Forced Mobilization

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Military Combatant Mobilization


Army Special Volunteer Ordinance which forcibly enlisted people for direct engagement in combat

The mobilization of military combatants began with the ‘Army Special Volunteer Ordinance’ (Feb. 22, 1938, Imperial Order No. 95) which forcibly enlisted people for direct engagement in combat. Forced mobilization for combat roles was divided into volunteers and conscription. However, contrary to the literal meaning, volunteers were often pressed into service against their will. The qualifications for volunteers, as designated in the ordinance, were Joseon men aged 17 or older who graduated from elementary school (or equivalent qualification) or higher. Japan mobilized the police force to lead the propaganda campaign, forcible recruitment and retention efforts. The ‘Student Volunteer System’ marshalled college students for military deployment, some of whom were tragically mobilized for suicide squads (Kamikaze, Shinyo, Marure, Kaiten).

Until the termination of the student volunteer system on Nov. 21, 1943, designated student volunteers evading forced mobilization had conscription notices issued labelling them as non-compliant conscripted or traitorous students. Documents from the Japanese Imperial Parliament suggest that 125 students evaded volunteering in 1944, while the committee estimates the number of the evaders to be more than 400.

Conscription is a system that compels members of the public into military service to defend a country. Early on in the war, Japan did not intend to include Joseon people in the military draft system. However, the dire progress of the war made Joseon people subjected to conscription. The first round of physical examination for conscription occurred from Apr. 1 to Aug. 20, 1944 with the first round of conscripts beginning their enlistment from Sept. 1.

Based on the lowest count provided by the Japanese government’s official statistics, the total number of mobilized soldiers were 209,279.

Number of Mobilized Soldiers
(Unit: person)
Number of Mobilized Soldiers: Classification, Total
Classification Total
Army Special Volunteers 16,830 209,279
Student Volunteers 3,893
Army Conscripts 166,257
Navy (including volunteers) 22,299

[Source: 『Committee Activity Report』, the Committee for the Victims of the Forced Mobilization during Resistance to Japan and the Casualties from the Overseas Forced Mobilization, 2016, Page 124.]