A Consequence of Coerced Free Trade: Biological Living Standards of Korea during the Port-Opening Period, 1876-1910
Duol Kim and
No 2019-9, CEI Working Paper Series from Center for Economic Institutions, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University
After several hundred years of closed-door policy, Korea finally opened its ports in 1876. Historians have traditionally claimed that the port-opening was coerced by foreign countries, deteriorated the Korean economy, and made Korea become a colony. We examined this traditional view by measuring biological living standards and found the opposite. The height of the Hangryu Deceased, who died on the street but no one claimed their body, increased by 0.82 cm in this period. This finding implies that the colonization of Korea originated from political impotence that could not realize the benefit of foreign trade. This result also proposed that economic growth during the colonial period could be more related to free trade than colonial policies or new institutions
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