This paper highlights the lives of Japanese and Korean subjects of Imperial Japan who were involved in opium production and circulation in Manchukuo. It discusses the dynamics, practices, and experiences of opium production and circulation. This paper provides a new reading of the diverse beneficiaries on the ground and of the opium industry in Manchukuo from the angles of production and circulation. Even as authorities continued to make significant revenue from the opium trade, the opium industry provided opportunities for diverse actors to profit from taking part in the state opium monopoly scheme. The interplay of these actors eroded Japanese imperial control over the new state. By dissecting the entanglement of the complex nature of the opium industry within a regional context, the paper demonstrates how the state actors were compelled to take action to combat illegal opium growing and selling.
Dr Ming Gao is a Kyujanggak Fellow at Seoul National University, Republic of Korea, and was a visiting fellow in 2019 and 2020 at Kokugakuin University in Tokyo, Japan. His present book project focuses on the nature of Japanese imperialism in Manchukuo and, more broadly, in Northeast Asia through the lenses of profitability, health, medicine, and gender. Currently, he is also working on projects on the politics of medicine from a transnational dimension, linking Imperial Japan with contemporaneous empires.