Colonial regime made impassioned case for Japanese-Korean Unification in ranting mythological and historical narrative invoking the story of Yeonorang and Seonyeo, Shinto god Susanoo who settled in Silla, Prince Go Yak’gwang and Goguryeo refugees who settled in Musashi, Japan in 717 (April 1944)

A supporter sent me a copy of an extremely interesting wartime propaganda book published in April 1944 by the Imperial Japanese colonial regime which ruled Korea at the time. The 80-page book entitled ‘新しき朝鮮’ (The New Korea) was in remarkably good condition and clearly legible for something that was published 80 years ago. It appears to have been published by the Information Department of the Office of Governor-General Koiso, who was arguably one of the most religiously fanatical of all the Governor-Generals who ever ruled Korea during the Imperial Japanese colonial period. As such, it is a very rare and important snapshot of the official propaganda that was imposed upon the Korean people as of April 1944, during a period of Imperial Japanese colonial rule when the intensity of Japanese-Korean Unification propaganda and State Shinto religious propaganda reached their peak.

 ‘The New Korea’ reads like a desperate appeal to the Korean people to rally them to the colonial regime’s side, touting the accomplishments of the colonial regime since Annexation in 1910, including agriculture, industrial development, infrastructure, transportation, communications, military development, education, literacy, natural preservation, etc. Many of the arguments presented in this book about these accomplishments sound remarkably similar to modern Japanese far-right historical revisionist arguments defending Imperial Japanese colonial rule over Korea, which suggests that, perhaps, the propaganda published by the colonial regime in Korea was also used to indoctrinate people in mainland Japan.

However, the part of the book that diverges significantly from the modern Japanese far-right narratives is the Japanese-Korean Unification propaganda, which modern Japanese far-right activists generally feel embarrassed about and prefer to avoid as much as possible. The promotional book starts off with the following preface which rants a Japanese-Korean Unificationist historical narrative touting the historical links between Japan and Korea from ancient mythological times through the medieval period, highlighting the various times throughout history when Japan absorbed Korean migrants who eventually became naturalized Japanese people. It essentially politicizes Japanese-Korean history to justify the colonization of Korea by Imperial Japan. Thus, this preface, which was otherwise meant to be a morale booster for the Korean people in the midst of a desperate war, might have actually been highly offensive and demoralizing to Korean readers at the time. For example, I would guess that the passage which celebrates the disappearance of the Arirang, a beloved Korean folk song, would not have been well received by the Korean readership.

In his February 1944 speech, Koiso actually argued that the Korean people were descended from the Shinto god Susanoo, but that line appears to have been quietly walked back in this April 1944 book. Nevertheless, Susanoo is still mentioned in this book to demonstrate the close connection between Korea and Japan. The historical narratives contained in the 1943 articles about Buyeo (April 19/20 articles, April 21 article) also appear to have made their way into this book in condensed form.


Chapter One: Introduction

The Robust Frontline

“Can a country so sad be made, with its continuous mountains of red clay and bald hills?”

As once lamented by a certain poet, the impression and sad reality of Korea, up to twenty years ago or even just a decade ago, was of reddish clay bald mountains and women in white clothes doing laundry. However, how has it changed? In the few decades that followed, not only did the bald mountains turn green, but the rapid transformation of world history and the leap forward in the construction of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere under the Imperial Japanese guidance, leading the billion people of Asia, has completely changed Korea. Korea has risen up as a part of this grand holy work, being nurtured as a logistic base for our continental operations, altering not only its robust appearance but even the very nature of the Korean Peninsula.

Instead of the women in white clothes who once made laundry their day’s work, there are now sincere women of the “Village Labor Service Corps” under its flag, unwaveringly pulling weeds in the fields and cleaning Shinto shrines. In place of the sorrowful melody of “Arirang” flowing through the streets at dusk, brave military songs now march through the cities, accompanied by the firm footsteps of the youth corps. The once desolate hills on the outskirts have been cultivated into factories spewing black smoke from their chimneys. The remaining red clay mountains with their layers are now the battlegrounds for important underground resource development, tirelessly striving day and night for the annihilation of Britain and America. Students and youths, who once lost sight of their hopes in a blurred vision and recklessly sought the opium of misguided thoughts, have now had their souls cleansed by the fierce waves of the holy war. For the first time, they find infinite hope in offering their blood for loyalty only as Japanese people, enjoying the pride of being a leading core nation among the billion people of East Asia. Holding onto the excitement of the day when conscription was announced, they continue to diligently train day and night, preparing for the day they are called, to achieve the honorable position promised to them in the future through their efforts and the fulfillment of their noble duties.

What would the poet who once called Korea a “sad country” now write, facing the fierce spirit and robust reality of this fighting Korea?

Korea is advancing. Its sole goal is “Together with the endless development of Imperial Japan.”

Korea is advancing. Let us momentarily lend our ears to the powerful, majestic, and tidal-like advancing footsteps of the 26 million compatriots.

The Relationship between Japan and Korea

Without even needing to spread out a map, it is evident that Korea is a continental peninsula extending from the Japanese mainland across the Genkai Sea to the Asian continent and Manchuria. However, when examining the histories of both sides, it becomes clear how inseparably connected Korea and the Japanese mainland have been since the divine era three thousand years ago. From the Korean perspective, the true history of Korea arguably begins with its relationship with the Japanese mainland, rather than the adjacent Asian continent. Korea has grown under Japan’s constant protection and has finally returned to the bosom of its nurturing parent.

The legend is well-known… The tale of Susanoo-no-Mikoto in the “Nihon Shoki” is famous. Susanoo, banished from Takamagahara, descended to the land of Silla with his son, Isotakeru, and lived in Soshimori. Later, he crafted a boat from clay and crossed the Eastern Sea to reach the land of Izumo (Regarding the location of Soshimori, there are two theories based on the pronunciation in Korean: one places it at Mount Udu in Chuncheon, Gangwon Province, and the other at Seorabeol, i.e., Gyeongju in North Gyeongsang Province, which was once the capital of Silla). Shinra Myōjin of Ōtsu, revered by Shinra Saburō who is known as the ancestor of the Kai Genji warrior class in our country, is said to have worshipped Manjushri, who is said to have been Susanoo himself.

Furthermore, the land dragging legend, as found in Japan’s oldest geographical record, the “Izumo Fudoki,” is well known. It is also widely known that in the era following Emperor Suinin, a prince of Silla named Amenohiboko, yearning for the holy land of Japan, abdicated his throne to his younger brother, came to Japan, and settled in the province of Tajima. Similarly, Korea has many legends like this. One interesting story deeply related to the Japanese land dragging legend goes as follows:

This event occurred in the fourth year of the reign of King Adalla, the eighth ruler of Silla. On the eastern coast lived a couple named Yeonorang and Seonyeo. One day, Yeonorang went to the sea to collect seaweed and happened to climb onto a rock. This rock, with him on it, drifted all the way to Japan. The people of Japan, upon seeing him, declared, “He is no ordinary man,” and made him their king. Seonyeo, after waiting in vain for her husband’s return, went to the shore and found his straw sandals left on the rock. The same rock then carried her to Japan, where she became the queen alongside Yeonorang.

However, after their departure, Silla lost the light of the sun and the moon and was plunged into darkness. It was said that the spirits of the sun and the moon, which had resided in the country, had departed for Japan. Consequently, the king of Silla urgently sent envoys to Japan to bring them back. But the couple refused to return, saying, “Our coming here is a decree of the heavens.” Instead, they sent back a piece of silk fabric woven by Seonyeo, instructing that it be used to worship the heavens. When the envoys returned to Silla and conducted the celestial worship as instructed, the lost sunlight and moonlight returned as before. The place where this worship was performed was named Yeongilhyeon (영일현, 迎日縣).

Original caption: “Majestic View of the East Coast (Near Haegumgang in Gangwon Province)”

History Speaks…

Beyond legends, the deep interactions between Japan and Korea, as clearly narrated by historical facts, have always been evident. Throughout the Three Kingdoms period, the Unified Silla period, the Goryeo era, and up to modern times in Korea, it is apparent that the two have always had an inseparable relationship, akin to lips and teeth. This was not merely a diplomatic relationship bound by friendship or goodwill. Korea, constantly threatened by invasions from northern tribes on the continent, grew under the protection of Japanese power. Moreover, Japan’s ideal of founding a nation encompassing all under heaven, with Korea solidly established as a forward base for continental operations, can be described as a relationship of shared destiny and blood ties.

For Japan, the Korean Peninsula has always been a bridge to the Asian continent. This is a geographical absolute, unchanged in the past and present. Now, as the grand project of building the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere steadily progresses, the Korean Peninsula’s critical role as a logistic base is more apparent. It was natural for it to have played a role as the sole route of influx during the era of absorbing continental culture. Moreover, the direct and significant influence of Korea on Japanese customs, thoughts, industries, arts, and other aspects of life is an undeniable fact, evident without needing extensive evidence. Japan assimilated and digested these cultures on the basis of its consistent traditions, creating a unique and magnificent culture of its own.

Meanwhile, this led to a continuous influx of cultural figures from the Asian continent and people yearning for the beautiful peace and divine nation of Japan, resulting in their naturalization. Among them, the largest number of naturalized citizens were Koreans, which seems only natural given the geographical relationship. Especially after the collapse of Baekje and Goguryeo, which had integral ties with Japan, many of their people who refused to submit to Tang China or Silla sought asylum in Japan. According to our records, initially, the naturalized people from Silla, Goguryeo, and Baekje were settled in the eastern regions. In the third year of the reign of Empress Genshō (717 c.e.), 1,799 people from Goguryeo scattered across the Kanto and Chubu regions were relocated to Musashino (in Iruma District, Saitama Prefecture), and the Koma District was established. The leader of these people from Goguryeo, Go Yak’gwang, was granted the surname “Ō (王)” by Emperor Monmu and was subsequently enshrined as the Fifth Shirahige Myōshin. The Koma Shrine still exists in that area, and its current chief priest is the fifty-seventh descendant of Go Yak’gwang.

Original Caption: “During the fall of Baekje, it is said that two thousand court ladies, sharing the fate of the dynasty, threw themselves into the water like falling flowers at the Buyeo self-warming platform and Naghwaam Rock by the Baekmagang River.”
Original Caption: “Buddhist Statue from the Baekje Era (Identical to the Baekje Kannon statue in Nara’s Horyuji Temple)”
“Koma Shrine (Located in Iruma District, Saitama Prefecture)”

Furthermore, there are over 300 place names in mainland Japan named after these naturalized residents, and a considerable number of shrines are believed to enshrine Koreans. In the early Heian period, in the sixth year of Emperor Saga‘s reign (815 c.e.), the newly compiled “Shinsen Shojiroku” was created by Imperial command. It compiled the genealogies of 1,177 distinguished families in both capitals and the five provinces of Kinai. At that time, genealogies were broadly classified into three categories: Imperial descent (descendants of emperors), divine descent (descendants of deities from the age of the gods, excluding Imperial family members), and foreign descent (naturalized people). Among these 1,177 families, the fact that 326 were of foreign descent illustrates how naturalized citizens were favored in our country. This shows that there have been many descendants of naturalized Koreans among the well-known figures of our country, from ancient times to the present.


第一章 序説























Source: 朝鮮総督府情報課編纂 [Chōsen Sōtokufu Jōhōka Hensan (Compilation by the Information Department of the Governor-General’s Office of Korea)]. 新しき朝鮮 [Atarashiki Chōsen (The New Korea)]. 京城府中区太平通二ノ四三: 日本出版配給株式会社, 昭和十九年四月二十五日 [Keijōfu Nakaku Taiheidori 2-43: Nihon Shuppan Haikyū Kabushiki Kaisha, April 25, 1944].