Environmental Policy in the Era of Colonialism

Korean Minjok Leadership Academy

Table of Contents

Second Draft , Sept. 27th 2011
Choice of the Topic , May 31st 2011

Second Draft . . Go to Teacher's Comment

Social Unrest and Urbanization in India, Indonesia, and South Korea from 1940s to 1960s

Table of Contents
I. Introduction
II. India
II.1 Post-colonial Urbanization
II.2 Effect of the Partition of India
III. Indonesia
III.1 Post-colonial Urbanization
III.2 Effect of Rebellions
IV. South Korea
IV.1 Post-colonial Urbanization
IV.2 Urbanization before Korean War, from 1945 to 1949
IV.3 Effect of Korean War
IV.3.1 Population Movement
IV.3.2 Destruction of Colonial Remnants
V. Conclusion

I. Introduction
            Rapid urbanization after independence is a common outcome for many Asian countries. Common sense and reasonable logic in many studies deem the main causes of urbanization to be industrialization and modernization ? bringing the combination of “pulling” factors of employment, education, and higher living standards in cities and “pushing” factors of decreased opportunities and low living standards in rural settings. While this typical analysis does have firm grounds, it often leads to overlooking other, less obvious factors that also contribute to urbanization ; one of which is social unrest soon after independence.
            For many Asian countries that achieved independence after World War II, their societies were plagued with numerous conflicts such as unstable government, clashing ideologies (part of the Cold War), and religious quarrels. Such troubled societies were almost inevitable for the young nations unaccustomed to self-rule and overwhelmed by the influx of modern technology. Ironically, this period of social unrest acted as an accelerating factor for urbanization ? a process which will be primarily characterized by increase in urban population in this paper. While death rates soared during wars, rebellions, and revolutions after independence, urban population grew as refugees seeking protection and shelter unoffered in small villages poured into cities. New towns and cities were created as people tended to stay together in fear of attacks from foreign invaders or anti-government groups.
            To better examine the effect of social unrest on urbanization, three representative countries were chosen from different regions in Asia for comparison. The chosen nations ? India, Indonesia, and South Korea ? were all granted their independence at similar times, plagued with unstable government after independence, and soon later experienced a certain type of social conflict in forms of war, rebellion, and riots.

II. India

II.1 Post-colonial Urbanization
            Before the arrival of the British, India was slowly becoming more urbanized and industrialized on its own. Many lived in large or small towns in which the proportion of skilled artisans was increasing and those engaged in agriculture was decreasing. The advent of British colonial rule further contributed to urbanization by introducing modern infrastructure and technologies which increased urban areas’ pulling factor. However, the British also took actions which had rather de-urbanizing effects. Trade tariffs and excise duties newly set by the British rule discouraged domestic trade and manufacturing industries from growing at its full potential speed. In states like Bihar and Bengal, severe restrictions were placed on the use of inland water-ways, causing the fishing and inland shipping and transportation to suffer. (1) This led to increase in agriculture labor population as large categories of skilled artisans and non-agricultural workers were thrown out of work (industries were damaged by deterred transportation and heavy taxes). (2) Such phenomenon encouraged population settlement in rural areas while discouraging mass movement into cities. Thus urbanization during British India can be said to have been hampered from proceeding in its maximum speed; urbanization could have been quicker.

II.2 Effect of the Partition of India
            In 1947, the Partition of India brought birth to two new nations: the Union of India (later the Republic of India) and the Dominion of Pakistan (later the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the People’s Republic of Bangladesh). But the happiness of independence did not last long; the partition had divided Punjab and Bengal into two territories, one in each belonging to India and the other to Pakistan. The partition brought frequent skirmishes in the newly divided regions, between the different religions that co-existed. In Pakistani part of Punjab the Sikhs and Hindis that existed in minority rioted against the rule of Muslim majority; in part of Punjab that now belonged to the Republic of India the Muslim minority rioted against the rule of Hindi majority. The situation was the same if not worse in Bengal, where the new border left some Muslim majority enclaves in the Republic of India and some Hindu or Sikh majority enclaves in Pakistan. Numerous quarrels that broke out between the Muslims and the Hindus and Sikhs killed thousands of people. Refugees seeking peace away from conflicting regions swarmed in both nations; estimated number of 5 million people moved from West Punjab into the Republic of India; 5.5 million Muslims travelled in the opposite direction. Similar mass migration also took place between East and West Bengal. The Partition is estimated to have uprooted some 12.5 million of former British India’s people. (3)
            This mass movement of the population ultimately led great numbers of refugees to settle together in urban areas. In times when the majority discriminated and brutally shunned the minority, it was a widespread perception that one could be safe only among the members of one’s own community. (4) This specific fear probably acted as a strong factor in the refugees’ settling in largely populated areas ? in other words, cities. Indeed, one vital reason for rapid urbanization in 1941 ? 1951 in West Bengal (20.41% to 23.88%) was the growing refugee population who mostly got settled in urban areas. Just after independence, a large portion of population from East Pakistan came to Kolkata and other urban areas. This had a tremendous impact upon urbanization in the state in general and Kolkata in particular. (5) Table 1 shows the explosive increase in urban population percentage in the 1950s, after the Republic of India’s independence and the Partition in 1947. The Partition of India have, although certainly causing tragedy in some ways, clearly stimulated urbanization by ushering millions of refugees away from their homes and into new settlements in cities.

Table: 1 India: Urban Population 1901 - 2001 (Source: Ministry of Urban Affairs)
Urban population (million) Percentage of Urban to total population Decadal growth rate (percent)
1901 29.9 10.8 -
1911 25.9 10.3 0.4
1921 28.1 11.2 18.3
1931 33.5 12.0 19.1
1941 44.2 13.9 32.0
1951 62.4 17.3 41.4
1961 78.9 18.0 26.4
1971 109.1 19.9 38.2
1981 159.5 23.3 46.1
1991 217.6 25.7 36.4

            Overall, India under British rule experienced urbanization that could have been faster. When the British left and the Republic of India was born, the riots caused by the Partition brought millions of refugees that mostly settled in urban areas. This influx of population in cities, the absence of British rule that had hampered urbanization to a certain degree, and the modern technologies the British had brought in still remaining after colonial rule, all combined together to begot explosive urbanization. Although the Partition did not have significant effects on the industrialization of the Republic of India, it was clearly an accentuating factor in bringing people into urban areas.

III. Indonesia

III.1 Pre-independence Urbanization
            Colonial rule was a significant period for urbanization in Indonesia. Many of the largest cities such as Bandung, Jakarta, Semarang, and Surabaya were developed considerably under the Dutch rule. However, flourishing plantation under Dutch rule led to the (sometimes forced) employment of many Indonesians in rural areas, inevitably slowing down urbanization process that could have been faster. Thus urbanization during Dutch colonial rule in Indonesia, though continued throughout the entire colonial period, was hindered from reaching its full potential speed. Table 2 shows explosive increase in Jakarta starting from 1950 just after independence in 1949, hinting that colonial rule might have been preventing urbanization in Indonesia from reaching its maximum potential.

Table 2: Urban Population of Jakarta from 1890 to 1970 (Source: Population of Major Cities, International Historical Statistics)
Year Population of Jakarta (in thousands)
1890 105
1900 116
1910 139
1920 254
1930 437
1940 not shown
1950 1861
1960 2907
1970 4576

III.2 Effect of Rebellions
            The post-independence period of Indonesia was plagued by severe poverty, economy in rubbles, low education, authoritarian traditions, and rebels to the new government. The challenges to authority include Darul Islam, Ambonese’s declaration of an independent Republic of South Maluku, and rebellions in Sumatra and Sulawesi between 1955 and 1961. These rebels, possibly triggered or intensified by the new, naive Indonesian government, were significant contributors to urbanization. Urban migration in Indonesia, especially to the national capital of Jakarta, was started in the 1950s and the 1960s after unrest broke out in parts of the country. (6) Since 1950 Jakarta attracted people from all parts of Indonesian islands: the census of 1961 showed that only 51% of the city’s population was actually born in Jakarta. Jakarta officials tried to control the migration by closing the city to new migrants but many just ignored the laws and kept pouring into the city (7) in search of safe shelters and jobs that their rebellion-ruined hometowns no longer offered. Plantation farms that previously provided work for people in the rural areas were destroyed and abandoned in some places, leaving their workers not much choice but to migrate into the cities for jobs. The Darul Islam attacks were especially influential in causing such devastating situations and created a large influx of refugees into the city from Tasikmalay, Garut, and the southern parts of the Kabupaten Bandung, which were the heartlands of the rebellion. (8)

IV. South Korea

IV.1 Post-colonial Urbanization
            The history of modern cities in Korea started during the Japanese rule. The percentage of urban population in the late Joseon period was only 3 ~ 5% but reached up to 14% by 1945. (9) However, this urbanization was not natural but planned carefully by the Japanese government to make the cities easier to keep under colonial rule. Under the Japanese rule, urbanization was attempted to be controlled; some cities’ growth potential was artificially hampered while others received concentrated attention. Seoul was one of the former; homes of migrants from rural areas were destroyed, with some migrants forced to move out of Seoul; more residents were forced to move out during World War II. (10) On the other hand, from 1910 to 1920 port cities were developed for better exploitation of the Korean peninsula and in the 1930s industrial cities were constructed in the north to produce weapons. Table 3 shows that Seoul’s average population increase was always below average increase in other urban areas, indicating that Seoul’s possible potential for further growth was hindered. In 1936, Seoul was expanded by annexing 22 new ‘ri’s, a Korean unit of administrative territory, one of which is roughly equal to one village. If the population increase from this expansion is not considered, the increase rate of Seoul from 1935 to 1940 is estimated to be 6.58% (11)

Table 3: Average Population Fluctuation Rate During Japanese Colonial Rule in Korea (‘Fluctuation’ means increase) Source: 조선총독부, 각년도, 「통계연보」, 「국세조사보고서」 (12)
Year Seoul Urban Areas Rural Farmlands National
1915-1920 0.69 3.32 0.43 0.52
1920-1925 6.49 7.29 0.91 1.14
1925-1930 2.84 6.96 1.25 1.53
1930-1935 2.41 6.18 1.40 1.69
1935-1940 16.07 11.90 0.20 1.22
1940-1944 1.39 4.90 1.14 1.60
1914-1944 4.98 6.79 0.88 1.27

            During colonial rule, rural-urban migration was frequent due to extreme plundering of rural farmlands by the Japanese; exhausted and troubled farmers left their hometown for a more peaceful living. However, the cities were also plagued by the Japanese’s plundering, motivating many people to migrate abroad to places like Sakhalin and Manchu. (13) As a result, more people migrated abroad rather than into Korean cities, slowing down the process of urbanization that could have seen better growth rates; the number of domestic rural-urban migrants from 1910 to 1940 was only 870,000 while those who migrated abroad numbered 3,200,000. (14)
            All in all, though urbanization did proceed during Japanese rule, post-colonial urbanization in Korea was hindered from reaching its full potential growth. The Japanese tried to control urbanization according to their convenience, quickly developing some cities while forcing others to grow below their maximum potential growth rate. In addition, the Japanese’s plundering strongly motivated people to move out of the country altogether, very likely slowing down the urbanization process.

IV.2 Urbanization before Korean War, from 1945 to 1949
            With liberation from colonial rule South Korea’s cities saw rapid growth in population primarily from returning people who had migrated abroad due to harsh plundering by the Japanese during colonial rule. From liberation in 1945 to May of 1949 1.69 million people poured in from foreign lands and North Korea, 71.5% from the former and 28.5% from the latter. Many settled in cities, reasons being that ruined farms from the Japanese’s plundering could not sustain a large number of people and relief for the poor was mainly provided in cities. (15)

IV.2 Effect of Korean War
            One of the bloodiest wars in mankind’s history, the Korean War broke down the whole Korean peninsula into rubbles. Nearly 1,900,000 Koreans were dead and wounded. Cities were bombed into ashes; 30% of the buildings in Seoul were completely destroyed. However, despite such terrible consequences, Korean War was a considerable contributing factor to urbanization of South Korea. The influences of the war on urbanization can be divided into two main points: movement of population and destruction of colonial remnants.

IV.2.1 Population Movement
            At first the Korean War proved to be a counter-urbanizing factor, forcing people to flee from northern cities in South Korea. However, the war accelerated urban growth by attracting more rural-urban migrants than before the war. Returning refugees who had lived in cities before the war were joined by refugees who had previously lived in rural areas. The war had destroyed the homes of many people, resulting in a population shuffling - people from the North, people from the South, people from rural areas, people from urban areas all jumbled and looked for new homes. The uprooting effects of the Korean War and the influx of refugees had accelerated the urbanization process during the 1950s, which saw urban share of the total population rise from 18.4% in 1950 to 24.5% in 1955 and to 28.0% in 1960. (16) Of the newly added population to urban areas from 1949 to 1955, 81.2% were people migrating from domestic rural areas. (17)

IV.2.2 Destruction of Colonial Remnants
            The bombings on South Korean cities during the War, while they did destroy many buildings, had the positive effect of eliminating colonial remnants. When the Allies planned air attacks on cities occupied by North Korea, an agreement was made beforehand between South Korean officials and the Allies’ military leaders that bombings on traditional Korean structures will be restricted. (18) Table 4 shows that destructed buildings were mainly concentrated in Jung-gu and Yongsan-gu where most constructions were Japanese style, built during colonial rule. On the other hand, districts such as Dongdaemun-gu, Seongbuk-gu, and Jongno-gu, where traditional Korean buildings and new housing for Koreans were located, experienced much milder attacks.

Table 4 : Damage to Buildings in Seoul inflicted during the Korean War (Source: 서울특별시, 「서울특별시 시세일람」, 1952)
District No. of Buildings before the War (A) No. of Completely Destroyed Buildings during the War (B) No. of Damaged Buildings during the War (C) Destruction Rate (A+B / C)
Jung-gu 17,097 6,926 988 52.1
Jongno-gu 20,736 2,410 765 15.3
Seodaemun-gu 22,515 4,372 1,522 26.2
Yongsan-gu 26,218 9,516 8,838 70.0
Dongdaemun-gu 18,183 419 945 7.5
Mapo-gu 23,244 2,711 1,697 19.0
Seongdong-gu 25,557 5,017 2,154 28.1
Yeongdeungpo-gu 20,119 2,512 2,620 25.5
Seongbuk-gu 17,591 859 811 9.5

            This selective bombing opened the door for Korea’s independent city planning. Efforts were made to move the main business center of Seoul from Japanese planned places to the Gwanghwamun region which was the traditional business center in Korea for many years before colonization. Plans for new constructions previously hampered by already existing building no longer had to be reluctant. Although these efforts were neither mainstream nor carried out properly due to lack of finances, it is true that ruined Japanese buildings had ironically created an environment easier and more apt for quick reconstructions of cities, which were designed to accommodate Koreans more comfortably and thus contributing to quicker urbanization.

V. Conclusion
            Social unrest such as warfare, rebellions, and riots are easy to be considered as an anti-urbanization factor. However, they can sometimes do just the opposite: accelerate urbanization. Hampered urbanization speed during colonial rule, new and naive governments that contribute to the outbreak of social turmoil after independence - these special circumstances created a condition in which social violence easily occurred and triggered explosive urbanization by accommodating refugees from social unrest who tended to seek new homes in urban areas. With what little suppression there was all gone with independence, and the modern technologies from colonial governments remaining even after the demise of colonial rule, the situation had been perfect for attracting refugees who had lost their homes during social unrest after independence.
            The three countries in this paper all experienced hindrance in natural urban growth (cities prevented from reaching their maximum potential growth) during colonial rule. Fortunately, turmoil in each country after independence turned into opportunities for a faster, greater urbanization. The degree of the contribution is debatable, but statistics and data make the clear that contribution definitely exists. Such social unrest could be a strong counter-urbanizing factor should it occur during peaceful times, but the situation of falling colonial rule and independence had turned the unfortunate event into an opportunity.


(1) Thadani, 2003
(2) Pfeiffer, 2007
(3) Metcalf & Metcalf, 2002
(4) Konar, 2009
(5) Metcalf & Metcalf, 2002
(6) Sarosa, 2006
(7) Rukmana
(8) 엄지공주, 2008
(9) 장세훈, 2002
(10) Repetto, 1981
(11) 장세훈, 2002
(12) Regarding the term ‘fluctuation.’ The source used ‘fluctuation’ to title this data but because the scholar journal using this source constantly refers to the fluctuation as an increase, and because other journals mentioning Seoul’s population during Japanese rule agree that it increased, fluctuation should mean increase. Also, other data from the same original source using the term ‘fluctuation’ had negative numbers, which could mean decrease; further supporting that positive numbers should mean increase.
(14) ibid
(15) ibid
(16) ibid
(17) 홍경희, 1979
(18) 김용주, 1984


Note: Websites below were visited in March to September 2011.

1. Vincent A. Smith, edited by Percival Spear, The Oxford History of India Fourth Edition, 1919, Oxford University Press
2. Barbara D. Metcalf & Thomas R. Metcalf, A Concise History of India, 2002, Cambridge University Press
3. Viswambhar Nath & Surinder K. Aggarwal, Urbanization, urban development, and metropolitan cities in India, Concept Publishing Company, 2007
4. Dhirendra Nath Konar Ph.D, Nature of Urbanization in West Bengal in The Post-independence Period, 2009, Economic Affairs: Vol-54 No. 3 & 4
5. Martin van Bruinessen, 'Duit, jodoh, dukun': Observations on cultural change among poor migrants to Bandung, 1985, Masyarakat Indonesia jilid XV, 35-65
6. Wicaksono Sarosa, Urbanization and Sustainability: Case Studies of Good Practice, chapter 7 Indonesia, 2006, Asian Development Bank
7. Cybriwsky, Roman and Ford, Larry R. (2001). City profile: Jakarta. Cities 18(3): 199-210.
Ernst, John P. (2004). A paper presented to the 2004 TRB Annual Meetings
8. R. B. Bhagat, Urbanisation in India: A Demographic Reappraisal, Department of Geography, Maharshi Dayanand University, India
9. Pranati Datta, Urbanisation in India, Population Studies Unit, Indian Statistical Institute
10. Robert W. Hefner, Globalization, Governance, and the Crisis of Indonesian Islam,Boston University
11. Tim Lankester, Asian Drama’: The Pursuit of Modernization in India and Indonesia vol. XXXV, no. III , 2004, Asian Affairs
12. Government of Delhi, Economic Survey of Delhi 2005-2006, http://www.delhi.gov.in/wps/wcm/connect/DoIT_Planning/planning/economic+survey+of+dehli/economic+survey+of+delhi+2005+-+2006
13. Elmar Pfeiffer, India ? Urbanization, 2007, http://www.stalys.de/data/inurbani.htm
14. Elmar Pfeiffer, India ? Urban Morphology, 2009 http://www.stalys.de/data/inurbamorph.htm
15. Wikipedia, Partition of India http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/India_partition
16. Wikipedia, History of Indonesia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Indonesia#Indonesian_National_Revolution
17. 장세훈, Korea War and Urbanization in Seoul [도시연구] 제8호 154-191쪽, 한국도시연구소, 2002
18. 닉네임 엄지공주, 한국의 도시화와 도시문제, 2008, 케이엔디/학점은행제 다음카페http://blog.daum.net/wlsk65/7445887
19. Wikipedia, Darul Islam http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darul_Islam_(Indonesia)
20. Robert C. Repetto, Harvard University, Council on East Asian Studies, Economic Development, Population Policy, and Demographic Transition in the Republic of Korea, 1981, Harvard University Asia Center
21. 조선총독부, 통계연보, 각년도
22. 조선총독부, 국세조사보고서, 각년도
23. 서울특별시, 서울특별시 시세일람, 1952
24. Wikipedia, Demographics of South Korea http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_South_Korea
25. Federal Research Division of the U.S. Library of Congress, Urbanization, South Korea, based on Country Studies, http://www.country-data.com/cgi-bin/query/r-12271.html
26. Dorling Kindersley, Indonesia - Chronology, The Financial Times World Desk Reference http://dev.prenhall.com/divisions/hss/worldreference/ID/chronology.html
27. Deden Rukmana, Urbanization and Suburbanization in Jakarta , Indonesia’s Urban Studies Blog http://indonesiaurbanstudies.blogspot.com/2007/03/urbanization-and-suburbanization-in.html
28. Based on Country Studies by Federal Research Division of the U.S. Library of Congress, Urbanization, Indonesia, http://countrystudies.us/indonesia/33.htm
29. 김용주, 1984, 「풍운시대 팔십년: 나의 회고록」, 신기원사
30. Shishir Thadani, Problems of Indian Agriculture, 2003, India Resource http://india_resource.tripod.com/indianagriculture.html
31. 홍경희, 「한국도시연구」, 1979, 중화당
32. 마포구립 서강도서관, 일제강점기 행정구역 개편, 2008, http://sglib.mapo.go.kr/guji/jiri_view.asp?method=view&re_url=/guji/jiri_list.asp&table_name=hyangto&val_01=68
33. Brian R. Mitchell, International Historical Statistics: Africa, Asia, and Oceania 1750-1993, Palgrave Macmillan, 1998

Choice of Topic . . Go to Teacher's Comment

In Response to the students' presentation, teacher wrote :

I was impressed by your choice of topic and outline of what you plan to do
It is a rare occasion that high school students develop such a well-formulated, specific topic; please write a few lines explaining how you got this idea

Student responded :

I just thought about the big events or influences that took place simultaneously with the beginnings of environmentalism, and came up with colonialism.
Because history is a mixture of various social influences, I believe most of them that happened during the same period have a connection. This was how I came up with the social confusion and urbanization thesis as well. (The two events coincided many times) Luckily when I googled "colonialism environmentalism" there was supporting data. There was no instruction given to me, but I think I was just lucky to hit on something. I don't deserve your compliment, but I really thank you for it. I am very encouraged and relieved.