Alliance Axis - Minor Member Nation or Possession
Possessing Power Japan
Entry into WW2 7 Jul 1937
Population in 1939 23,400,000
Military Deaths in WW2 22,182
Civilian Deaths in WW2 60,000


ww2dbaseKorea was declared a Japanese protectorate per the Eulsa Treaty of 1905, and on 22 Aug 1910 it was annexed into Japanese borders with the Japan-Korea Annexation Treaty. While the Korean people resisted, Japanese suppression came violently and swiftly, killing 7,000 people during the major uprising of 1919 alone. Initially, some freedoms were given to the Korean people, but after the the Gwangju Students Anti-Japanese Movement of 3 Nov 1929, many of the freedoms were limited by the occupation government. Punishment for any sign of insurgency also became severe. In 1932, Japan established the puppet nation of Manchukuo in the coal-rich northeastern China immediately across the northern border of Korea. As industries in Manchukuo was developed, Korea saw its transportation infrastructure developed extensively as well, particularly the rail system. In the 1930s, Korea was also allowed to develop its mining and heavy industries in order to feed the growing Japanese military. Korea also provided timber, rice, and fish to Japan.

ww2dbaseGenerally speaking, Japanese policy in Korea aimed to assimilate the Korean population into the Japanese society. A small number of Koreans held public office in Japan both in local and national levels, such as Pak Chun-geum who became a member of the Japanese parliament in 1932 and continued to serve in this role through the war. In 1945, Korea was allotted 18 seats in the Japanese parliament, though this was never implemented before the war ended. 76 aristocratic Koreans were given Japanese peerage titles (all of whom were charged with treason after the war), while several princes of the Korean royal family married Japanese princesses. Beneath the benevolent façade, however, some Japanese officials in Korea were committed to speed up the assimilation through means of wiping out Korean culture; some of the acts they conducted included renovations of palaces and temples to include characteristics of Japanese architecture, stressing Japanese language education over Korean, and revising texts of Korean history. In 1939, Koreans in Japan and Korea were encouraged to abandon their Korean surnames and adopt Japanese-style ones; about 9.6% of Koreans had done so, and not all of them restored their Korean surnames after the war. The occupation government brought universal education to Korea, which dramatically increased the population's literacy rate in both Korean and Japanese (the Korean language was not banned until later in the occupation), but the school system also served as a media to spread Japanese proganda aimed to legitimize the annexation.

ww2dbaseIn 1937, WW2 began in Asia with the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War. By 1939, the Japanese labor force became inadequate as the war in China required more and more manpower, thus Koreans began to be recruited to work in mainland Japan; later in the war, many Koreans were forcefully migrated to Japan to work as laborers. In 1942, Japan's National Mobilization Law was extended to include its subjects in Korea. By the end of the war, 5,400,000 Koreans worked directly toward the Japanese war effort in the civilian sector. In 1938, the Japanese Army opened its doors to Koreans. Korean members of the Japanese Army initially served in Manchukuo in anti-insurgency roles, but their involvement grew rapidly. By the height of the Pacific War, Koreans served all across the Pacific, and many of them fought for Japan with fierce loyalty. In 1944, all Korean males who were not already working in war-related industries were required to enlist in the Japanese Army. Between 1937 and 1945, 242,341 Koreans served in the Japanese Army; 22,182 of them were killed. A large number of Korean women were conscripted as comfort women who served in Japanese military brothels.

ww2dbaseBy the end of the war, about 2,000,000 Koreans were living in the Japanese home islands. About 1,340,000 of them returned to Korea by 1946 and about 650,000 opted to stay in Japan.

ww2dbaseOn 9 Dec 1941, the Korean government-in-exile in Shanghai, China declared war on Japan and organized Korean volunteer units to fight the Japanese under Chinese Nationalist and Chinese Communist banners. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union secretly sponsored the Korean Volunteer Army that fought a guerrilla campaign against Japanese occupation in Korea and Manchukuo; this force would later form the core of the North Korean military.

ww2dbaseDuring the final chapters of WW2, Russian troops crossed into Korean territory after overrunning northeastern China. After Japan surrendered on 15 Aug 1945, American troops landed in southern Korea to limit Soviet influence.

ww2dbaseAt the end of the war, there were 850,000 Japanese living in Korea. Nearly all were deported back to Japan.

ww2dbaseAfter WW2, 148 Koreans were convicted of Class B and Class C war crimes, and 23 of them were sentenced to death. Many of them were guards or officers of guards of the prisoner of war camps who had committed atrocities against captured Allied personnel. The Korean War that began in 1950 destroyed about 80% of the national infrastructure of Korea, which meant that most of the industries and rail networks built by the Japanese during the occupation era were wiped out. The success of modern South Korea was largely the result of post-war efforts, particularly in the 1960s and 1970s.

ww2dbaseSource: Wikipedia.

Last Major Update: Jun 2010

Chung, Il-kwonPaik, Sun-yupYi, U
Hong, Sa-ikRoh, Yong-UYi, Un
Ji, Cheong-cheonTak, KyonghyongYun, Bong-gil
Kim, Chang-RyongYi, Geon
Kim, GuYi, Kang

Events Taken Place in Korea
Manchurian Strategic Offensive9 Aug 1945 - 2 Sep 1945

Busan BaseArmy Base
Chinkai Guard DistrictNavy Base
Daegu BaseAir Base, Army Base
Genzan AirfieldAir Base
Keijo General Government BuildingGovernment Building
Pyeongtaek AirfieldAir Base
Yongsan BaseArmy Base


WW2-Era Weather Data for Korea


Emperor Sunjong of Korea, Crown Prince Yoshihito of Japan, and others, Korea, 1907Emperor Sunjong of Korea, Prince Imperial Yeong of Korea, and Crown Prince Yoshihito (future Emperor Taisho) of Japan in Korea, 1907Portrait of Prince Imperial Yeong Yi Un of Korea, late 1907Prince Ito Hirobumi of Japan and Prince Imperial Yeong Yi Un of Korea, late 1907
See all 118 photographs of Korea in World War II

Korea in World War II Interactive Map

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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Michael R. Betzer says:
29 May 2010 07:24:28 PM

I must protest listing Korea as an Axis country in World War 2. As the commentary indicates, Korea was a nation occupied by Imperial Japan even before World War 1, and it is grossly unfair and inaccurate to suggest that Korea as a nation aided or encouraged Japanese aggression. The 1943 Cairo Declaration specifically mentioned Korea and called for her independence, so it is a travesty to classify Korea with Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria or Finland. I urge, no, demand that Mr. Chen revise his website and publish a retraction for his hideous revision of history!
2. Anonymous says:
4 Aug 2010 10:55:00 AM

Korea was a part of Japan since before World War II, so it makes sense that if Japan is listed under Axis, its territory of Korea is also listed under the same section. That's not saying the Korean people shared the same wish for aggression, of course.
3. Anonymous2 says:
19 Mar 2011 05:41:37 PM

i agree partly with both of you. in fact, the koreans hate the *** so much that in sports competitions, they have the mindset "i can lose to anyone except for japanese" AND koreans were forced in to military whorehouses by the *** during WWII
4. Anonymous says:
11 Apr 2011 07:57:46 AM

u need work
5. Nobody says:
3 May 2011 03:38:48 AM

My mom said Korea is not a Axis.
6. paktamman says:
9 Dec 2012 06:38:29 PM

During the Japanese Occupation in Malaya the most brutal soldiers is not merely the Japanese alone but the Korean,Taiwanese and Manchurian because they try to win the heart of of their superior Japanese.
7. Anonymous Korean says:
4 Jan 2013 10:34:24 AM

Korea was part of Japan at the time. Sad, but true. On the flip side, to suggest that Korea as a nation took no part in aiding Japan in World War 2 might also be considered a revision of history.
8. Anonymous Japanese says:
6 May 2013 03:25:28 AM

Before Korean war Koreans were well educated enough to read Chinese characters.We appointed Koreans for adiministraters in China.But they are not in other SE Asian languages. We did not recruit any Koreans as soldiers.Japan always suffered shortage of work-force.We appointed local people as administrators.We did not care of Koreans. We did not station in Malaya.The British had special attention to Malaya or the strait colony.We recommended Malayan independence as well as Phillipines and Indonesian.Dr Scarno,Akino and general Aung San were all our friends. Malaya was only passage to Singapore.The last war was between the Axis Powers and the Allied.Our military strength was in imperial Navy.Korea as well as China did not have any fleets as for nation.Koreans were unable to "aid" to us.They had no resource and never organize any meaningful armed forces.Noone in the world wanted to be aided by Koreans.Without warship we could not land on any places in Asia.Our intention was to go to North Africa to save German army there.
9. Anonymous Korean says:
21 Jun 2013 12:23:17 PM

@Anonymous Japanese -- I thought that Koreans were conscripted into the the Japanese Military during World War II. Isn't that an example of Koreans "aiding" the Japanese? Couldn't the Korean people themselves be considered a "resource"?
10. Anonymous Chinaman says:
4 Nov 2013 06:52:03 AM

Koreans thought of themselves as Japanese from the 1920s and onward. In November of 1937, ethnic Korean Soldiers were involved in the Nanking-Massacre. Koreans in the Japanese troops were the most ruthless and brutal aggressors in the Manchurian region of north-eastern China. Just ask any Chinese person who lived his life through that period and they will tell you that they hated the Korean soldiers.
11. Mark Hisarza Deri, Jr. says:
26 Aug 2014 09:11:04 PM

Korean soldiers in the Phils. duing WW2 were cruel than the Japanese. My olds said it. Infants or small kids were tossed in the air and laughingly, they catch them with their bionets. ! ! ! Of course, Japanese did the same thing too. The olds told me these. Give them the sword and they will kill everybody in the world...
12. Anonymous says:
15 Oct 2014 04:33:34 PM

Korea was in a very bad situation
13. Elaina says:
17 Oct 2014 04:35:27 PM

Koreans were forced to give up their names or they would be arrested and killed
14. Anonymous says:
15 Dec 2014 06:21:01 AM

Unfortunately, most of what you hear or read is LIES
It's Sad the U.S doesn't have the guts to tell the truth
15. TheLumberjack'sDad says:
2 Mar 2015 10:37:42 AM

Hey guys i think that this article is very swell and I'd like to remind you of how cool it is that we can find info like this on the internets. Keep up the good work!
16. Anonymous says:
4 Mar 2015 09:04:43 PM

regardless what koreans say about those imperial days, my dad says all the koreans worked and lived as imperial japanese. they worked and study hard and thats the way it was. both koreans and japanese need to stop lying to themsleves. they are both crazy and fanatical people. dont let them team up together.
17. E.R. Price says:
24 Jul 2015 08:47:11 AM

Though the United States agreed to Japan’s assumption of Korea as a protectorate territory with the signing of the Portsmouth Treaty in 1905, and did not balk when Japan annexed Korea five years later, the United States closely monitored Japan’s actions during its forty-year occupation and occasionally protested Japanese actions toward the Korean people. During World War II, Korea was not considered part of the Axis but was designated as a “Dependent Area” under the control of the Japanese empire. As part of the State Department’s planning for postwar security and the creation of a “United Nations Organization,” the State Department explored ways in which Korea would be prepared for and eventually regain its independence. In his February 23, 1942 fireside chat, FDR publicly recognized Korea’s status as victim, rather than perpetrator, when he stated: “Conquered nations in Europe know what the yoke of the Nazis is like. And the people of Korea and of Manchuria know in their flesh the harsh despotism of Japan. All of the people of Asia know that if there is to be an honorable and decent future for any of them or any of us, that future depends on victory by the United Nations over the forces of Axis enslavement.”(1) That same spring, the Justice Department declared that Koreans living in the United States would not be treated as Japanese enemy aliens, but would instead be recognized as Korean (and thus citizens of a country that had officially ceased to be in 1910).(2) The Joint statement issued by the U.S., Britain, and China in December 1943, following the Cairo Conference, reaffirmed Korea’s status as victim, by saying, in part: “"The aforesaid three great powers, mindful of the enslavement of the people of Korea, are determined that in due course Korea shall become free and independent." (2)
Certainly there were Koreans to aided and abetted both Japanese occupation and even their war effort against the Allies. Further, the State Department did observe that many Koreans appeared to have given in and accepted their forced status as subjects of the Japanese Empire. Even in their observations however, the State Department suggested that because of Japanese control over all aspects of daily life, it was difficult to ascertain how genuine that acceptance was.
It is grossly unjustified and historically incorrect to describe Korea or its native peoples as members of, or sympathetic to, the Axis cause.

(1) FDR, On Progress of the War, Fireside Chats of Franklin D. Roosevelt, FDR Presidential Library and Museum, http://docs.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/022342.html .

(2) “Korean Curbs Lifted by Ruling, Justice Department Action Ends Their Enemy Status,” Los Angeles Times, January 24, 1942; “Changes in Alien Listings Ordered: Austrians and Koreans to Amend Registrations,” Los Angeles Times, June 11, 1942.

(3) Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States: The Conferences at Cairo and Tehran, 1943, Dept., of State Publication 7187 (Washington, 1961), p. 448.
18. Anonymous says:
16 Aug 2017 10:22:35 PM

16. Those are only couple of percentage of korean peoples, you don't know what the others went through, do you? So why don't shut your smart *** american couch potato?
19. Anonymous says:
23 Oct 2017 01:55:14 PM

^ is wrong
20. Anonymous says:
3 Nov 2017 01:43:56 PM

Considering all that is going on now involving North Korea, I was interested in its history and what led it to be the way it is. If meaningful information is being presented, I don't think this is a good time for anybody to be told to shut up. Why don't you offer some meaningful information instead?
21. Anonymous says:
8 Jan 2018 07:24:40 PM

I think that this was an amazing article that really informed and helped my daughter with her research paper for school and also helped me learn more about this very important time period in hidtory
22. Anonymous says:
7 Feb 2018 06:53:05 AM

Thank you for providing this valuable information about Korea, which was abused by one country before WWII. Still part of Korea, the North is still being abused as a pawn by major powers. Very sad.
23. Violet Fire says:
26 Jan 2021 07:49:46 PM

This article was amazing. I haven't fact checked any of the dates yet, but what I've read so far has been quite educational. Thank you so much for putting all of your time and research onto this webpage. I hope you continue to share your work.
24. Steve says:
23 Feb 2022 12:03:17 PM

Very useful summary. Was aware that all of Japan's neighbours suffered before and during WW2 but knew little of the details of Korea. And then the Korean War 5 years later. It's amazing how they've recovered. Thanks
25. Dee says:
15 May 2023 09:34:41 AM

Good Morning,

I have been researching for a contact relating to Induk Pahk, The Induk School Foundation, and Induk University in Seoul, Korea. and Korea in WW2. I am hopeful that you may be able to help/direct me in my quest to donate letters, many Korean pictures, post cards, etc. that I have from my father, who was a donor to and a dear friend of Induk Pahk. He had met her in Seoul while he was stationed there during WW2 in August 1945 and he had accumulated a variety of items. She even visited him at our home in Cortland, NY in the 1960's.

I have many examples if you would like to see them. I would appreciate your time and feedback as to where/who I can reach out to for help with donating these items.

Thank you for your time.

Best regards,

Deborah Vecchio

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