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Brokers of Empire

Brokers of Empire

Japanese Settler Colonialism in Korea, 1876–1945

Jun Uchida

ISBN 9780674492028

Publication date: 03/03/2014

Between 1876 and 1945, thousands of Japanese civilians—merchants, traders, prostitutes, journalists, teachers, and adventurers—left their homeland for a new life on the Korean peninsula. Although most migrants were guided primarily by personal profit and only secondarily by national interest, their mundane lives and the state’s ambitions were inextricably entwined in the rise of imperial Japan. Despite having formed one of the largest colonial communities in the twentieth century, these settlers and their empire-building activities have all but vanished from the public memory of Japan’s presence in Korea.

Drawing on previously unused materials in multi-language archives, Jun Uchida looks behind the official organs of state and military control to focus on the obscured history of these settlers, especially the first generation of “pioneers” between the 1910s and 1930s who actively mediated the colonial management of Korea as its grassroots movers and shakers. By uncovering the downplayed but dynamic role played by settler leaders who operated among multiple parties—between the settler community and the Government-General, between Japanese colonizer and Korean colonized, between colony and metropole—this study examines how these “brokers of empire” advanced their commercial and political interests while contributing to the expansionist project of imperial Japan.


  • With contemporary Japanese–Korean relations so inextricably entrenched within contentious politics of national identity and divergent expressions of historical consciousness, Jun Uchida’s Brokers of Empire could not be a more welcome addition to the field of modern East Asian history… Richly deserving of the American Historical Association’s John K. Fairbank Prize in 2012, Brokers of Empire stands as one of the finest English-language books to date on the highly complex social and political dynamics of Japanese colonial expansionism in Korea… While Brokers of Empire is ostensibly a book about Japanese colonialism in Korea, no one writing on any geographical region of the Japanese empire can afford to ignore this work. Moreover, scholars of European empire in Asia and Africa also stand to learn much from what Uchida offers here. Brokers of Empire is a remarkable achievement that sets a high standard for future scholarship on the history of modern East Asia and imperialism itself.

    —Erik Esselstrom, Reviews in History


  • 2012, Winner of the John K. Fairbank Prize in East Asian History


  • Jun Uchida is Associate Professor of History at Stanford University.

Book Details

  • 500 pages
  • 6 x 9 inches
  • Harvard University Asia Center