Chosen Sotoku-fu (Governor-General of Korea) (朝鮮総督府)

Chosen Sotoku-fu was a government office established by the Empire of Japan of the day in 1910 in order to govern Korea in the period of Japan's rule by the annexation of Korea. The government building was built on the premise of the Gyeongbokgung Palace in Keijo Prefecture (present Seoul Special City, Republic of Korea), Gyeonggi Province (in the period of Japan's rule).

Its predecessor was Kankoku Tokan-fu (Resident General of Korea), and the Korean Empire was reorganized and integrated, but the major high officials were mostly Japanese. The first Sotoku (governor-general) was Masatake TERAUCHI. The Sotoku position was held by the Japanese active-duty Army General or Admiral. In 1945, its operation was stopped by order of the allied forces due to Japan's defeat in the Pacific War. Its authority was passed to the United States Army Military Government in Korea.

Sotoku-fu conducted the restriction of speech, ban of association, regulation of independent movement. Infrastructure was improved, which led prevention of infectious diseases and increase of the birth rate, and Japanization and teaching of Japanese and Hangeul were pursued in educational facilities. There are criticism and appreciation on these policies and projects.


The Chosen Sotoku-fu belonged directly to the Emperor, and it could use military force (later revised to the military claim right to the Commander of Army and Navy) to protect Korea in the range of delegation, and had legislative, executive and judicial power through the prime minister, and a wide variety of authority on royal families and Korean noble families. The Chosen Sotoku-fu had Seimu sokan (Vice Governor), Sotoku kanbo (Governor's Secretariat) and five departments (General affairs, Internal affairs, Finance, Agriculture and Commerce and Industry, and Justice) as well as Advisory Panel, Police administration, Courts, Railway Bureau (Chosen Sotoku-fu Railways), Monopoly Bureau, Local administration including Province, Prefecture and County, which covered the whole governing structure of Korea.

The Japanese government invested a large amount of budget to the Korean Peninsula in order to increase Korean economy to the same level in the mainland. Some researchers insist that it helped the Korean Peninsula modernized by improving infrastructure such as railways, roads, water and sewerage, electricity, hospitals, schools and factories, and establishing the modern educational system and modern medical system. As a result, the infectious disease that was spread in the Korean Peninsula was prevented, and food production increased (the rice production at the time of the annexation was about 10 million koku [crop yield], which increased to 20 million koku 20 years later) due to development of agricultural land. This made the population of the Korean Peninsula, which had been 16 million in 1906 before the annexation, become to 24 million in 1940, and the average life expectancy, which had been 24 years at the time of the annexation (in 1919), increase up to 45 years in 1942.

However, the economic development in Korea was promoted mainly in order to support industrialization and food shortage in Japan.

Some researchers believe that, contrary to the high economic development, most of the profit were distributed to the Japanese people and companies in Korea, and most of the food including rice were given to Japan, which made the distribution ratio to the Koreans (especially in the rural area) low. Others insist that, just like any other colonies, the income difference between the Japanese in Korea and the Koreans as the natives was huge. On the other hand, there exists a study concluding they were only business practices, which means some Koreans also made a profit, and the income increased and no problem existed. It had a negative attitude toward the local culture, and the independent movement of Korea against the Sotoku-fu's rule was strictly controlled.

Policy Changes

The early policy of the Chosen Sotoku-fu was called 'Budan seiji (government by the military).'
Budan seiji banned all the political activities to oppress the independent movement against the integration policy of the colony, and aimed at laying the foundation for colonial administration under the strict military government. Therefore, the Japanese constitution was not enforced, and the military prerogative ruled. The Sotoku's orders (regulations) reserved all the functions of judicial, executive and legislative administration, and voting of the Imperial Diet was unnecessary. Freedom of speech, assembly and association was strictly limited except a part of Christians (for consideration of international opinions), and all the Korean police administration was delegated to the Japanese army, of which kenpei (military police) doubled as general policemen instead of the regular police. (The number of the military policemen was 2019 in the year of the annexation.
It included 1012 Korean military police assistants.)
It is said that the military police was an extremely imperative system against the general Koreans. In particular, they could arrest and punish the Koreans without any legal procedures under the pretext of suppressing spies or rebels, and they got involved in the daily life of the Koreans.

The military police conducted 'Japanese language education' and tax collection as their general administrative works, and requisitioned 'ownerless' agricultural lands for agricultural improvement. The Sotoku-fu conducted investigation on land owners, and ownerless lands were requisitioned and bought by Toyo Takushoku Co., and distributed to the Japanese having moved there and the local powerful people. The agricultural land requisitioned by the Sotoku-fu was 3.26% of all the cultivated lands. In Korea in the period of Joseon Dynasty, the agricultural lands were devastated, and the people were hounded and deprived by government officials, yangban (traditional ruling class or nobles of dynastic Korea during the Joseon Dynasty) and loan sharks. Some researchers say that Japan worked on flood prevention and water supply, and established financial association and water supply association in Korean agricultural land, which allowed Korean peasants to get a loan with low interest rate, and to make a big profit. Korean large landowners gained a large amount of profit due to the improved productivity, which allowed them to export rice to Japan. The most notable is Byung-Chull LEE, the founder of the Samsung Group. He was born as the second son of a large landowner in Gyeongnam Prefecture, and with the large amount of money he had gained from export of rice, he established Samsung Trading Company in Daegu Metropolitan City in 1938, which developed later the Samsung Group. Some argued that, on the other hand, peasants were deprived of their land, and impoverished people ended up moving to Manchuria, the mainland in Japan and Russian Maritime Province. Though the land research project aimed at establishing ownership by declaration, there were a large number of lands undeclared due to insufficient announcement and fear of taxation. As a result, many lands were incorporated into the public land, and many Korean peasants lost their ownership of their land, some researchers say. On the other hand, researchers such as Lee Yong-hoon of the Seoul National University say that the 'land requisition by Empire of Japan' taught in South Korea is a myth, and the Korean land incorporated by Japan was only 10% from the viewpoint of objective figure.
There also exists a view that the Korean's average height increased from 1910 to the mid 1920s, which 'clearly shows that the Korean living standard steadily improved.'

Joseon Dynasty had no institution of education for common people, and about 70% Koreans were illiterate. And in Korea, kanji (Chinese characters) was valued mainly among yahgban, and Hangeul (Korean letters) was unvalued. There exists an opinion that Japan promoted education of Korean language, and the prevalence of Hangeul among Korean people was a result of the Japanese policy. The Sotoku-fu created the Regular school Hangeul spelling method as the orthography of the Korean language made first time in modern times in 1912, and created the Hangeul spelling method as the new orthography for improving learning efficiency of children, and organizing and integrating spelling methods of the Korean language in 1930. On the other hand, however, the use of the Korean language was controlled and oppressed, and the integration policy including Japanese education was also promoted.

Though neither the constitution or the election law was applied in Korea, the Koreans were given Japanese nationality and it was possible for them to join the Lower House election in the mainland. Only Chun-Geum PAK was elected a member of Lower House as a Korean. Ten Korean members in total were appointed the House of Peers. Further, some were elected local assembly members, some worked for the central government or local government.

County magistrates and village mayors in Korea (equivalent of Guncho and Soncho in the mainland) were the Koreans in principle.

Though remains such as Seokguram, and Gyeongbokgung Palace, where the building of Sotoku-fu was, destroyed or damaged by Japan, and palaces such as Gyeonghuigung Palace was completely destroyed, some buildings including Gwanghwamun Gate, the main gate of Gyeongbok Palace, and Sungnyemun Gate were preserved by preservation movement. Cultural properties in many places such as the Pukkwan Victory Monument were moved out of the Korean Peninsula by Japan.

After the March First Movement in 1919, owing to the Taisho Democracy in the mainland, 'Budan seiji' was shifted to conciliatory 'Bunka seiji (cultural government)' (See Bunka seiji in Chosen Sotoku-fu). But in 1937, when the Sino-Japanese War occurred, Japanization was promoted under the wartime regime in Korea, and all sorts of human resources were mobilized and various resources and food were transported in large numbers through business practices to Japan until Japan was defeated. Among the Koreans, some joined the World War II as military men or army civilian employees (including Korean soldiers of Japan), and some Korean women worked as Ianfu (comfort women).

Police Structure

Masatake TERAUCHI, the Tokan (inspector general) of Korea of the day, integrated the military police with the regular police by having Motojiro AKASHI, the commander of the military police forces, double as the chief of the police administration in July, 1910, right before the annexation. It is called the Kenpei Police system (Chosen Sotoku-fu). There were 7712 officers (the Koreans were 4440) with the 'Kenpei police' and 'general police' together in the year of annexation of Korea. The ''Kenpei police' had 2019 officers (the Koreans were 1012).

The Japanese army and the police were deployed all over Korea, and military men other than military policemen also took charge of governance and police activities. The Seodaemun Prison, which was established around that time, was known for housing and executing numbers of independent activists. Movement for Korea's independence and resistance movement against Japan's rule were strictly cracked down. The Kenpei police was abolished due to the change to the Bunka seiji. The Chosen Sotoku-fu Police possessed heavy arms including machine guns and field guns, which the police in the mainland in Japan didn't, even after they were shifted to the regular police, and they had a character as a police army, which fought against pro-independent armed groups crossing the border of the Chinese territory which was out of Japan's control.

Bunka Seiji

The Japanese government, shocked by the March First Movement, found that it was impossible to rule Korea only by force of arms, and changed its Budan seiji partly, also in consideration of the emergence of the party cabinet in the Taisho Democracy period and Japanese domestic public criticism of Budan seiji. Prime Minister Takashi HARA replaced Yoshimichi HASEGAWA as Sotoku, and appointed moderate Makoto SAITO as Sotoku (Admiral). They aimed to establish stable governance by accepting part of the demands of the nationalist movement so as to disrupt and weaken the movement, but the basis of their policy was mainland expansionism, or assimilation, in order to achieve integration by narrowing the system gap between Korea and the Japanese mainland and reducing dissatisfaction in the area.

By the imperial edict of August 20, 1919, military Sotoku system was abolished, which allowed a civil officer to assume the Sotoku post subject to the system, but this didn't realize in reality, and all the Sotoku other than Saito were Army Generals. Reorganized into the regular police system, the Kenpei police was abolished, but numbers of police officers were dispatched from Japan, which made the number of the police officers increase from 6,387 in 1919 to 20,134 in 1920. The surveillance system against the independence movement was more strengthened. The freedom of speech and association was somewhat relaxed, and publication of Korean newspapers and magazines was allowed. In this period, legal racial movement by the Koreans became active, and development of Korean literature and that of popular culture in big cities were seen. However, integration education was further promoted, and Korean classes were decreased at school and Japanese classes were increased instead. From April 1, 1938, the language taught in elementary school education was limited to Japanese (Shogakko Rei [Primary School Order] Article 16 Section 8). Youths who didn't go to elementary school were obliged to go to 'Korean Special Youth Training Camp' for one year to have 600-hour education. Japanese education occupied 400 hours of this.

In 1924, Keijo Imperial University was established to counter the movement for establishing private universities. Japanese students occupied 60% in the university, of which education contents were mainly Japanese culture. In April, 1940, the goal that 'training faithful and promising Japanese people' was laid out.


Different from government offices in other overseas territories such as Taiwan Sotoku-fu, Chosen Sotoku-fu took over the most structures of the Korean Empire government as it had been, so it had numbers of Korean bureaucrats from the beginning.

Royals and Korean Nobles

A privileged class system was established, which made former imperial families of Korea become royals and those who made an achievement on the annexation of Korea become Korean nobles.

Architecture of the Buildings

The old Chosen Sotoku-fu building seen until 1995 was a building built in front of the palace of the Gyeongbokgung Palace in 1926. George de Lalande, a German architect having an office in Japan, took charge of its basic design, and Japanese architects (including Ichiro NOMURA and Hiroshi KUNIEDA) completed it after de Lalande died. It was four stories high with an open ceiling in the center.

Summary of the Architecture

Floor levels: five levels / Structure: reinforced concrete

Building area: about 7,055 sq.m. / Total floor space: about 31,800 sq.m.

Eave height: about 22.7m, height of the central tower: about 54.5m

Number of rooms: 257 / State room: about 694 sq.m. / Main conference room: about 351 sq.m. /Style: Revival style

Outer wall: granite (from outside of the Dongdaemun gate in Seoul), bricks inside walls

Construction cost: 6,364,482 yen (plus 387,500 yen for enclosing warehouse and site arrangement)

The Gwanghwamun gate as the main gate of the palace was moved and conserved in the Chosen Sotoku-fu, and although most of the annexed buildings of the Gyeongbokgung Palace, the main palace of the Korean Dynasties, were destroyed (some say it was more than 80%), the most parts of the symbolic building including the Geunjeongjeon Hall as the main hall and the Gyeonghoeru Pavilion were conserved. The Chosen Sotoku-fu building was built in the front of the palace, which became the core of the administration in Korea since then. When the Chosen Sotoku-fu building was completed, the palace got out of sight from the town, which made the Sotoku-fu building called a symbol of the humiliating history for the Korean people (the Koreans). It is also considered to be one of the reasons for the still lingering anti-Japanese feelings.

Building after the Independence

In August, 1948, due to the foundation of the government of the Republic of Korea, the building of the former Sotoku-fu was used as a government building and called the Central office. The declaration of the establishment of the Republic of Korea was done there.

Later in Korea, there were opinions to remove it as remains of the former colony and opinions to conserve not forget the history, and discussions were held, but it was decided to be used as the National Museum of Korea. Still, it remained a symbol of the humiliating history, and debates about whether to conserve or to demolish were often recurred. Finally, over the opposition, it was decided to be removed from the former royal palace because it was built in the way of the old royal palace. Though relocation was also discussed as a method of removal, it would cost huge sums of money, so in 1995, the building was demolished and only the steeple part was left. Currently, the steeple part is displayed in the 'Independence Hall of Korea' in the suburbs of Cheonan City. The part of the palace which was destroyed due to the construction of the office building was restored in the site, which is now the front entrance of this palace.

Preservation of Modern Architecture in Korea

Although the former Chosen Sotoku-fu building was removed, preserving measures were taken for the former Seoul station building (the former Keijo station) and the headquarters of the Bank of Korea (the former Bank of Chosen, designed by Kingo TATSUNO). The Seodaemun Prison became now a museum and its surrounding area became the Independence Park.


See the Annexation of Korea for the history before the establishment of the Chosen Sotoku-fu.

Organization of the Chosen Sotoku-fu

Governor's Secretariat

General Affairs Department

Personnel Bureau, Foreign Affairs Bureau, Accounting Bureau

Internal Affairs Department

Local Affairs Bureau, Academic Affairs Bureau

Finance Department

Tax Bureau, Account Bureau

Agriculture, Commerce and Industry Department

Production Bureau, Commerce and Industry Bureau

Justice Department

Chosen Sotoku-fu Advisory Panel

It is a consultative body mainly with Korean prominent figures. Since it was just a consultative body, not a parliament, its vote had no binding force.

Sotoku (Governor-General)

The Army General was assigned to the post. It was a post appointed by the emperor.

Chosen Sotoku-fu Seimu sokan (Vice Governor)

It was a post appointed by the emperor.

Director General

It was a chief of each department. It was an imperial appointee.

Bureau Manager

It was a chief of each bureau. It was an imperial appointee.


It was a post appointed by the Prime Minister. One of the two members could be an imperial appointee.


It was a post appointed by the Prime Minister. Two members.


It was a post appointed by the Prime Minister. 19 members.


It was a post appointed by the Prime Minister. 19 members.


It was a post appointed by the Prime Minister. 2 of the 30 members could be an imperial appointee.


It was a post appointed by the Prime Minister.
6 members


It was a post appointed by the ministry. 337 members.

Interpreter students

Sotoku-fu Military Officers

An army or navy major, or field officer was appointed to the post. It was a counselor.

Personal Adjutants

An army or navy field officer, or company officer was appointed to the post.

Successive Chosen Sotoku

The Japanese government focused on Korea, compared to Taiwan, and quite high ranking politicians and military men were appointed to Kankoku Tokan and Chosen Sotoku, different from Taiwan Sotoku. Each of the Sotoku except Saito, the Full Admiral, was the Army General.

Kankoku Tokan

Hirobumi ITO (1906-1909)

Arasuke SONE (1909-1910)

Masatake TERAUCHI (1910)

Chosen Sotoku

Masatake TERAUCHI (1910-1916) (he doubled as the Minister of Army until 1911, and assumed the position fulltime from 1911)

Yoshimichi HASEGAWA (1916-1919)

Makoto SAITO (1919-1927)

Kazushige UGAKI (1927) (Acting deputy)

Hanzo YAMANASHI (1927-1929)

Makoto SAITO (1929-1931)

Kazushige UGAKI (1931-1936)

Jiro MINAMI (1936-1942)

Kuniaki KOISO (1942-1944)

Nobuyuki ABE (1944-1945)

May 28, 1905

Opening ceremony of the Gyeongbu Line

November 17, 1905

Conclusion of the Second Japan-Korea Treaty (Eulsa Protectorate Treaty)

February 1, 1906

Establishment of the Kankoku Tokan-fu

June 25, 1907

Hague Secret Emissary Affair

July 20, 1907

Abdication of Gojong (Korean Emperor) and enthronement of Sunjong (Korean Emperor)
The Japanese army fought against 14,000 people of the Anti-Japan voluntary army for 1774 times until the following year.

August 1, 1907

Dissolution of the Korean Army

December 18, 1908

Establishment of Toyo Takushoku Co.

July 6, 1909

The policy of the annexation of Korea was approved by the Japanese cabinet.

October 26, 1909

Hirobumi ITO was murdered in Harbin.

December 4, 1909

Josobun (report to the throne) of 'Statement to request the merger of Korea and Japan' was submitted by the Iljinhoe party in Korea.

March 14, 1910

Start of the land research project

June 30, 1910

Inauguration of the Kenpei police system

August 22, 1910

Signing of the Japan–Korea Annexation Treaty

August 29, 1910

Establishment of the Chosen Sotoku-fu

August 23, 1911

The First Educational Ordinance of Korea
Japanese was determined as the national language.

January 1, 1912

The standard time was changed from the Korean standard time to the Japanese standard time.

April, 1912

The Regular school Hangeul spelling method was established.

March 1, 1914

Local administrative districts were revised (Prefecture, County and Village system).

January 21, 1919

Death of Gojong

March 1, 1919

Start of the March First Movement

August 12, 1919

Makoto SAITO assumed the post of the third Sotoku.

August 20, 1919

Abolition of the Kenpei police system

October 5, 1919

Seong-Su KIM established Kyungbang Corporation.

March 5, 1920

The Chosun Ilbo newspaper was launched.

April 1, 1920

The Dong-a Ilbo newspaper was launched.

December 27, 1920

The Sotoku-fu made a plan to increase the production of rice.

April 1, 1926

Establishment of Keijo Imperial University

February 16, 1927

Start of radio broadcast by Incorporated Korea Broadcasting Association

May 2, 1927

Establishment of Chosen Nitrogen Corporation

November 3, 1929

Gwangju Student Movement (until March, 1930)

March 30, 1930

May 30th Jiandao Incident


Hangeul spelling method was established.

July 2, 1931

Wanpaoshan Incident

September 18, 1931

Outbreak of the Manchurian Incident

January 8, 1931

Bong-Chang LEE, a member of the Korean Patriotic Corps, attempted assassination of Emperor Showa in Tokyo City (Sakuradamon Incident).

April 29, 1931

Bong-Gil YOON, a member of the Korean Patriotic Corps, committed a bombing in Shanghai (Shanghai Tenchosetsu [Emperor's birthday] Bombing Incident).

August 9, 1936

Kee-Chung SOHN won the Marathon at the Berlin Olympics.

June 1, 1937

Il-Sung KIM initiated the Battle of Pochonbo.

July 7, 1937

Outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War

October 2, 1937

Establishment of the 'Vow of Japanese subjects'

February 26, 1938

Proclamation of enlisted soldiers

March 4, 1938

The Educational Ordinance of Korea was revised, which took the Korean language off compulsory classes.

February 11, 1940

Enforcement of Soshi Kaimei (enforced change of name from a Korean to a Japanese one)

March 31, 1941

Revision of the stipulation of Kokumin Gakko (elementary school in an educational system operated in Japan between 1941 and 1947), and abolition of the Korean classes

December 8, 1941

Outbreak of the Pacific War (the Greater East Asian War)

October 1, 1942

Korean Language Society Incident

April 1, 1944

Start of the first examination for conscription

August 23, 1944

Proclamation of Joshi Teishintai (Women's Volunteer Corps)

August 9, 1945

The Soviet Union entered the war against Japan, and went over the Tumen River.

August 15, 1945

The Japanese government accepted the Potsdam Declaration. Un-Hyung YO formed the Committee for Preparation of Korean Independence.

August 21, 1945

The Soviet Union army occupied Pyongyang.

August 25, 1945

The U.S. army landed in Incheon Metropolitan City.

September 6, 1945

Un-Hyung YO proclaimed the foundation of People's Republic of Korea.

September 7, 1945

The Headquarters of the U.S. Army Forces Far East proclaimed the occupation administration in Korea (Denial of immediate independence).

September 9, 1945

The Sotoku-fu signed the Instrument of Surrender.

[Original Japanese]