HIEA 115 First Medium Post
The changes in the colonial legal systems in Taiwan and Korea leveled up the playing field for the women and they were viewed as competitive players by the local elites. The Japanese colonial rule brought the new Confucianism to Korea and Taiwan which both cultures were long influenced by Chinese Confucianism. This Japanese version was greatly influenced by Western enlightenment and Japanese human rights liberation. Under this new colonial legal system, the women were no longer viewed as less than 1/10 of the men [Confucism]. They were still not fully equal with the men, but they were much more competitively equal. This disruption of the traditional Confucian patriarchy gave the Korean and Taiwanese women more opportunities to compete for autonomy and power under the new rules. Therefore, they were seen as the collaborators of the colonizers and treated more hardly due to their new social leverage. If under the old legal system, the women received no representation and legality. Then, under this new colonial legal system, the women were given the right to inheritance and property which seemed like a direct insult to the Confucian system. What will the men and the elders feel about the women who were suddenly given rights and could compete with the men by the invaders? Of course, they would be hostile, dislike, and extremely outrageous. If fighting the colonizers means death, they would fight the women who were the benefit recipient. This would not significantly differ with class and region. Generally, all women would be impacted. However, only the women in the middle-upper class can really be impacted by this new legal system since only they have lands and property to be inherited or owned. However, the women in the middle-upper class already receive high honor and respect from their class. For women of the lower class, sorry but no property applied to them so the law could hardly benefit them.
I do not think the changes that favored women vis a vis patriarchal households were only advanced because they were profitable to the interests of the Japanese capital. It is clear there is no evidence of the profitable interest of the Japanese capital in liberating the colonial women. I am not a historical economist that studies Japanese 19th economics, but I know that taxation is non-discriminatory. Either male or female head of household must pay taxes, so there is no economic difference in enfranchising the women. Enfranchising the women not only reduced the profit from taxing but also made the colonists more resistant to colonial rule. Under the new code, servants or relatives are not recorded in the family. Therefore, they will not be taxed with the family and it resulted in less tax. I have no evidence or a lot of knowledge of the taxation in the Japanese colonies (Vietnam was only under the control of the Japanese for 5 years after the French’s defeat) Let’s assume my tax argument is correct, fewer documents of people means few people to be taxed, so there are few taxes from this new legal system. However, there was a lot of economic development in the colonies which benefited the Japanese capital by granting women’s rights. Enfranchising the women so they can work created new sources for taxing (Sad for the women) In addition, the colonial system challenged polygamy and banned concubines. “Under the new law, which encouraged monogamy, adding concubines to the household registers was banned … opportunity to free themselves from the husband’s family” (Sungyun Lim, 46). Granting inheritance rights, reducing polygamy, and providing more autonomy for the women are not anywhere related to the profit interest or support any of its claims.
For me, any historical changes have their own related causes and unrelated causes. Japan wanted to westernize Korea and Taiwan and the old Chinese Confucianism stood in its way. Everything has its own moral motive and sometimes that moral motive is not that clear. It is not either black or white; sometimes a bit gray. Westernizing the colonists also come with liberating the women. It is clear to see that their objective is to be more like Western countries and liberate women. The Good wife, wise mother doctrine is one of the greatest women’s liberations. It was original in Japan and spread to Korea during the colonial period as a “New Women” idea. Women were provided with such education and opportunity. Even if the entire advancement of the women was only because of profit interest, the women especially those who were disenfranchised by their own culture and their own people were greatly benefited. Even if people accused these advancements with vice motives, it is undoubtedly that women’s lives were much better with these advancements. The liberators or invaders did exactly what they said they would do. These historical changes take place and we can know why they were taken place with their motives and the evidence of that motives. The will and the action are important. With an ill will, no matter how good the action, that action is still ill. With the historical changes in Korea and Taiwan, I can see their goodwill and good actions.
P.S. I do not receive any sponsorship from the Japanese Imperial government neither Korean nor Chinese governments.