[KS] Colonization vs occupation

Frank Hoffmann frank at koreaweb.ws
Fri Apr 28 13:39:12 EDT 2006

Hello All:

This is sure an interesting question, and the two replies by Michael 
Robinson and Leonid Petrov are certainly correct. Yet, I think there 
is another dimension to this: the usage of the terms "colonial," 
"colonialization" and "colonialism" in itself is problematic, in my 
view, in not so different ways than the use of the terms "exotic" and 
"oriental." You may just ask yourself who created these terms, when, 
and with what interest? Every colonial power, e.g. the Netherlands, 
Great Britain, or France developed their very own justification 
rhetorics to shield their occupations of other nations and 
territories. The two latecomers Germany and Japan, latecomers as 
nation states (Germany since 1871, Japan since 1868) as well as 
colonizers (Germany 1884-1919, Japan 1895-1945) were no exceptions. 
While German colonial rhetoric was seemingly weak and without much 
central planning by the German governments, the Japanese, as we all 
know, made great efforts to develop a convincing script for their own 
Greater Asia screenplay, one that would set them on equal footing 
with European colonial powers. The fact that nobody is questioning if 
Germans in their 35 years as colonial power where colonializing 
African territories while many still have a problem calling the 35 
year long Japanese occupation of Korea colonialism then obviously 
means that racism and Eurocentric ideas do not treat the colonizer 
any better than the colonized.

In my M.A. thesis I avoided the use of "colonial" all together as it 
seemed such a colonial term itself, totally the product of colonial 
rhetoric. But that kind of abstinence has really proven hard to 
follow. Still, we are basically discussing the making and workings of 
political systems while still partially operating within a 
consciousness that was created by these systems. Not a unique 
situation, of course. History cannot be put into a sterilized 
dissecting room, we are always in it ourselves. Decolonization is a 
process that also takes time for the former colonizers to go through.

As for Henny's reference to *Nazi* German occupations of other 
European nations during WWII -- that is at least how I understand it: 
the Nazis did not use the term colonial, did not use any rhetoric 
about colonialism. Again, the term itself was the colonizer's term, 
is not a term that was created by historians a 100 years after the 
fact, as in other cases. The Japanese used that term and tried to 
even legally make it seem as if Koreans transferred the rule of their 
country to Japan. If at all, then the Korean case might be compared 
with the annexation of Austria in 1938. That's a shaky comparison, 
though, and probably not very helpful.


Frank Hoffmann

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