S-Space Graduate School of International Studies (국제대학원) Institute for Japanese Studies(일본연구소) Seoul Journal of Japanese Studies (SJJS) Seoul Journal of Japanese Studies vol.8 no.1(2022)
A Locked City: The Japanese Company Nitchitsu’s Building of Hŭngnam
- YANG Jihye
- Issue Date
- Seoul Journal of Japanese Studies, Vol.8 No.1, pp. 177-204
- enterprise city ; Hŭngnam ; Nihon Chisso Hiryō Kabushiki Kaisha (Nitchitsu) ; Japanese settler community ; company donations ; locked city
- Hŭngnam City has received scholarly attention as a symbolic space in which urbanization followed industrialization during the Japanese colonial era in Korea. The Japanese company Nihon Chisso Hiryō Kabushiki Kaisha (Nitchitsu) took this secluded region and built it into a city with world-class production and urban facilities, transforming it into an enterprise city dubbed “the kingdom of Nitchitsu.” However, there is a dearth of analyses which focus on Nitchitsu’s “planning,” “constructing,” and “ruling” of Hŭngnam rather than the aspects of its brilliant “modernization.” In this regard, this article focuses on the city structure of colonial Hŭngnam and how this structure molded a “Japanese settler community.” In particular, this article examines how the families of lower-class laborers from Nitchitsu’s main Japanese factory in Minamata, through the process of moving into Hŭngnam, were formed into a “Japanese settler community” in which they were discriminated against in the colonial city. Furthermore, the article reviews Nitchitsu’s strategy for operating the city through an analysis of detailed records of the company’s donations. The Japanese approach relative to Nitchitsu and Hŭngnam, in order to stabilize the “Japanese settler community” and maximize profits and operations, sought to plan and operate the city as a space only for themselves. Hŭngnam was built in a manner that concentrated all capacity towards the “Japanese settler community” and Nitchitsu, and blocked any “urban integration” which disrupted the company’s pursuit of profit, turning Hŭngnam into a locked “fortress city” built just for Nitchitsu. In sum, this article, by offering a narrative analysis of the closed-minded manner in which Hŭngnam was made into a “fortress” closed to the rest of Korea to maximize profit margins, and shows the flawed historical development of this urban industrial complex that prefigured the Nitchitsu corporation’s role in the tragic emergence of “Minamata disease” in the region after World War II.