The Programme to Improve Rice Production in Colonial Korea: Inspections, Regulations, and the Creation of a Commodity

La série de conférences Current Research on East Asia 2023-2024 organisée par l'École universitaire de recherche en études sur l'Asie orientale d’Université Paris Cité aura lieu un jeudi par mois à partir d’octobre, de 17h à 18h30 en salle Léon Vandermeersch (481C, 4e étage, bâtiment C des Grands Moulins, 5 rue Thomas Mann, 75013, Paris) et en visioconférence. 

Holly Stephens (University of Edinburgh) Moderation : Florence Galmiche and Justine Guichard
Organisé par
École universitaire de recherche en études sur l'Asie orientale d’Université Paris Cité
7 déc. 2023 à 17h00
Salle Léon Vandermeersch (481C, 4th floor, building C, 5 rue Thomas Mann, 75013, Paris)

Introduced in 1920, the Programme to Increase Rice Production (朝鮮産米増殖企劃) is well known as a representative agricultural policy of the colonial government, with the goal to increase the export of Korean rice to Japan. Accordingly, much research into colonial rice policies has focused on the impact of the PIRP, both in the expansion of rural debt that financed elaborate irrigation projects as well as the declining domestic consumption of rice even as exports to Japan increased. However, colonial attempts to “improve” (改良) rice production have received less attention, even as they worked in parallel with projects to increase rice cultivation and its export.

This talk examines colonial attempts to improve Korean rice production as a complement to existing understandings of colonial rice policies. In some cases, “improvement” overlapped with the goal of increasing rice production, as in the promotion of high-yielding seed varieties. Nonetheless, a focus on improvement also brings into view additional consequences of Japanese efforts to develop Korean rice as a commodity for export. Through a focus on grain inspections (米穀検査), which were mandated for rice exports from 1915, this talk explores the development of the grain-processing industry in colonial Korea, the bifurcation of a colonial market for rice as a commercial good, and the implications of improvement policies for Korean farmers.

Holly Stephens is a historian of Korea and Japan, with research interests that include economic history, agriculture, empire, everyday life, village organizations, and the emergence of the modern state. Her current monograph project—Empire by Association: The Re-Organization of the Rural Economy in Modern Korea—examines the changes to Korean agriculture from the late nineteenth century through the colonial period amidst immense political upheaval. Using previously unexamined farmers’ diaries, the project traces the formation and operation of new agricultural organizations that linked Korean farmers to regional and global markets, as new ideas about the state’s role in the economy and the adoption of scientific farming methods combined to transform agricultural production.