Previous studies on the financial history of Taiwan and Korea (Chosen) under Japanese rule have commonly observed that the financial conditions of the Taiwan Government-general were much better than those of the Chosen Government-general. Some reasons for this difference are as follows: distinct sources of tax revenue, differential financial assistance by the Japanese central government to each Government-general in the early stage of colonial rule, mainly caused by different political situations in Japan at the time of colonization, etc. I argue there is an additional, significant cause: different monopoly policies and differences in the size of monopoly incomes significantly affected the total annual revenue.
If we also take into consideration the respective sizes of population and territory, my observation on the monopoly policies and the size of monopoly incomes gives us some suggestions. First, the difference between the financial abilities of the two Governments-general was basically due to the size of monopoly incomes and efficiency of monopoly policies. Second, the difference in the incomes derived from multiple historical legacies, like the unique socioeconomic conditions of each colony (ginseng vs. camphor monopoly), industrial traditions (tobacco monopoly), consumption patterns (opium monopoly), and differential levels of economic development before colonization. It also derived from the differential ‘state’ capacity (as seen in the liquor monopoly) of the Governments-general.
I emphasize that from the viewpoint of ‘state’ capacity, colonial Taiwan was close to the “strong state and weak society” type, whereas colonial Korea is harder to categorize. Colonial Korea might be said to have a “strong state” albeit with an asteroid, but it is difficult to say that its society was a “weak society.” Therefore a sensitive observer like Hagen Koo (1994) insisted that colonial Korean society was a “contentious society.” Moreover, some grand theories like those of colonial modernity and colonial modernization, as well as Korean-style dependency theory (the so-called theory of “colonial plunder”) have something in common, in that they all implicitly presuppose a “strong state.” My observation on the monopoly policies of the two Governments-General suggests the need to modify some of the premises underlying these broader theories.