1. Korea under Japanese Rule
My father and mother lived in a village in Jinyang County (present Jinju), near Busan, in South Gyeongsang Province. The province was a rich grain-yielding area with double-cropping, located in the south of the Korean Peninsula. The Nakdong River is a big river running through the province. As the river often overflowed, many water canals were completed along the river.
In Korea, where Confucianism is prevalent, each clan lived in a village as a group, and the eldest son inherited the entire estate as the head of the clan. Sons other than the first son traditionally lived on their allocation from the clan’s estate. However, the situation changed when Japan annexed Korea as a colony in 1910. Under Japanese rule, the obligatory delivery of crops to the government started. It was called “obligatory,” but in reality, it was exploitation with a harsh collection. Around 1930 in Korea, there were about 21 million people and 70% of them were farmers. The amount of Korean rice delivered to the Empire of Japan accounted for 60% of the total rice production in both the Japanese islands and the Korean Peninsula. Considering that the population of the Japanese mainland then was more than 70 million, that percentage shows that the rice collection in Korea by the Japanese government was quite severe. Because of that, many clans could not afford to support all the families in their clans except their own family, so some families become tenant farmers. Poor farmers and those who were not the first sons even from wealthy clans had to find a way to earn an income.
During this time, recruiters, some Japanese and some Korean, frequently appeared in villages to persuade villagers to go to Japan to work, saying that they would have good jobs to make money there. Thinking it attractive, my father, the third son in his family, decided to go to Japan to work. In 1929, he came to Japan and my mother joined him half a year later when he had some confidence in making a living in Japan.