Japanese Medal: The ‘Annexation’ of Korea 1910

In 1910 Japan officially absorbed Korea into the Japanese Empire. And up until 1945 Japan’s takeover of the country was recognized as legitimate by most countries. Perhaps the Koreans would have been more gracious to their new rulers if the latter hadn’t treated them so badly: forbidding the teaching of the Korean language, viewing the Koreans as second-class citizens in their own country, and generally wreaking havoc.

Japanese apologists will contend that Japan did many wonderful things for the Koreans, but those people are either ignorant or Japanese nationalists. For a balanced view of the occupation, there are a number of interesting books. I like Bruce Cumings’ Korea’s Place in the Sun, but I’m sure there are others. CLICK HERE for a short blog entry that introduces another book (one that I haven’t read yet). Please send me any other recommendations that you might have.

You can also CLICK HERE to read the Wikipedia entry.

Anyway, the occupation officially began in 1910, but the commemorative medal issued in Japan was first awarded in 1912. The recognized English name of this medal is the ‘Korea Annexation Commemorative Medal.’ In Japanese it is Kankoku Heigou Kinen-shou (韓国併合記念章). Note that heigou means merger or annexation. However, in light of the circumstances, using the word ‘merger’ in English doesn’t really convey the true sense of what happened. Actually, some people prefer to use ‘invasion,’ but despite what we feel and what might be historically accurate, the official Japanese title of the medal should be translated as accurately as possible.

Here is the obverse and then a close-up:

Japan Invasion of Korea medal 1912

Japan Invasion of Korea medal 1912

The design has the Japanese Emperor’s imperial chrysanthemum crest at the top. Then you can see two branches, one paulonia (representing Japan) and the other plum (representing Korea).

The reverse:

Japan Invasion of Korea medal 1912

Japan Invasion of Korea medal 1912

The reverse has no design figures, just an inscription that reads ‘Korea Annexation Commemorative Medal, Meiji 43 [1910] August 29.’

The ribbon colors may be based on the national colors of Japan (red and white) and the imperial colors of the Korean royal family (red and yellow). This was recorded by James Peterson in his book on Japanese medals. However, on all the examples I have seen, the center stripe looks more orange than red. Perhaps this is only a problem of fading.


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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. It was Japanese Military Government Occupation for 36 years. It wasn’t Japanese occupation. There were alot or majority of Japanese were actually against Korean occupation for 36 years.

    • Sorry, but I doubt a ‘majority’ of Japanese were against the occupation. Revisionist history is welcome, but please show some valid reasons for believing so.

  2. majority of Japanese were against Japanese military rule over Korean Peninsula. It was Japanese military occupation. Koreans and Majority of Japanese were against it. It was only 36 military rule. If you look at it historical context. It’s nothing.

  3. Those are criminal minded toys. Only criminals and bums supported japanese military government. Many japanese nationalist died in Korea like Ito Hirobumi. Do you know Ito Hirobumi??

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