Korean J Med Hist.  2014 Dec;23(3):401-427. 10.13081/kjmh.2014.23.401.

Preventive Measures against Plague and the Control of Chinese Coolies in Colonial Korea

  • 1Department of Medical History and Institute for History of Medicine, College of Medicine, Yonsei University, Seoul, Korea. yonsu7766@yuhs.ac


This paper aims to examine the preventive measures taken against the plague in colonial Korea, particularly as applied to the control of Chinese coolies in 1911, soon after the annexation. The Government General of Korea began preventive measures with a train quarantine in Shin'uiju and Incheon in response to the spread of the plague to the Southern Manchuria. Shin' uiju had become urbanized due the development of the transportation network, and the seaport of Incheon was the major hub for traffic with China. Examining the transportation routes for the entry and exit of Chinese to and from Korea makes clear the reason why the Korea Government General initiated preventive measures in mid-January, 1911. The Government General of Korea tried to block the entry of Chinese through the land border crossing with China and through ports of entry, primarily Incheon. During the implementation of the preventive measures, quarantine facilities were built, including a quarantine station and isolation facility in Incheon. It was also needed to investigate the population and residential locations of Chinese in Korea to prevent the spread of plague. A certificate of residence was issued to all Chinese in Korea, which they needed to carry when they travelled. The preventive measures against plague which broke out in Manchuria were removed gradually. However, there was no specific measures against Chinese coolies, those who had migrated from China to work in the spring in Korea. Still the Government General of Korea had doubt about an infection of the respiratory system. As a result, the labor market in colonial Korea underwent changes in this period. The Government General recruited Korean laborers, instead of Chinese coolies whose employment had been planned. This move explains the Government General's strong preventive measures against plague and uncertainty in the route of plague infection, which influenced subsequent regulations on the prohibition of Chinese coolies working on the public enterprise sites and the improvement of labor conditions for Korean laborers.


Preventive Measures; Plague; Government General of Korea; Chinese Coolies; Sea Route; Quarantine; Labor Market
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