In December 1938, Keijo Nippo newspaper published a self-promoting advertisement on a full-page spread boasting about how it is the number-one newspaper in Korea in every respect: the largest newspaper in Korea with the largest readership, the largest staff, the most financial resources, the best exclusive news access in every part of Korea, the best printing equipment with the latest state-of-the-art rotary presses imported from the U.S.A., longstanding relationships with international press agencies such as the International News Service, United Press International, and Associated Press, and correspondents stationed all over the world including in Paris, New York, Berlin, London, Davao, Hawaii, and Occupied China. Thus, the Keijo Nippo newspaper is a very valuable source of insight into the kinds of information from both inside and outside the country that Koreans might have known about during colonial rule.
In December 1938, Imperial Japan was in the middle of the vicious Second Sino-Japanese War, but it was not experiencing privations to the extent that it would experience during the Second World War, because it still managed to benefit from relatively normal world trade and foreign investment with relatively few sanctions, including from Western countries like the U.K. and the U.S. That would change over the course of the next few years, as relations with the U.S. deteriorated to the point of war.
This photo montage has a lot of things going on, but let’s parse them out. The newspaper building was a cube-shaped brick building just a block away to the north from the then Seoul City Hall (京城府庁). It housed not only Keijo Nippo, but also Maeil Sinbo, the last Korean-language newspaper to remain in Korea after Dong-A Ilbo and Chosun Ilbo were shuttered in 1940. On top of the building is the flag of Seoul, which looks like a black-outlined circle sandwiched between two clamps. On the left side of the building are some slogans: one says “Don’t let your guard down after victory! (勝って兜の緒を締めよ)”, while the other one says, “Long-term construction is just the beginning (長期建設はこれからだ)” On the right side of the building are the names of its three publications: the Keijo Nippo (京城日報), Keinichi Shinpo (京日新報), and Keijo Nippo Elementary School Edition (京日小学生新聞). On the left side of the photo, staff members are at their desks drafting articles, and a cameraman is taking a picture with his news camera. To the center-bottom of the photo, a man is transcribing a news report which he is listening to over the phone. Above him is a rotary press manufactured by R. Hoe & Co., and below him are bundles of printed newspapers and the delivery trucks which will deliver them to all parts of Korea. On the right side of the photo, there are some workers setting the typesets to print the newspaper editions.
I also included an advertisement for the Elementary School Edition of Keijo Nippo, which was marketed to Korean children, especially with its rather blatant use of the word “second-class national people of Japan” (日本の第二国民). It goes to show the militaristic brainwashing that Korean children received under the colonial regime. This newspaper may have also been read by Korean adults who were studying Japanese.
In September 1906, the Keijo Nippo newspaper (known as Gyeongseong Ilbo in Korean) was founded by Itō Hirobumi to be a mouthpiece of the Office of the Japanese Resident-General of Korea, which controlled Korean foreign diplomatic affairs from 1905 to 1910, when Korea was formally annexed into Imperial Japan. The newspaper was formed by merging two existing Korean newspapers together: the Hanseong Sinbo (한성신보, 漢城新報) and the Daedong Sinbo (대동신보, 大同新報). It started out as a bilingual publication printing both Korean-language editions and Japanese-language editions, but in April 1907, the Korean-language edition of Gyeongseong Ilbo was discontinued. After the annexation of Korea in 1910, Keijo Nippo became the mouthpiece of the Governor-General’s Office, the Imperial Japanese colonial government which controlled Korea from 1910 to 1945.
The newspaper managed to keep publishing for a few months after Korea gained its independence on August 15, 1945, printing its last edition on December 11, 1945. Its printing equipment was subsequently taken over by Hanseong Ilbo (한성일보, 漢城日報) in early 1946. If you look at the logo of Hanseong Ilbo, you can see that they reworked the old Keijo Nippo logo a little bit and kept a similar calligraphy style to come up with the new newspaper logo. The Hanja fonts are identical to the Kanji fonts used in Keijo Nippo.
Keijo Nippo’s Korean-language sister newspaper, Maeil Sinbo, printed its last edition in November 1945, then changed its name to Seoul Shinmun and printed its first edition under its new name on November 23, 1945. Today, the Seoul Shinmun skyscraper stands on the site of the old Keijo Nippo newspaper building.
Today, physical copies of Keijo Nippo are stored at the National Library of Korea and Seoul National University Library. Microfilm copies of Keijo Nippo can be viewed at the Newspaper Reading Room of the National Diet Library in Tokyo, but with no photoduplication available or allowed. In October 2021, an anonymous user uploaded an extensive archive of Keijo Nippo covering 1905 to 1944, appearing to be digital scans of old microfilm. I accidentally stumbled across them just as they were being uploaded. The moment I recognized their historical significance, I decided to slowly prepare transcriptions and translations of these articles and share them online. However, there are many limitations, as the entire year of 1945 is omitted, many scanned pages are in terrible shape with tears, burn marks, and holes in many places, the quality of the digital scans themselves is often bad and makes the text illegible. The National Library of Korea does provide high-quality scans of Keijo Nippo to the public, but only for a select few issues from the early 1930s and earlier.
Currently, the copyright for Keijo Nippo is held by some murky entities. According to one bookstore website, the “Tokyo High Court and National Diet Library authorizes the reprinted The Keijo Nippo( Kyŏngsŏng Ilbo) only by the publisher, SIM Han Bo,Hanʼguk Kyohoesa Munhŏn Yŏnʼguwŏn”. That is, 한국교회사문헌연구원(韓國教會史文獻研究院). The website also says that professors at Waseda University legally go after anyone who repeatedly sells pirated editions. Only the 1905-1918 issues are available for purchase, for an exorbitant 490,000 yen. When ordering, three months are required for copyright processing to be completed. Another bookstore site, Komabook, offers a 20 DVD set containing the September 2, 1915 to December 11, 1945 issues of Keijo Nippo for a grand total of 2,908,500 Japanese yen, which is about $22,000 US Dollars at current exchange rates.
It would seem to me that withholding the content of Keijo Nippo from public release behind such a high paywall and such tight copyright restrictions is not in the public interest, especially as the actions of the Imperial Japanese colonial regime in Korea is of interest to people all over the world. But maybe there is a reasonable explanation for all of this?
My hope is that more of these archives can be made digitally available online for free and then translated more widely so that viewers all over the world can learn more about this very interesting part of Korean history.
Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo) December 26, 1938
The Dignified March of Keijo Nippo
The Great Reform of Our Press Organization along the Lines of the Leap Forward for Korea and the Rebuilding of East Asia
Bathed in the dawn of the New East Asia Cooperative, the Holy Sino-Japanese War is now rushing forward into the third spring of brilliant construction. After 30 years of rule, our Korean peninsula, which has embodied the great spirit of Hakkō Ichiu of which we are proud in world history, is also in lock step with the great strides of the Holy War, and is now playing the role of a “logistics base” in both material and moral aspects as we greet the first spring of the third year of the war. Keijo Nippo, as the honored head of the press agencies of home front Korea based on Japanese-Korean unification, is mobilizing all of its functions and personnel. With the sound of its high-speed rotary press working tirelessly, Keijo Nippo is celebrating a new spring of victorious journalism together with its loyal readers.
The Keijo Nippo has walked alongside the New Korea ever since it was welcomed at the time of its annexation, and Korea has experienced thirty years of unyielding progress ever since then. We have challenged ourselves to overcome superimposed difficulties together with the Young Korea. We have fought for each day to be filled with the light of happiness and peace, and we have won the present-day by smearing on it the words: “Leap Forward!”. The history of Keijo Nippo, which was inaugurated by the first Chief Superintendent Itō Hirobumi, is also the history of the new century of the Korean peninsula.
It is well known in the pages of this newspaper just how active we have been during the Second Sino-Japanese War, based on the precious past legacy of tens of thousands of Keijo Nippo staff. Needless to say, the complete coverage of the various parts of home front Korea is the exclusive domain of this newspaper alone. We have sent special correspondents to bring back blood-drenched news of frontline Imperial troops deployed on mainland China destroying Chiang Kai-shek‘s forces. We have established bureaus and a special telegraph network in key areas of new construction, while extending our full coverage on the situation of the dying enemy regime. In the heart of Europe and the United States, which are on the verge of being re-divided by the total collapse of the Treaty of Versailles and the outbreak of a second world war, we have established a powerful and extensive special telegraph team in cooperation with the Yomiuri Shimbun to provide vigorous and hot news. The political and economic situation in mainland Japan, which is being reorganized in various fields, is being reported to the Korean peninsula from time to time without fail by the news axes in Tokyo, Osaka, and Seoul.
Thus, Keijo Nippo, as the largest newspaper on the Korean peninsula, is preparing for a great epoch-making leap forward in 1939. Please look forward to the news reporting of Keijo Nippo, which is undergoing a great reform along the lines of the Leap Forward for Korea and the Rebuilding of New East Asia.
This photo is a montage of Keijo Nippo’s news reporting activities. It shows how the news comes to the head office from all parts of Korea, mainland Japan, mainland China, and from all over the world by telegraph and telephone every moment. Then the collected news are drafted, typeset into editions, printed on a rotary press, and then delivered to loyal readers in all of Korea. Our printing plant is the best in all of Korea with respect to its functionality, and it boasts a printing capacity of 300,000 copies per hour on two customized electric high-speed presses, as well as a multi-color high-speed press (manufactured by R. Hoe & Company). Thus, our press organization, fully equipped with human and material resources, is constantly working to provide fresh news and demonstrate their power.
The best facilities in all of Korea!
The Forefront of Wartime Journalism
A powerful and unparalleled communication network
Sharing moment-by-moment world developments to loyal readers in all of Korea
A network is also in place to report on the Sino-Japanese War
In order to accurately and promptly report on the ever-changing political, economic, and social situation in the world, this newspaper has formed a communications alliance with the Yomiuri Shimbun, the leader of the Tokyo newspaper industry, to develop a special telecommunications network, and set up a lightning-like news network around the world. In other words, through a tie-up with Yomiuri Shimbun, we have bureaus (correspondents) in Paris, New York, Berlin, and London, and special correspondents in Davao and Hawaii. We have absorbed special telegrams from the International News Service, one of the world’s three most prestigious news agencies, along with United Press International and Associated Press. Our communications network related to the Sino-Japanese War is as follows, and is unrivaled by any other news organization on the Korean peninsula.
- Permanent military correspondent in Unit [redacted] Shanxi Area
- Branch office in Beijing
Keijo Nippo Elementary School Edition
No one can say, “I am an elementary school student of the shining New Year” without getting the New Year’s Day issue of the Keijo Nippo Elementary School Edition. The splendor of the New Year’s Day issue of the newspaper is the best New Year’s gift for a growing second-class national person of Japan.
There is an assault on a pillbox with live bullets! There is a bombardment by a fighter plane! The invincible march of tanks! If we sing a military song in the red sunset and dream in a field tent, our dreams will lead us home, but if we take up our bayonets and attack in full force, the cheers of ‘Banzai!’ for peace in East Asia will be as high as the wind carrying the Flag of the Great Rising Sun. Don’t you all want to raise Chiang Kai-shek’s head with this amazingly beautiful picture Sugoroku printed in four-color offset? The New Year’s Day issue is sixteen pages. That is four times the page count of a daily newspaper. It is interesting and informative. There are four times as many wonderful articles, photographs, and manga as there are in a daily newspaper.
- The Governor-General’s Story
- A children’s story by the famous Katō Takeo
- The two-page manga series is a kingdom of laughter!
- Chinese New Year, Mongolian New Year, a tablespread for the New Year
- What will the air battle of the future be like? It will surely be very awesome.
- New Year’s Games
- The World of Science
- Test your academic ability with the New Year Achievement Test
We can only tell you just a little bit about the wonders of the New Year’s Day issue. If I were to tell you about the even more beautiful colored pages, I would be in big trouble. Let’s all have fun in anticipation for New Year’s Day. On New Year’s Day, please pick up a copy of the Keijo Nippo Elementary School Edition and be surprised at how wonderful it is, how great it is, and how much you’ll love it.
Free gift: The Sugoroku of the Imperial Army’s Great Victory