Ordinary rural Koreans including men, women, elderly, little girls were forcibly worked to collect organic debris, animal manure, human feces/urine and make organic fertilizer to increase agricultural production for Imperial Japan’s war effort (April 1944)

The following three articles are from April 1944, when Imperial Japan was into its third year of fighting an all-out war against the United States in World War II. Food shortages were rampant, and the pressure was on to increase food production at any cost. Chemical fertilizers were scarce due to war production needs, so the Imperial Japanese colonial government of Korea mobilized the whole country to increase organic fertilizer production using human feces and urine. I selected these three articles to help piece together what was going on.

The first article describes a Volunteer Corps of young Korean men in one Seoul neighborhood hauling essentially human fecal sludge from bathrooms. The second article is a set of instructions on how to make organic fertilizer using organic debris and human feces and urine, digging pits, alternating layers of human feces and soil, and letting them sit to decompose. The third article is a very lengthy statement from the Governor-General’s Office, addressed to all of Korea, giving orders on how to increase organic fertilizer production. Note that organic fertilizers are called ‘self-supplied fertilizers’ throughout this article. Despite their best efforts, chemical fertilizers apparently could not be avoided for growing seeds.

Since this third article is such a tedious read, I’ve underlined some key passages to pay attention to. The government order expected everyone in Korea, including men, women, the elderly, little girls, to participate in this production. Labor was forcibly mobilized through the Patriotic Groups (JP: aikoku-han, KR: aeguk-ban, 愛國班) the neighborhood cells which were the local arm of the Korean Federation of National Power (国民総力朝鮮連盟, 국민총력조선연맹) , the single ruling party of colonial Korea. If previous patterns hold, then the government would ask the Patriotic Group leader (the Korean collaborator intermediary) for laborers (example: ‘Who can you spare?’), and the leader would ‘volunteer’ these laborers from among the residents he knows in his own Patriotic Group (example: ‘I think woman A and little girl B have some free time on their hands, and they can collect fallen leaves. I can volunteer them to you.’)


Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo) April 21, 1944

Garbage Trucks in the City in the Dawn Dusk

The cleaning service performed by the Palpan-dong Youth Volunteer Corps members

Practice is better than theory. The Seoul Palpan-dong Youth Volunteer Corps, which had set out to take the initiative before ordering others to do so, began a cleanup campaign on April 11 in an effort to initially start work in a familiar location.

This was to sweep the area of garbage and provide sanitation in the spring, and also to raise the health awareness of the residents at the same time. The corp members on duty gathered at 5 a.m. every morning at the Palpan-dong town council office. Under the command of Corps representative Hatani and under the orders of Captain Shigeyama, the Corps members silently worked breaking a sweat for two hours at a time to pump out the latrines and carry away the garbage before the townspeople even got up, and by 7:00 a.m. they were lined up in front of the town council office.

They sang the Oath of the Youth Volunteer Corps. They strive to improve their minds and bodies as they each go about their work. [Photo: The early morning cleanup of the Youth Volunteer Corps members]

Home Gardening: How to Make Fertilizer

The shortcut to increase crop production is to double the amount of fertilizer, rather than to double the amount of land. Fertilizer is very important as a foodstuff for the crops, so let’s treat our crops with homemade fertilizer. Fertilizers are the most important thing for growing vegetables, and they should be applied as a starter fertilizer at a rate of about 1 kan (3.75 kg) for every tsubo (3.3 square meters) of land.

Dig a hole at least two shaku (about 61 cm or 2 feet) in depth, and throw in some dust, hay, straw, fallen leaves, horse manure, and anything else that will decompose. When you reach a thickness of 5 or 6 sun (15.1 cm or 18.2 cm), step on the mixture to make it more compact, and then sprinkle human feces, urine, and latrine juice over it. Then cover the human feces, urine, and latrine juice with about 2 sun (6 cm) of soil. Repeat this process every three weeks, alternating the top-bottom order of the layers each time [debris on the bottom and human feces on top the first time, debris on top and human feces on the bottom the second time, etc.]. Cover the hole with a lid to prevent rainwater from entering. When the hole is full, leave the lid on for two to three months to complete the process.

It is essential to let it fully decompose, otherwise it can cause more harm than good. Before applying it to the field, expose it to direct sunlight for three or four days, and crush it well before use.

Human feces and urine also have rapid efficacy as an additional fertilizer to use after seeding. Place a bucket or tub in the soil, avoiding direct sunlight and rain. Stir the human feces and urine into the bucket or tub, let it stand for three or four weeks, and when it has sufficiently decomposed, apply a dilution of three to six times the original amount of the human feces and urine. When using this method, dig a shallow pit to one side of the crop, apply the fertilizer, and always cover it with soil.

Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo) April 26, 1944

Measures to secure fertilizers and animal feed; Details regarding the Agricultural Promotion Association’s stated policy (part 2)

Start by converting waste materials into animal feed

Unfolding a campaign to increase self-supplied fertilizer production

III. Measures to secure self-supplied fertilizer production

In order to complete the agricultural production responsibility system imposed on Korean farming villages, it is necessary to increase the amount of fertilizers. However, since the situation is such that it is not possible to depend solely on chemical fertilizers, we must of course make every effort to increase the amount of self-supplied fertilizers.

However, since the increase of self-supplied fertilizers requires a great deal of effort, we shall put the following into practice on the premise that the increase of self-supplied fertilizers requires the determination of the government based on the major policy of rural reorganization.

(1) Movement to increase the production of self-supplied fertilizers

In order to liquidate the ‘chemical fertilizers are all-powerful’ mentality and to push forward with the improvement and increase of self-supplied fertilizers, first of all, to encourage the activities of guidance and encouragement organizations and agricultural groups to develop a spiritual movement among farmers, and, of course, to start a movement to increase self-supplied fertilizer production as a national movement by rallying the Korean Federation of National Power.

(2) Rural Labor Mobilization

Not only men, but also women and school children, shall be mobilized to work a certain number of hours every day for a certain period of time to increase the production of self-supplied fertilizers, and a work week shall be established. In this mobilization, not only farmers, but also non-farmers in general, shall share in the labor.

(3) Implementation of a system of responsibility for increased production of self-supplied fertilizers

(A) A system of responsibility for increasing the production of self-supplied fertilizers by village

The target for increasing self-supplied fertilizer production by each farmer shall be set according to the amount of fertilizer required per unit of each major crop and per unit of production in accordance with local conditions, and each village shall be responsible for increasing its own respective self-supplied fertilizer production in the spring, summer, fall and winter, without missing the timings of production in each season.

(B) Reward system for increased production of self-supplied fertilizers

Farmers who reach the target of increased production of self-supplied fertilizer shall be rewarded by means of a certificate of passed inspection and special distribution of essential supplies. Landowners shall also be rewarded in an appropriate manner.

(4) Strengthening of guidance and encouragement from government agencies

(A) The Governor-General’s Office is to expound the major policy of increasing the production of self-supplied fertilizers and mobilize all relevant authorities to strengthen guidance and encouragement for farmers.

(B) The following guidance shall be given with emphasis.

(1) Increase the production of field compost, quick compost, and wheat straw compost.

(2) Increasing the use of wild green grass.

(3) Construction or improvement of compost sheds, barns, ash houses, manure pits, and simple silos.

(4) Conversion of rice bran, fallen debris, rice culm, stems and leaves of second crops, and sweet tea vines into animal feed.

(5) Intercropping of fodder crops and utilization of vacant land.

(6) Encourage and subsidize the adoption of green manure cultivation.

(7) Utilization of muddy soil in irrigation and drainage canals and ponds, etc.

(8) Collection of ashes from burnt waste grasses and trees in the urban areas and towns.

(5) Thorough promotion of green manure cultivation

(A) Strengthening the encouragement of increased production of self-supplied fertilizers through workshops on self-supplied fertilizers, product fairs, and awards for distinguished service.

(B) Strengthen subsidies for facilities to increase the production of self-supplied fertilizers.

(C) The Governor-General’s Office shall increase the expenses required for the implementation of the above two items.

(6) Parallel facilities

(A) For the purpose of eliminating the adverse effects of the cost of burning rice culms as fuel in order to secure compost resources, the conversion to unhulled grain briquettes, etc., and the improvement of fuel holes of ondol heaters shall be promoted and encouraged.

(B) Convert thatched rice straw into wheat straw to increase the use of rice straw as fertilizer and fodder.

(C) In order to return the by-products of grain processing to the farming communities, the Foodstuff Brigade, which is the controlling body for grain processing, shall increase the production of feed by crushing the rice, wheat, bran, straw, and other materials produced at the factories to make rough animal feed.

(D) To develop a cooperative movement among the people of the urban areas and towns to ensure that the waste of the urban areas and towns is converted into feed and fertilizer through rational processing of the waste of the urban areas and towns.

(7) Specific measures to increase manure production in stables

(A) Each farmer shall be required to install a composting shed, a storage area, or a manure pile, and to make use of the old facilities.

(B) Have each farmer learn that “without livestock, there is no fertilizer” and raise livestock appropriate to the local conditions.

(C) The farmers are required to do the “one chige” exercise before breakfast and to clean up their yards and villages every morning to obtain resources for compost or fodder, such as wild grass and dust.

(D) Extend the mowing emphasis period, and constantly cut wild grass for fodder, bedding straw, and compost materials.

(E) Open common wells in the vicinity of the village to facilitate composting, especially wells for field composting.

(F) Agricultural wastes, straw culms, and leaves and stems of other crops shall be made into feed for livestock and returned to arable land. In particular, straw culms shall be saved as fuel or roofing, and about one-third of the production shall be used as raw material for stable manure.

(G) To increase the amount of fodder by promoting the use of simple silos.

(8) Utilization of human feces and urine

(A) Farmers’ latrines and barns shall be improved, and manure pits shall be installed so that there will be no regrets in the use of human feces and urine and livestock manure and urine.

(B) To promote transportation, relay facilities, and equipment maintenance to facilitate the use of human feces and urine from urban areas and towns.

(C) In particular, vegetable growers in the outlying areas of the urban areas and towns shall be encouraged to organize associations and cooperate with the authorities to make use of human feces and urine from the urban areas and towns.

(D) Conventional ash production shall be discontinued.

(9) Thoroughly promote the cultivation of green manure.

(A) In order to secure seeds, special distribution of chemical fertilizer shall be made to seed growers, and an increase in the price of green manure seeds shall be made.

(B) Mobilize women and school children to supplement labor for seed collection.

(C) Establish cultivation plans for each region according to the following goals for green manure types, and ensure that they are thoroughly disseminated.

  • Southern Korea: Mainly the ‘Renge’ and ‘Becchi’ brands of green manure
  • Central Korea: Mainly the ‘Becchi’ brand of green manure
  • Northwest Korea: Mainly the ‘Becchi’ brand of green manure

(D) In areas where green manure can be grown as a second crop, it shall be cultivated to the extent of up to 30% of the rice paddy area.

(E) In mountainous areas, wild grasses and sprouts shall be collected and used as natural green manure.

IV. Subsidies for fertilizers

1. To grant the Korean Agricultural Promotion Association Prize to three places per province among the counties and townships for their excellent performance in increasing fertilizer production.

2. To receive subsidies from the Korean Agricultural Promotion Association for provinces that plan to engage in the green manure seed production business.

I. Measures to Ensure Increased Fodder Production

(1) Measures to be taken by farmers to increase feed production

Thoroughly ensure self-sufficiency in animal feed

The basic policy of farmers shall be to be self-sufficient in feedstuffs, and farmers shall be encouraged year-round to be self-aware and self-reliant in their work ethic and ingenuity.

(2) Estimate the production amount of feed to encourage for each animal feed farmer, (a) secure cereals for feed (b) increase the production of quality hay (c) secure agricultural products such as culms and crop residues (d) collect agricultural crop stems and leaves (e) timely harvesting of tree canopy species (f) utilization of silkworm sand and mulberry leaves (g) preparation of buried grass and coal straw (h) cultivation of fodder crops on unused and fallow lands (i) dual use of organic fertilizers and other methods of increasing self-sufficiency in fodder production, to be implemented in accordance with local conditions, and to be secured as necessary.

II. Feed measures for livestock requiring controlled distribution of feed

(1) Securing the supply of rough animal feed: Measures shall be taken to ensure an adequate supply of rough animal feed such as hay and rice straw as basic feed.

(2) Production and utilization of powdered feed: Positively encourage the production of powdered feed such as apples, manure, coal straw, fish waste, etc., and make efforts to utilize them as a substitute for concentrate feed.

(3) Securing supplies of concentrate feed: Increase the supply of grains, soybean meal and bran, and prioritize the use of brewing sediment, starch sediment and other residues left over from production as animal feed to ensure a minimum annual supply of 250,000 tons.

(4) Increase production and supply of formula feed: Increase the production capacity of Korean Livestock Products Co., Ltd. to supply the most necessary concentrated feed as a rational and economical formula feed for each type of livestock.

III. Measures to be adopted in particular in terms of feed

(1) Develop a campaign to increase self-sufficient feed production

In order to increase the production of self-sufficient fodder such as hay, wheat stalks, tree leaves, coal straw, buried grass, and other powdered feeds, a national campaign shall be launched throughout Korea to encourage farmers and strengthen the work of school children, elderly women, adult women, and little girls in particular, so that this can be accomplished.

(2) Holding of a competition to increase feed production

To hold a competition under the auspices of the Korean Agricultural Promotion Association to promote the development of new feed resources in line with the development of the above movement, and to contribute to its wide dissemination to the general public.

(3) Securing the supply of minor grains for feed

From the next rice production year onward, when establishing the food grain demand plan, the necessary amount of minor grains for feed shall be recorded and secured in a systematic manner.

Allow ranchers, dairy farmers, stallion breeders, military-qualified horse breeders, etc. to cultivate the necessary animal feed.

(4) Crack down on unauthorized movement of feed and unauthorized products shall be strengthened.

(5) Actively subsidize feed facilities.

(6) Expand and strengthen the feed administration system and improve the distribution system.

(7) To expand and strengthen research and study facilities related to animal feed at agricultural experiment stations.

Source: https://www.archive.org/details/kjnp-1944-04-26

(My Notes)

This article mentions a ‘one chige‘ exercise that farmers were required to do before breakfast. Chige means ‘bowl in Korean, but it’s not clear to me whether this refers to their breakfast, or the container that they use to collect grass and dust for compost.

In the following transcription, I encountered about six characters which I could not read despite my best efforts, so I placed a question mark as a place holder, until I could access a more legible copy of this article in the future, perhaps from the National Library of Korea. 


京城日報 1944年4月21日











京城日報 1944年4月26日

肥料・飼料の確保策 興農会献策の内容 (下)




















































  • 南鮮:主として紫雲英、ベッチ
  • 中鮮:主としてベッチ
  • 西北鮮:主としてベッチ