In the 1910s, Japanese colonial officials worked to legitimize their recently acquired rule of Korea by providing public elementary education, gradually expanding from an initially limited offering. Their public schools existed in tension with Korean-run private schools, which the Japanese barely tolerated. There was also a tension within the Japanese camp over the proper curriculum for the public elementary schools. The Korean Education Ordinance of August 1911 was a compromise between Japanese officials in Korea, who generally favored a gradual approach to colonial rule, and Japanese educators and officials in Japan, who generally were optimistic about Japan’s ability to assimilate the Koreans through education. This article expands our understanding of the process of drafting the ordinance. It examines the Japanese “national language” and “Korean and literary Sinitic” textbooks published during the 1910s, and finds that the compromise resulted in messages of thankfulness and obedience, stressing Japanese superiority and Korean backwardness. Finally, it reviews the Japanese attempts to control Korean-run private schools. This article explicates the creation and implementation of colonial education policy by examining internal and external documents published by the Government-General of Korea and its employees, the textbooks the government published, and Japanese education journals.

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