This article examines legal decisions in lineage property disputes from the Korean Empire period (1897–1910) to the first two decades of the Japanese colonial rule to trace the effect of Japanese efforts to implement property rights reforms in colonial Korea. Lineage properties were heavily concentrated in the mountains in the form of communal burial sites; thus, to ease acceptance of colonial rule, such Japanese objectives as forest cultivation needed to accommodate long-established Korean practices of mountain burial. In addition, Japanese perceptions of Koreans as primitively collective in their property relations led to initial suppression of the rights of heirs over lineage property. The colonial court's subsequent gradual and uneven invocation of the principle of exclusive individual property rights became a source of both legal and physical conflicts. The case of how lineage property rights were reorganized in colonial Korea shows the compromised nature of the colonial property regime as it sought to balance traditional claims and modern concepts of property ownership, with long-term consequences for property rights in Korea.

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