These articles are from December 1942, and they particularly stand out for their especially anti-Christian and anti-American messaging. They are part of a series of articles written to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Pacific War against the United States, which began with the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7th local time (December 8th Japan time) in 1941. Setting aside the hateful content, these articles actually provide some interesting, detailed insight into the religious landscape of Korea, which apparently had a vibrant, diverse Christian scene centered on Pyongyang and northern Korea. But here, we look at it from the perspective of the colonizer. We painfully see how Western missionaries initially resisted attempts by colonial authorities to force Korean churches to worship the Emperor at Shinto Shrines and support Imperial Japan’s war effort, but those Westerners were ultimately imprisoned or deported, and the Korean churches were eventually forced into submission to the colonial regime. Like the rest of the Korean population, Korean Christians were also compelled to perform the Kyūjō Yōhai ritual (宮城遥拝) of bowing to the Emperor every morning, worship at Shinto shrines, donate church bells to the Imperial Japanese military, ‘comfort’ Imperial Japanese soldiers by visiting them on the front lines, and make humiliating public pro-Imperialist statements. Those who resisted met the fate of brave Christians like Chu Ki-chol, who was tortured and killed by colonial authorities in 1944.
These articles are also unusual in how many religious organizations and notable Western missionaries that they mention, so I’ve added various links accordingly to relevant online resources.
Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo) December 1, 1942
The supranational Christian religion: 670,000 Christians in all of Korea
The Christians once refused to worship at the Shinto shrines
Shut out the United States and Britain!
One year since [the start of the Pacific War on December 8th]
Religion Edition (Part 1)
Schools of love, gentle but holy churches, warm medical hands. In the case of the United States and Britain, all of these were tools of their conspiracy. They used all kinds of secret techniques to extract souls from the Korean peninsula. They tried to make people’s lives captive to infatuation with the United States and Britain by attracting them to the movies, and they tried to transform their thoughts into anti-East Asian ones by publishing books. In short, everything they did was a wilesome technique with fangs of cunning hidden deep inside, and they invaded like beasts by playing their magic tricks. How have their relentless efforts over the past several decades infiltrated the Korean peninsula? It is terrifying to imagine.
The Korean peninsula was about to be drained of its soul. The blow that saved it was the declaration of war on that glorious morning of December 8th. Now Japan has risen up. We are waging a thorough extermination campaign against the United States and Britain, who are insatiable in their scheming, and not letting any of their remnants remain in any corner of the land and skies over the Greater East Asia region. In retrospect, I wonder how much of the British-American coloration, condition, or the stains on the soul that had seeped into the Korean peninsula have been wiped away in that one year. I am happy to look back on it now.
Everyone must be horrified when they remember the bewitching missionary power of the Hito-no-michi Movement. There is an old saying, “The drowning man will catch at a straw.” When people cannot move beyond thinking “I want to be healed! I want money! I want my business to prosper!” and are then offered even a modicum of reasonable faith, it is probably human nature for them to immediately jump at the chance. Since this human nature is pursued with a message of “bringing humanity, peace, and wealth,” we must first look at the rate of proselytization in isolation. Once their eyes are blinded, they are unable to see even the evil clutches of ideological intrigue that are lurking behind all this. Whether this is the case or not, the rate of Christian missionary activity on our Korean peninsula is truly frighteningly high.
Although the words “religion” and “Christianity” are simply used, if we take a glance at the various denominations, it is surprisingly revealed that there are 39 different types of Christianity, including the Roman Catholic Church, the Russian Orthodox Church, the Anglican Church, the Presbyterian Church of Korea, the Korean Methodist Church, the Union of Korean Methodist Churches, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the Oriental Missionary Society, the Universalist Church, etc. (as of the end of 1930). It is said that there are about 330,000 Christians in mainland Japan and about 670,000 Christians in Korea. Of these, the three main Christian denominations with the largest numbers of followers are the Presbyterian Church of Korea, the Korean Methodist Church, and the Roman Catholic Church.
The Presbyterian Church is divided into four groups: the Northern Presbyterian Church of the United States, the Southern Presbyterian Church of the United States, the Presbyterian Church of Canada, and the Presbyterian Church of Australia, which account for about 63% of all Christians in Korea. The next largest group is the Roman Catholic Church with 127,751 members, followed by the Korean Methodist Church with 45,844 members, in this order.
In November 1935, the American missionary McCune, principal of Pyongyang Soongsil Junior High School, refused to worship at the Pyongyang Shinto Shrine, saying, “I cannot participate in events that go against our religious doctrines.” The “Shinto shrine non-attendance issue” suddenly grabbed the world’s attention. It was a school run by the Northern Presbyterian Church of the United States. From then until February 1938, there were 18 Christian schools that adopted the resolution of not worshiping at the Shinto shrines. Not only did they refuse to worship at the Shinto shrines, but they also refused to fly the national flag or perform the 7 am Kyūjō Yōhai ritual (宮城遥拝) of bowing to the Emperor, and they barred any non-believers from entering church grounds. It was essentially no different from having a piece of America right inside Korea.
When the late Governor-General Saitō made an inspection tour of Jeongju in Northern Pyongan Province, he found that all the stores were closed, so it was no wonder that he was suspicious. It is said that it was a day of rest for Christians that day. Even the farmers had abandoned their fields and were quietly praying to God on Sunday, their day of rest. Christianity is truly a supranational entity, essentially the embodiment of the United States and Britain. Why was American and British Christianity so attractive?
The missionary activities of the Presbyterian Church began 60 years ago. The first principal of present-day Yonhee College (연희전문학교/延禧專門學校) was an American, Mr. Underwood. In 1916 at the Pyongyang Theological Seminary, he lectured on Eschatology, which is said to form the basis of the church’s doctrine, and he said, “The Earth will soon be in the grip of a great upheaval, injustice will be defeated, and a peaceful world for Christians will emerge. Only then will you be able to fully accept wealth and love.”
At the time of the First World War and the Manchurian Incident, American and British priests were already preaching with a gloating smile. Presbyterian Christianity gradually developed, first in the Hwanghae Province and then in Northern Pyongan Province. There, the weakness of human nature took on an attractive form. Since the Yi Dynasty, the people of the Hwanghae and Northern Pyongan Provinces had not been able to easily enter government service, and their paths to success and prosperity had been blocked by fate. It is not surprising that feelings of rebellion and suspicion were deeply rooted in the hearts of the people of the region.
Because they were promised love, wealth, and peace, all of which could be obtained by praying to Jesus Christ, they became Christians. The methods and means of Christian missionary work have been carried out by skillfully exploiting the same weakness of the human heart. Looking at this in retrospect, it can be said that the ideological schemes of the United States and Britain have steadily succeeded by first borrowing the appearance of a holy religion. This is why 99% of the religious believers of the Korean peninsula are people who make the sign of the cross.
Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo) December 2, 1942
Daring to cut off relations with the United States and Britain
The all-out march to complete the conquest
The movement to donate the ‘bells of peace’
Shut out the United States and Britain!
One year since [the start of the Pacific War on December 8th]
Religion Edition (Part 2)
It was July 7, 1937. The Imperial cry for justice that broke the skies over northern China simultaneously triggered a great awakening on the Japanese home front. The momentum to live up to the true mission of the ancestral land was rising in all quarters. Even on the Korean peninsula, which is just a stone’s throw away from Genkai, Kyūshū, the waves of history surged forward without restraint. On October 1938, the 27th session of the Presbyterian Church of Korea was held in Pyongyang, and they suddenly passed a resolution to worship at Shinto shrines. Later that year, a Christian delegation for comforting the Imperial Army, led by believer Fumio Matsubuchi, was dispatched to the front lines in Beijing, Tianjin, and Taiyuan. The following year in 1939, the 28th General Conference actively demonstrated its cooperation toward promoting hard work and diligence, and at the same time, passed epoch-making resolutions such as cutting off relations with Western missions and placing seminaries under the management of the General Conference. Next, in September 1940, the 29th General Conference made an explosive declaration towards the establishment of a Japanese-style Christianity. They made a resolution which included amendments to the Presbyterian Church Constitution and the confiscation of all foreign-owned institutions.
On November 10 of the same year, the Presbyterian Church issued an outline of reforms based on the following guiding principles: “Based on the true principles of National Identity, we shall adapt ourselves to national policies, forsake the evil thoughts from our past dependence on the West, and strive for purification and reformation towards a Japanese-style Christianity. We shall devote ourselves to selfless devotion in our respective fields of work and strive to build a New East Asian Order through concerted effort and faith.” Indeed, the hand of fire which will destroy Western liberalism has arisen from within the Christian community.
On December 6 of the same year, the Union of Korean Presbyterian Churches was formed. The then Superintendent General Ohno and other government and private officials attended the meeting. Eight hundred faith representatives nodded their heads deeply in the sacred space of the Chōsen Shrine and pledged their devotion as Imperial people. Taking advantage of the momentum, a convention was held for three days starting on the same day to commemorate the 2,600th anniversary of the birth of Japan’s first emperor. The Spirit of the Imperial Way was uplifted, and the National Structure Clarification Movement was deployed. On April 29, 1941, on the occasion of the Emperor’s birthday, 200 female evangelist representatives and 1,500 ordinary female believers held an Imperial birthday dedication ceremony in the presence of then Governor-General Minami. Following the ceremony, internal reforms were made by the Christians, one after another, including lectures on current affairs that were held over a three-day period. In August, when diplomatic relations between the United States and Japan were in danger of coming to a head, the Second Declaration of Reform was issued as follows.
“The provocative attitude of the United States, Britain, and other hostile nations toward Imperial Japan is becoming more and more blatant, and they are becoming more and more frantic to obstruct the establishment of the East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere, which is the unshakable national policy of Imperial Japan. My dear friends of the Faith, we pledge to you that we will always be mindful of this grave situation, and that we will make an all-out national effort, both materially and spiritually, to serve the cause of the Sacred Will of God through our selfless devotion to the nation.”
Along with this clear declaration, the Union listed as practical matters the upliftment of spiritual life, reforms in daily life, the practice of service in accordance with the times, and reforms in church governance. Then they declared a definitive break with the Christian culture which they had blindly believed to be the best. On December 8, the Imperial Edict of War against the United States and Britain was issued. The more than 600,000 Christians on the Korean peninsula also rose up with the pride of the Imperial people in their hearts and minds. The Pyongyang Jang Dae Hyun Church (장대현교회/章臺峴敎會) started a church bell donation campaign on the occasion of Christmas in the same year. They donated the church bells, whose knell was said to symbolize peace and freedom, as weapons to be used against the United States and Britain.
The Presbyterian movement spread to all of Korea, and by the end of April 1942, the number of bells donated by 18 denominations totaled 2,200 bells weighing a total of 34,668 kan (130,005 kg). However, these acts of sincerity are still continuing. In addition, at the end of last year, they donated one military aircraft each to the Imperial Army and Navy, in March of this year they donated 70 pieces of heavy machinery, and in November they donated three cars for use by patients.
In addition, lectures on the current situation and Japanese language courses have been held in various locations. At the 31st General Conference held in Pyongyang from October 15 of this year, all the services, proceedings, and sermons were conducted in the Japanese language. This fact tells us more than anything about the subsequent trends of these Christians. I am sure that hymns will be sung in Japanese in the near future.
I may have spoken too much about the Presbyterian movement, but the Roman Catholic Church and the Methodist Church are following in similar footsteps. Even after the outbreak of the Greater East Asia War, the priests of the Roman Catholic Church did not accept the order to return to their home countries, and they are still on the Korean peninsula. The Diocese of Daegu welcomed Dr. Hayasaka, a doctor of theology, as its bishop in October of this year. Gwangju in Jeollanam-do will soon welcome a mainland Japanese bishop as well. This momentum will gradually take place in the various other denominations as well. Their weekly publication, the “Christian Newspaper,” is published by the Korean Book Publishing Company, and the printing and publication of hymns, Bibles, and other materials is gradually following this momentum. [Photo: The dedication ceremony by a meeting of elders of the Presbyterian Church]