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Tariff-Related Issues in Chosun and the Formation of Colonial Tariff Law

  • The Review of Korean History
  • 2010, (99), pp.185-222
  • Publisher : The Historical Society Of Korea
  • Research Area : Humanities > History

SONG, Kue-jin 1

1고려대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

When signing the “Treaty of Kanghwa”, Japan used all the tactics which the Western Powers had used against them to sign unequal treaties with Chosun and even took a step further with the low rate tariffs it forced on Korea. Once Chosun noticed the issue of having no tariffs, they did everything possible in order to fix the problem and such experience helped them to deal with the Western powers in regards to laws on tariffs in the future. The first time in which Chosun’s tariff rights were recognized was in May 1882, through the “Treaty of Amity and Commerce between the United States of America and Corea”. The “Treaty of Amity and Commerce between the United States of America and Corea” was an unequal treaty which consisted of articles related to undeserved privileges and extraterritorial rights but the profit on tariffs was much higher, namely 10% and 30%, than the 7.5% and 5% America forced upon China and Japan. The only flaw to such tariff laws was the fact that the detailed regulations were not specified. Once America signed the “Treaty of Amity and Commerce between the United States of America and Corea” many other Western forces also tried to sign treaties with Chosun. The British were particularly interested in signing treaties with Chosun and in June 1882, the “Treat of Friendship and Commerce between Great Britain and Corea” was established. But because the tariff, being 10% and 30%, was 5 % higher than that of China’s, Britain was greatly criticized by British diplomats, the press, and merchants. Such criticisms led Britain to making a few amendments to the treaty. In September 1882, when the “Korea-China Regulations for Maritime and Overland Trade” was established, Harry Parks analyzed it in relation to the “Treat of Friendship and Commerce between Great Britain and Corea”. In order to dissolve the inequality portrayed within the treaties which it signed with the Western forces and recover its reputation, China delivered to Britain its opinion that the original “Treat of Friendship and Commerce between Great Britain and Corea” should be ratified. But in July 1883, since Japan signed the “Regulation under Which Japanese Trade is to be Conducted in Corea and Import and Export Tariff of Corea”, China also approved of the amendments made to the “Treat of Friendship and Commerce between Great Britain and Corea”. Although the “Treat of Friendship and Commerce between Great Britain and Corea” had the limitation that the tariff on basic imports was a low rate of 7.5%, there is great significance in the fact that through the establishment of detailed rules and minor regulations, Chosun’s trade laws became much more systematic and organized. Since the “Japan-Korea Protectorate Treaty”, the western forces, under the reputation as a protectorate, didn’t allow Korea and Japan to establish a tariff agreement. The Western Forces attitude towards the Korea-Japan Annexation issue was ambiguous but they actively defended any situation that would lead to financial damage of their own nations. The British forces in particular looked over Korea’s tariff issues with great interest. By August of 1910, Japan promised to keep Korea’s tariff the same for 10 years, even after the “Annexation of Korea”. However, since Japan made amendments to the unequal treaties they previously signed with the Western forces on July 1911, they forced various tax related laws upon Korea in March 1912 and also forced colonization tariffs without the approval of the Western forces. Japan had also changed the regulations that they originally forced upon Korea multiple times to their own advantage. In the end, on August 1920, the colonization tariffs were officially established.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.

This paper was written with support from the National Research Foundation of Korea.