The Korean people were allegedly liars, slackers, quitters, and thieves, but Governor-General Koiso offered them a chance to redeem themselves and become honorable by submitting to Amaterasu and the Emperor, and awaken as true Japanese people to fulfill divine destiny in final part of 1944 speech

This is the third and final part of Governor-General Koiso’s February 1944 intensely religious address to the entire Korean nation, which was prominently displayed on the front page of Keijo Nippo, the most widely distributed and read newspaper in all of Korea at the time. In the first part of the address, he described all Koreans as descendants of the Shinto god Susanoo-no-mikoto, the younger brother of Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess, but as he wrapped up his address in this final part, Koiso insulted the Korean people by calling them liars, slackers, quitters, and thieves, placing blame on the legacy of the corrupt Yi Dynasty. He then offered the Korean people a chance to redeem themselves and become honorable people by submitting themselves to the goddess Amaterasu and her descendant, the Japanese Emperor. In other words, he appealed to the Korean people to awaken as true Japanese people to fulfill divinely ordained destiny, so that they could “recognize their own true essence”. It was a rather strange and dubious way to appeal to all Koreans to rally behind Imperial Japan in the middle of a desperate war against the U.S. and Britain.

You may notice how Koiso singled out Marxist philosophy for criticism, then claimed that Shinto philosophy also discusses the dichotomy between the material and the spiritual through the divine edict of the mirror (spiritual things) and the ears of rice (material things). This way of drawing parallels between foreign philosophies and Shinto philosophy is nothing new. It is very much in line with the rhetorical devices of Kokugaku, which was a Japanese nativist academic movement which sought to rid Japan of foreign ideas and influences and return Japan to the supposed purity of its ancient roots, of which Master Imaizumi‘s ideas arguably had the strongest influence on Koiso. Such parallels would be noted to then emphasize the differences and argue for the superiority of Shinto thought over foreign thought. Koiso’s explicit mention of Marxism in this address may have been an implicit acknowledgement of the appeal that Marxism had for large sections of Korean society.

What is also strange about this address are the phrases in Mandarin Chinese and Russian that Koiso used to stereotype them as apathetic peoples. February 1944 was only about a year and a half away from the end of the war in August 1945, with Imperial Japanese forces suffering defeat after defeat, so perhaps Koiso’s worries about Soviet Russia, China, United States, and Britain were reflected in the countries and peoples that he mentioned. 

Koiso displayed a photo of himself along with a rough draft of his speech in the February 16, 1944 issue of Keijo Nippo, but the photographed rough draft actually comes from this part of the speech, in which he mentions Marxism and its alleged shortcomings compared to Shintoism.

This article is full of references to lots of religious terminology from the Shinto religion, so I’ve added plenty of links to Wikipedia pages and other resources for further reading.


Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo) February 19, 1944

Thorough adherence to the true meaning of the National Body brings inevitable victory!

(Transcript of Governor-General Koiso’s Speech) [3]

Correct the self that appears in your mirror!

An Imperial Edict of Profound Significance

Earlier, I mentioned that, in addition to the divine edict concerning himorogi (divine trees) and iwasaka (rock cairns), there are two divine edicts concerning the mirror and the ears of rice. One divine edict says, “Amaterasu, holding a treasured mirror in her hand, gave it to Ame-no-oshihomimi and looked at him saying, ‘My child, look into this treasured mirror as if you were looking at me. We shall share the same bed and the same room, so that it may serve as a mirror of worship'”. The other divine edict says, “I shall take the ears of rice that I grew in the heavens in the fields of Yuniwa, and bestow them upon my children”.

Those were the divine decrees about the mirror and the ears of rice. The first decree basically says, “I will give you this mirror. Think of this mirror as me, Amaterasu, and keep it with you in the same bed and in the same room”. In other words, the divine edict tells you to always be with Amaterasu and worship her whether you are asleep or awake.

Since we are with the Goddess, everything we say, do, and think must be done in the presence of the Goddess. This is the expression of the godlike spirit which is embodied as a clear mirror, which is in contrast to the ears of rice, which represent material things.

In particular, the fact that the mirror was given to him to represent the Goddess is of profound significance. Please excuse me for explaining this to you as if I were speaking to elementary school children, but please stand in front of the mirror. Everything from your mind to your complexion will be reflected in the mirror. If you are worried about yourself, you will see your worries reflected in the mirror. If your button is undone, it will be reflected in the mirror as it should be.

However, the mirror will not say, “Hey you, Koiso! What’s with your clothes? Isn’t your button undone?” Rather, the reflection of Koiso in the mirror does some self-reflection on his own, and realizes that the button is something that needs to be fastened, so he fastens his button. The mirror does not say anything.

However, when we face the mirror, we reflect upon ourselves and correct what needs to be corrected. How truly profound it is that the mirror was given to us in the place of the Goddess in such a way! As I have just said, the mirror does not say anything. In other words, the mirror never makes excuses.

Recently, the wartime atmosphere of the world has become heavier, and the old system must not be allowed to prevail. Individualism, liberalism, and the capitalist economy are not acceptable. We are told that we must embrace totalitarianism, thought control, and a planned economy, but the gods do not take sides with any of these.

Everything is encompassed by the mirror, whether it be the free economy, controlled economy, individualism, or totalitarianism. Good or bad, right or wrong, beautiful or ugly, straight or curved, everything is encompassed. As I mentioned earlier with the example of Koiso reflected in the mirror, the mirror makes you reflect upon yourselves and discard the bad parts of yourselves in accordance with the times and the current environment. Eventually, only the good parts of yourselves will remain. It is the mirror and the Goddess who will guide you in this way. This is precisely what Susanoo-no-Mikoto and Amaterasu intended.

We do not spend our days only with trivial criticisms. When we see society from the viewpoint of encompassing everything, cutting off the bad parts, and keeping the good parts, it can be said that the structure of society today has many good parts, but there are also many parts in our ways of thinking that must be corrected. The other day, I talked about this with a student who came to see me regarding the issue of volunteer enlistment, and I must say that young students are very innocent.

I didn’t consider myself the ideal vessel to embody the mirror, but as I accepted the mirror into myself and spoke with sincerity, as if I myself had turned into a god or the mirror, the students listened attentively and were convinced. I believe that this lesson from the mirror is truly a great lesson.

The next divine edict, which follows this great lesson of spiritual culture, reads “I shall take the ears of rice that I grew in the heavens in the fields of Yuniwa, and bestow them upon my children”. It is a divine edict that reveals the importance of the material substance, that the spiritual side alone is not enough. This is a divine edict which mandates that we must give eternal life to the magnificent divine spirit with the help of this material substance, the ears of rice from the fields of Yuniwa. That is, with the help of the substance of purity and innocence.

Marxism is based on a materialistic historical view of all things material, and while it is not absolute spiritual speculation, it is merely a derivative spiritual theory that starts from a materialistic view. And even though Marxism is a product of modern times, the principle of the mirror and the ears of rice was already established tens of thousands of years ago in the reigns of Amaterasu and Susanoo-no-Mikoto, and has been teaching and guiding our ancestors in every generation.

The last of the divine edicts is the divine edict of the immortality of the heavens and the earth. This is the conclusion that the destiny of the emperor and the heavens and the earth will be unlimited only when we stand on the ground of the oneness of the sovereign, the people, and the nation in accordance with the aforementioned divine edict concerning himorogi (divine trees) and iwasaka (rock cairns), pushing forward based on this spirit in accordance with the divine edict of the mirror and the ears of rice and adding thereon a splendid material substance. This divine edict is written at the beginning of the reading textbooks of the elementary schools. Therefore, there is no need to elaborate much further about this divine edict. Indeed, we Japanese and Koreans have been nurtured in such a spiritual atmosphere since ancient times.

However, history and tradition also have great power. There are many people here who are from the Korean peninsula, but Koreans, whether they are in mainland Japan, Manchuria, or Northern China, are not good people. They are quick to tell lies, lack a sense of responsibility, lack endurance, and are not ashamed of taking things that belong to others.

However, as to what has brought about such a situation, I believe that it is mainly due to the political system of the Yi Dynasty over the past 500 years. From the end of the Goryeo Dynasty, the 500 years of politics of the Yi Dynasty probably contributed to the deterioration of the pure and honorable state of the people.

The reason why a nation known for its noble Hwarang Corps of Silla, who were not inferior to the chivalrous people of Europe or the Bushidō warrior class of mainland Japan, began to tell lies and steal is because the general public was oppressed and exploited by the special class during the 500-year rule of the Yi Dynasty. Consequently, the public was forced to struggle to live one day at a time, finding any way to make ends meet, and even lies became a means to an end.

In China, there is a similar philosophy, which is eloquently illustrated by the phrase, “Méi fǎzi (没法子) [cannot help it]”. The Slavic Russians use the term “nichevo (ничего) [nothing]” which also expresses the same tendency. If there are any defects in the Korean people that should be criticized, I am convinced that they are the result of the politics of the Yi Dynasty over the past 500 years, and that the true essence of the Korean people is honorable, rather than what I just described.

Since the beginning of the Meiji era, people in mainland Japan have been worshiping the West, forgetting the true essence of the fine Japanese people, thinking that anything Western is good, that good products are imported, and that Japanese products are synonymous with inferior goods. University professors were also oblivious to the true essence of Japan and lectured solely based on the thoughts of Westerners written in horizontal text. When students saw that their professors were well versed in Western studies, they would gladly attend their lectures in adoration and admiration. Over the past 60 to 70 years, there have been quite a number of Westerners even in mainland Japan who have disguised themselves as Japanese people.

In their colonial policies, the United States and Britain have exploited the colonized masses for their own enjoyment. Some Western-minded Japanese have thought of our governance of Korea as a similar to those colonial policies of the United States and Britain.

However, as I have said before, Japanese-Korean unification is the reductive coalescence of the same ethnic peoples who must necessarily and inevitably become one body, different in kind from the colonies of the United States and Britain.

Viewing things in this way, the Japanese people who have licked the dregs of Western thought will also be enlightened, and both the Japanese and the Koreans must surely recognize their own true essence, so that Japan as a whole can truly become pure and uncluttered, a nation of one hundred million people united with one mind. [The insert photo shows a small mirror excavated in Nangnang-gun].



京城日報 1944年2月19日


小磯総督 講話速記 【三】