The brassware industry and the salvage campaigns of wartime colonial Korea (1937-1945)

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The collective memory inscribed in Korean history books recalls when the Japanese colonial state requisitioned brassware from Korean households during World War II. This study explores the complex mechanism behind these campaigns. Copper was a scarce commodity in the Japanese empire. The colonial brassware industry expanded but struggled due to fluctuating copper prices before the war. To overcome the reluctance of Koreans to part with their brassware, the colonial state had to coordinate various actors across multiple organisations, provide ceramic replacements, and establish a system of financial payments. The Japanese also ultimately created a ‘brass bureaucracy’ capable of carrying out the sensitive task of removing copper from Korean households. The Korean case reminds us that institutional frameworks are necessary for wartime salvage. Finally, brassware collections also resulted in fundamental changes in Korean society and everyday material culture that require careful analysis. (141 words).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)923-945
Number of pages23
JournalBusiness History
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
I would like to thank the two anonymous reviewers, and the participants of the June 2018 ‘Waste, Recycling, War and Occupation’ for their helpful comments and suggestions. I would especially like to thank Heike Weber and Chad Denton for their assistance in clarifying the argument and thoughtful editorial suggestions.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business and International Management
  • Business, Management and Accounting (miscellaneous)
  • History


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