This paper aims to understand the welfare mix in Korea by examining its historical origins and tracing its evolution during Japanese colonial rule. After locating the origins of the welfare mix in the early Chosŏn Dynasty, this study examines the evolution of the welfare mix in Korea under Japanese colonial rule. By focusing on repressiveness and recognition, the dual aspects of Japanese colonial rule, we reveal a traditional aspect of the Korean welfare mix that remained strong and was, paradoxically, reinforced under Japanese colonial rule. Following the establishment of a colonial centralised state, Japanese attempts to impose modern dispensational welfare systems proved inadequate. The Japanese were forced to return to traditional, informal welfare providers, such as kyes, to satisfy Chosŏn’s need for welfare. The paper concludes by arguing that this welfare mix can help to explain the welfare regime in modern Korea.