One hundred years ago today life for my son’s Korean family changed. I don’t know their specific circumstances, but I know when Japan began its rule of Korea on Aug. 22, 1910, life as Koreans knew it wouldn’t be the same.
Of course, the situation didn’t begin in 1910. The two countries actually have a long history, with Japanese invading the Korean peninsula several times. But the annexation of Korea, which happened 100 years ago, started with an unequal trade treaty signed in 1876, the Treaty of Ganghwa. That lead to Korea being occupied by Japan in 1905 then officially annexed in 1910.
The period of occupation is referred to in Korea as 일제 강점기 (Ilje gangjeomgi), “Japanese forced occupation.” The occupation would last for 35 years, during which Koreans were forced to give up their Korean names, their food, their culture, and their language.
Liberation came when Japan surrendered to end World War II in 1945. During the liberation, the country was divided in half–a division that led to the Korean War in 1950 and that lasts even today.