Unlike other colonial economies, Korea industrialised rapidly during its colonial period, which past scholars attributed to the industrialisation policy directed by the Japanese colonial government between 1930 and 1945. Our analysis of factory labour productivity from 1913 to 1937 suggests significant revisions to this claim. Factory labour productivity as well as total production grew rapidly before the active intervention of the colonial government. In addition, Korean entrepreneurs invested heavily in their firms and successfully competed with Japanese entrepreneurs. We conjecture that the pre-war experience of Korean entrepreneurs provided a critical foundation for the post-colonial economic growth.