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Reflecting on Japan`s Bid to Eradicate the Korean Language

Reflecting on Japan`s Bid to Eradicate the Korean Language

Posted January. 02, 2010 08:38,   


Imperial Japan tried to gradually eradicate the Korean language through four decrees after its annexation of Korea in 1910.

The first education decree in 1911 stripped Korean of its status as the country’s mother tongue. At every school, the “national” language was Japanese, while Korean was reduced to inclusion in a minor subject called “Korean language and Chinese classics.”

The number of class hours spent on the Korean language and Chinese classics course was a third of that of Japanese. In elementary schools, Japanese was the language of instruction for all subjects except for classes on Korean.

Japan’s bid to eradicate the Korean language suffered a significant setback due to the 1919 pro-independence movement. In 1920, the Japanese colonial government allowed the establishment of two Korean-language newspapers -- The Dong-A Ilbo and The Chosun Ilbo.

For three days from April 11, 1920, just 10 days after its initial edition, Dong-A carried a front-page editorial urging Japan to abandon its policy of using Japanese in Korean education.

A Korea-language article dated June 15, 1920, urging the teaching of the Korean language criticized the mandatory use of Japanese in Korean-language classes and at home.

Imperial Japan revived its attempt to eradicate the Korean language in 1934 by stopping the two newspapers’ campaign to use the Korean alphabet system. In a 1938 educational decree, Japan made Korean an elective subject before technically abolishing Korean-language education at all schools the following year.

In a Nov. 10, 1937, editorial, Dong-A criticized this policy, saying the abolishment of Korean-language classes ignored the country’s regional distinctiveness.

In the third step of Japan’s attempt to eradicate Korean, Dong-A and Chosun were told to shut down in August 1940. In the culmination of the move, Japan arrested key members of the Korean Language Society in October 1942.

The fourth educational decree made in April 1943 was the conclusion of Japan’s attempt to eradicate Korean, as Korean was removed from school curriculums.

In 1943, however, just 22 percent of Koreans used Japanese as opposed to 62 percent of Taiwanese.