UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Forgotten reciprocity of languages of the colonizer and the colonized : Korean language study of Japanese colonial agents Minami, Kiyoe


The language policy of the Japanese Government General (JGG) can be illustrated by examining the Provisions for Korean Education which were promulgated three times and revised six times between 1911 and 1943. Reflecting the intensifying nature of Japanese colonial rule, these provisions were used to justify the dominance of Japanese in school curricula over that of Korean language curricula. After the period of'quantitative expansion of assimilation education' (1910-1936) when the JGG emphasized spreading Japanese language, the JGG inaugurated the 'Campaign for the Common Use of the National Language (i.e. Japanese)'and aimed at increasing the penetration of Japanese until it permeated into every corner of Korean society. However, the result of the thirty-five long years of Japanese language policy was dissapointing for the JGG officials: Koreans with Japanese language ability remained less than 20% in 1945. Thus, for smoother and more effective control over the colony, the JGG found it necessary for its agents to know Korean. In particular, the outbreak of the March Tl Independence Movement in 1919 triggered a more serious effort on the part of colonial agents to learn Korean. In 1921, the JGG announced Provisions for Korean Language Encouragement that inaugurated the comprehensive Korean language encouragement exam system, featuring high bonus income for the exam graduates. This JGG Korean language encouragement policy created a quiet enthusiasm among the JGG agents. The vast majority of those taking the exam and graduating came from the JGG police: i.e., from those who stood on the frontline of the Japanese colonial regime and most keenly felt the need to speak Korean in their everyday duties. This secret enthusiasm to learn Korean language study was advocated and supported by Japanese and Korean intellectuals and linguists, who expressed their collaborative efforts in numerous language guides during the colonial period. While the earlier publications tended to be disorganized and on a smaller-scale, they became more comprehensive in the 1920's, resulting in the creation of the monthly journal Choosengo in 1925. The wide coverage of JGG Korean language training provided by Choosengo reveals the diverse strata among Korean language learners and instructors at the time. Throughout the period, JGG-led Korean language study projects and guides received the support and interest of many high-profile Korean and Japanese figures, as well as numerous Korean civilians who contributed to Korean language study by Japanese colonial agents. This demonstrates that in reality, linguistic collaboration between Korean and Japanese was much more pervasive than it is generally believed today. This disproves the one-dimensional narrative that many South Korean linguists have concerning their colonial language activities.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


For non-commercial purposes only, such as research, private study and education. Additional conditions apply, see Terms of Use https://open.library.ubc.ca/terms_of_use.