The following is a chronology of the key points in modern Korean-Japanese history.
1873: Japanese military and political leader Takamori Saigo calls for invasion of Korean Peninsula due to Korea’s refusal to recognize the Emperor Meiji’s legitimacy and its claimed insulting treatment of Japanese envoys. His political rival Toshimichi Okubo thwarted those plans, arguing that such an invasion would be premature.
1875: Unyo Incident. A Japanese ship ventured near Korean coast, provoking reaction from coastal defenses, justifying Japanese retaliation and a show of force.
1876: Treaty of Ganghwa. Unequal commercial treaty signed as a result of Japanese gunboat diplomacy that opened trade and conferred extraterritoriality on Japanese, meaning they were not subject to Korean law — similar to the unequal treaties imposed on Japan.
1895: Empress Myeongseong (Queen Min) assassinated by Japanese zealots.
1905: Korea made into a Japanese protectorate as a result of the Eulsa Treaty, although the legitimacy of this treaty is disputed, one reason being the absence of Emperor Gojong’s seal.
1907: Japanese force Emperor Gojong to abdicate in favor of his son, Sunjong. Gojong had riled the Japanese by sending envoys to the Hague Conference on World Peace in 1907 protesting Japan’s actions in Korea.
1908: Root-Takahira Agreement. This gives Japan the green light on annexing Korea in exchange for recognizing the U.S. occupation of Hawaii and the Philippines.
1909: Hirobumi Ito, former prime minister and Resident General of Korea, assassinated in Manchuria by Ahn Jung Geun, who opposed Japan’s rule in Korea.
1910: On Aug. 22, the Japan-Korea Annexation Treaty was signed, establishing colonial rule that ended with Japan’s surrender at the end of World War II in 1945. The treaty was promulgated on Aug. 29, a date that is commemorated as a day of national shame in Korea. The legality of the annexation is disputed for various reasons.
1907-12: Korea Righteous Army Resistance; a fierce anti-Japanese guerilla movement.
1919: March 1st Movement. Mass anti-Japanese rallies calling for independence met with harsh repression involving the death of some 7,000 Koreans and the arrest of some 40,000 during the sustained demonstrations.
1921: A Korean school participates in the annual high-school Koshien baseball tournament for the first time.
1923: Senjingari (Korean hunting). Japanese vigilantes attacked ethnic Koreans in the wake of the Great Kanto Earthquake, killing several thousand based on erroneous rumors that they had been poisoning wells, setting fires and looting.
1939: Official recruitment of Korean labor for work in Japan, often involving coercion.
1942: National Mobilization Law. This leads to conscription of Korean workers in Japanese mines and factories in Korea, Manchukuo and Japan, including Sakhalin. In total about 5.4 million Koreans were conscripted and 670,000 were sent without having any choice to Japan where an estimated 60,000 died from harsh mistreatment and dangerous working conditions. The 43,000 Koreans sent to Sakhalin remained there following the Soviet invasion at the end of World War II.
1945: An estimated 20,000-30,000 Koreans conscripted to work in Japan die in atomic bombings. Japan surrenders and Korea is liberated.
1965: Japan normalizes relations with South Korea and provides $800 million in grants and soft loans as final compensation for colonial rule.
1976: Foreign archeologists no longer allowed access to the site where Empress Jingu is thought to be buried, prompting speculation that ongoing excavations at the Gosashi tomb in Nara Prefecture yielded evidence of bloodline ties between Korea and the Imperial court.
1991: Normalization talks commence with North Korea, with Japan offering a formal apology for colonial rule, but they break down over questions of compensation.
1992: Remains of some 20,000 Korean noses constituting the Okayama nose mound (near Osaka), macabre trophies dating from late 16th century invasions, are returned to South Korea.
1993: Kono Statement. The Japanese government, in a statement by the Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono, acknowledges official responsibility for the so-called comfort-women system, apologizes and vows to atone.
1995: Asia Women’s Fund is established to compensate former comfort women. Michio Watanbe, kingpin of the Liberal Democratic Party, states that Japan’s annexation of Korea in 1910 had been done amicably, with Korean consent.
1998: Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi apologized for Japanese colonial rule to President Kim Dae Jung during a summit that concluded with South Korea agreeing to lift its ban on Japanese cultural imports. At the time, 80 percent of Japanese thought that the two countries had reached closure on the apology issue.
2001: Emperor Akihito acknowledges Korean ancestry of the Imperial family. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi makes the first of six visits while in office to Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, pushing relations with South Korea and China into the deep freeze.
2002: South Korean and Japan co-host the FIFA World Cup finals. Prime Minister Koizumi visits Pyongyang to restart normalization talks, but these are derailed by Kim Jong Il’s admission concerning the North Korean abduction of 13 Japanese nationals and the ensuring uproar in Japan.
2003: North Korea withdraws from the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) treaty and six-party talks (North and South Korea, the United States, China, Japan and Russia) begin aimed at stopping Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program.
2005: Japan-South Korean Friendship Year. The Pukkwan Victory Monument commemorating victories over invading Japanese (1592-94) is returned to the Korean Peninsula, resolving three-decade dispute since its discovery in the grounds of Yasukuni Shrine. Shimane Prefecture establishes Takeshima Day (Feb. 22), asserting a claim over disputed islets known in Korea as Dokdo.
2007: Less than a month before the closing down of the Asia Women’s Fund, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stirs controversy on March 1 in quibbling about the level of coercion involved in recruiting Korean comfort women. That is the date on which Koreans commemorate their suffering under Japanese colonial rule.
2010: South Korea’s Kim Yu Na wins Olympic figure-skating gold medal, besting Japan’s Mao Asada, sparking an Internet war of words and cyber attacks. Seventy-five South Korean congressmen appeal to Prime Minister Naoto Kan on June 23 to legally nullify the 1910 Treaty of Annexation. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon visits memorials to Koreans who died in the atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. On Aug. 10, Kan expressed “deep remorse” and “heartfelt apology” for Japan’s colonial rule in Korea. North Korea expresses disappointment and resentment that it was not included in the apology.
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