand of the Western powers. By recognizing Western privileges in Korea, Japan successfully maintained its cooperative relationship with the Western powers until the end of World War I. Consequently, the Western powers also played a significant role in stabilizing Japan’s colonial rule over Korea through their cooperation. The Western powers tolerated the Koreans’ suffering under Japanese colonial rule so long as their privileges were safeguarded. By supporting Japan’s claim to rule Korea, the Western powers maintained a system of “cooperative imperialism” in Korea.

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  • [Table 1:] The number of households and the population in the foreign settlements of each country22
    The number of households and the population in the foreign settlements of each country22
  • [Table 2:] The amount and size of land owned and rent collected by foreigners in the foreign settlements of each country (1912)24
    The amount and size of land owned and rent collected by foreigners in the foreign settlements of each country (1912)24
  • [Table 3:] The revenues and expenditures of the foreign settlements in 1913.26
    The revenues and expenditures of the foreign settlements in 1913.26
  • [Table 4:] The auction and original prices of the lands in the foreign settlements in 1914.27
    The auction and original prices of the lands in the foreign settlements in 1914.27