This article examines changes in agrarian social relations during the Japanese colonial period in Korea. Throughout the colonial rule, the Japanese regime followed the imperial logic of maximizing its own political and economic interests, thus generating the societal reorganization of colonial Korea. Yet, the colonial government by no means remained as an oppressive and extractive power only. Rather, it continued to reformulate the colonial system by interacting with different responses from the colonialized. Focusing on the influence of the legal enforcement of agricultural projects upon colonial Korea, this article explores why Japanese colonial rule accelerated internal conflicts among Koreans, and how the colonial government took a mediating position, rather than simply acting as a super-imposed colonial power. Of particular importance is that the Government-General of Korea kept revising the colonial legal system, which in turn led Korean landlords and peasants to seek their own survival or economic profit through the intervention of the colonial power. By highlighting the fact that the colonial state pursued its own political interest of maintaining social order in its colony, instead of exclusively supporting landlords or peasants at the expense of the other, the article advances the argument that the colonial government served as an arbiter of internal boundaries among Koreans.

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.