The dark gulf, 1931–45 Japanese policy – The Korean economy in the 1930s – Korean
In the early 1930s, ultra-nationalists gained control of the Japanese government and embarked upon major military campaigns, first in Manchuria and then deeper in China. These campaigns transformed the role of Korea in the Japanese Empire from colonial outpost to vital military rear support base, and therefore transformed the nature of Japanese colonial rule. Government became more intrusive as it mobilized Korean resources in support of the war effort. In 1931, food and agricultural production still dominated the economy, but as Korea’s growing infrastructure began to direct manpower and supplies northwards to Japan’s new frontiers, its immense pool of agricultural labour was pressed into service in the new mines and factories that opened up. By 1940, production in mining, heavy and chemical industries such as oil, rubber, fertilizer, drugs and medicine had also become significant. Meanwhile, many Koreans left their homeland, and by 1945 nearly four million Korean soldiers and civilians, roughly 16 percent of the total population, were working abroad within the Japanese Empire.