Japan ruled over Korea for almost four decades. The colonization began after the collapse of the Korean empire in 1910 and ended after the conclusion of the Second World War in 1945. During this period, Japan did not draft native Koreans into its armed forces. This, however, changed in 1944. The Japanese troops were overwhelmed in war, forcing them to enlist ethnic Koreans.

Korean Generals During Japanese Colonization

Although the Japanese did not draft locals, they occasionally recruited Korean volunteers into their military. The procedure and requirements for admission were stringent, meaning that only a few applicants were successful. Despite the bias, seven Koreans managed to become generals. Moreover, several others rose through the ranks and became colonels, lieutenants, sergeants, majors, and other ranking posts.

The first Korean to become a general was Lieutenant General and Crown Prince Yi Un. Yi is also the most famous of the seven Koreans who attained the post of general in the Japanese military. The remaining six attained their military education from the Imperial Japanese Army Academy.

The role given to Yi Un was to serve as an instructor to the horsemen at the military academy. Due to his impressive work, Yi was promoted to the rank of Major in 1940. Three years later, he became a Lieutenant-Colonel.  His illustrious military career culminated with him attaining the rank of Colonel at the end of World War II in 1945.




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