> Korean Textbooks over the Years: A Window into Korean Education > Introduction

Robbed of national sovereignty, and the indoctrination of colonial thought by education

It can be said that the Japanese Occupation Period was one of the darkest times of suffering in Korea's modern history. Textbooks were published and disseminated during the 35-year occupation of Korea by the Japanese empire. When we look at the physical appearance of textbooks in those days, the quality of their paper and binding might have been better than those from the late Joseon Dynasty, but their contents had become perverted into a tool for conveying colonialist ideologies. Attempts to annihilate the spirit of the Korean people are reflected in these textbooks.

In November 1905, Japan pressured Korea into agreeing to the Japan-Korea Treaty of 1905, which was the beginning of many grave hardships inflicted on the Korean people. These hardships, like the deprivation of diplomatic sovereignty, the appointment of the Resident-General, etc., were the primary shackles of colonization. Japan began to dominate Korea by placing Japanese Vice-Ministers in every Ministry of the Korean government and making a habit of meddling and spying in internal affairs, while also dismissing the armed forces. The Japanese Empire forcibly suppressed the nationwide resistance awakened by these injustices and stripped the judicial and police authorities of their power, at last robbing Korea of its national sovereignty.

The plot to pillage Korea's national sovereignty was deployed on a full-scale when Japanese military officer and politician, MasatakeTerauchi, started his post as Resident-General of Korea. Terauchi became the first Resident-General in October 1910 and in doing so was placed in command of Korea's colonization policy. From this point forward, the era of persecution under the Japanese Empire kicked into high gear. What the colonial powers wanted to place the most emphasis on was educational policy for Koreans. The Japanese Empire’s first stated aim was to promote the so-called "Subjects of the Japanese Empire (황국신민)" ideology through a policy of brainwashing and persecution. Additionally, the Japanese Empire insisted up "Gukchemyeongjing" (국체명징, an ideology based on emperor worship) and forced Korean students to learn ideas such as "Naeseonilche (내선일체)" and "Ingodallyeon (인고단련)". These mottos encapsulated the gist of colonial ideologies, and formed the backbone of the Korean education system. Of course, textbooks served as the means for conveying these colonialist ideologies, which were designed to wipe out Korean ideas and attitudes.

The educational policies of the Japanese authorities sought to break the spirit of the Korean people, and its 1940 policy of forcing Koreans to adopt Japanese names drove Korea to the brink. In November 1939, the Japanese empire committed the horrible sin of revising and declaring the "Joseonminsaryeong (조선민사령)” policy, which abolished the Korean naming system, and set up in the Japanese naming system its place, which coerced all Koreans into adopting new Japanese names within six months of the policy's proclamation in February 1940.

The government-general at this time denied school admission to children of parents who refused to adopt a Japanese name. After that, a variety of other social restrictions were imposed on such "rebellious" Koreans, such as forced conscription and exclusion from food and goods distribution. During this time, the Japanese Empire also demanded that Koreans worship at Shinto shrines, appointed every 6th day of the month as "Patriotic Day", and coerced Koreans into raising the Japanese flag, singing the Japanese national anthem, "Kimigayo," and reciting the Imperial Oath and Pledge of the Imperial Subjects (황국신민서사). The front lines for these attempts at forced assimilation were places like schools and public offices. Throughout this process, Japan tried to instill a manufactured historical view, insisting Pearl Harbor and these events to all be a part of their historical destiny.

With the so-called "Train and Raise Subjects According to Japanese Doctrine (황국의 도에 따른 국민연성)," Japanese educational policies set in place their goals for Korean students, which facilitated Japan’s attempts at the Japanization of the Korean people. These educational policies lay the foundation for Japan’s imperialist invasion policies, which they had been pursuing since the last half of the 19th century, when Japan first conspired to occupy Korea.

Therefore, it was through textbooks that Japan inculcated de-Koreanization onto the Korean people. It appears that such artifices to prevent Koreans from developing their own ethnic identity were a plan to make Japanization seem like an inevitability. This was based on "self-denial" of Korean identity and was followed by the subordination and assimilation of Koreans into Japanese culture. These themes appeared throughout the pages of textbooks published by Japan during the Japanese Occupation Period.








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