Korean J Med Hist.  2018 Dec;27(3):323-356. 10.13081/kjmh.2018.27.323.

Rabies Outbreaks and Control during the Japanese Colonial Period in Korea

  • 1Department of Veterinary Medicine, Seoul National University, Korea. jdchun@sby.ac.kr


Rabies became one of the critical zoonoses in the modern urban environment since pet keeping culture became widespread in the Western countries in the 18th century. The sanitary policy against rabies was a forceful tool for the colonial rulers in the 19th century. This study describes the rabies outbreaks in the context of prevention methods, experts' engagement and the public response to the policies based on the statistics, regulations and newspaper articles on rabies in Korea during the Japanese colonial period. Based on the changes in the rabies policies, this study divides the time period into three phases. First phase (1905-1914) was characterized with the first epizootics investigation in Korea in 1905 and the "Domestic dog control regulation" in 1909, which legitimated elimination of dogs without owners' name tags. In the second phase (1915-1926), rabies was designated as a reportable disease by the "Act on Prevention of Domestic Animal Infectious Diseases (1915)" and thousands of dogs were slaughtered every year for rabies prevention. In the third phase (1927-1945), vaccination for dogs became a main intervention. From 1927 to 1942, 760,515 dogs were vaccinated. However, the broad scale rabies control projects over these decades did not seem to decrease the outbreaks of rabies because they did not reflect the rabies situation in Korea. Furthermore, the rabies control policy of the Japanese colonial government was criticized by the public for its violence against dogs and humans, for causing conflicts between social classes, and for lack of understanding of traditional human-dog relationship.


rabies; wild dog elimination; vaccination; Japanese colonial period

MeSH Terms

Animals, Domestic
Asian Continental Ancestry Group*
Communicable Diseases
Disease Outbreaks*
Social Class
Social Control, Formal
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