Think about the relationship between post-World War One capitalist crisis (elaborated by Young), transformations in colonial policy (examined in lecture 6), and new conflicts that emerged between colonial subjects and ordinary Japanese people as a result. Does thinking in these terms help us make sense of the 1923 massacre of 6,000 Korean people living in mainland Japan by a combination of police and vigilantes who took it upon themselves to kill the “unsacrificeable (see Ryang’s homo sacer)” people in their midst?

Prior to the 1923 massacre, developments in Japan contributed to rising tensions between Japanese and Korean people in Japan.

The radical economic growth of Japan during the World War I period lead to urban expansion. The catalyst to this economic growth was the increase in foreign demand for Japanese products and weapons during the war as the war changed the prior supply chains. This increased the impact of industrialization on Japan and many people fled to the cities for jobs leading to urban expansion. This high foreign demand meant that Japan could not produce enough for its people and its foreign buyers, thus leading to inflation which drove domestic consumption down. This lead to a decrease in life quality for the average Japanese citizen. As Louis Young explains in Beyond the Metropolis, “Even as statistics captured for the record economic growth, these numbers did not always translate into an improved livelihood for city residents”(19). This lower quality of life leads to competition for resources, jobs, and housing which increased tensions between certain groups such as the Japanese and Japanese Koreans. When the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 occurred, there were rumors going around that the Japanese Koreans were committing theft, arson, and even possessing bombs. This on top of the tensions between the Japanese and Japanese Koreans, lead to the Kanto Massacre.

The Great Kanto Earthquake 1923 (Source:

After the Tapani Incident in 1915, Japan changed its colonial policy from one of gradualism, which meant that colonies were treated as separate entities, to cultural rule, which treated colonies as a part of Japan. One way this was facilitated was by hiring Taiwanese as government officials, permitting intermarriage between Taiwanese and Japanese, and other forms of assimilation. Despite the efforts by the government, Japanese residents treated non-Japanese like outsiders. As Sonya Ryang states in her paper about the Great Kanto Earthquake, the killing of homo sacer, a classification given to Koreans, does not constitute a homicide. These attitudes without a doubt contributed to the senseless massacre of Koreans after the Great Kanto Earthquake.