These photos are from pages of the Keijo Nippo newspaper that I stumbled upon during my visit to the National Library of Korea a few months ago. Taken on September 21 and 22, 1945, just days after the U.S. military arrived in Korea on September 8th, they show American soldiers enjoying their free time meeting local women and patronizing local business in the Seoul-Incheon region. The captioning of the American soldiers with local women as “American Soldiers with Children” is rather odd. My theory is that the news editors did this to cleverly get around US military censorship by using euphemisms.
I also translated an adjacent article about a Patriotic Group cleaning the streets around the Hantō Hotel (now Lotte Hotel Seoul) and the former Mitsui & Co. building (now the Seoul Metropolitan Council) across the street from the hotel. The Patriotic Group was a colonial-era neighborhood cell that enforced strict Imperial Japanese regime control over every aspect of the lives of the colonized Korean people as the lowest level governance unit under the direct control of the party, and later the military, but in the post-liberation era, it has become just a regular neighborhood association handling local issues. There was also an interview with the US military government about the freedom of assembly.
The article about the Japanese dolls mentions that a U.S. soldier recognized one of the Gogatsu Ningyō (May festival dolls) as the likeness of Benkei, a medieval warrior monk who was famed for dying while standing as he was riddled with arrows. Benkei would not have been that well known among Americans at this time, so I’m guessing that this particular U.S. soldier must have been quite the rare Japanophile whom we would call a ‘weaboo’ today.
Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo) September 21, 1945
American Soldiers with Children and Dolls
Getting Along Together in the Streets
Children and soldiers. Indeed, there are no national borders hindering the flow of such emotions. The friendship seen between American soldiers and children in the streets, or in workplaces where American soldiers are present, transcends language and customs, and brings warmth to our hearts. The innocent gestures of children must be a great comfort to the homesickness of the American soldiers who have come across the sea. They indeed adore children.
The other day, when three American military officers visited the head office of this newspaper on official business, a child was instructed to offer tea to the guests. Worriedly, the child handed a teacup to the officer, who then, taking it, patted the child’s head and said “Oh, thank you” in broken Japanese. The child’s eyes sparkled with joy, exclaiming, “That uncle said thank you!” and laughed happily.
Near the American military barracks, the smiles of children playing around the American soldiers brighten the autumn sky like flowers. They play games like train and tag, holding hands in a circle, imitating the songs hummed by the American soldiers. When tired, they are lifted onto trucks, playfully pushing the clouds in the sky.
No matter how the winds of reality blow, the world of the children is always cheerful, and the bond between “the children and the soldiers” grows deeper and warmer day by day.
[Incheon] “Oh, what a lovely doll”… An American soldier was enthralled by the Gogatsu Ningyō (May festival dolls), contemplating them as gifts for folks back home. Doll shops in the city, welcoming such guests, are unusually busy with their displays of these May festival dolls. Soldiers walking through the streets with dolls in their arms, talking cheerfully in accented voices about “Geisha girls” and “Benkei“, bring smiles to the faces of townspeople. The city brightens with the bustling doll shops. [Photos: Above – American soldiers and the children holding hands and playing, Below – American soldiers buying dolls in the city]
Assemblies and Processions: All Permitted
US Military Landings to be Reported Immediately
On September 20, the US military government responded to supplementary questions from the press corps about the US military’s landing and assemblies as follows:
Q: General Hodge recently mentioned the US military’s landing at Busan. Will the US military government make any announcements regarding this?
A: The landing will be reported immediately once it actually occurs. This applies to any location within the areas in Korea occupied by the US military.
Q: Are there any additional details about the US military police’s orders regarding processions and assemblies? Do these orders apply to assemblies other than political rallies and processions?
A: They apply to all assemblies. The term “public” is emphasized. However, a gathering of two or three friends at home or on the street is, of course, not considered an assembly.
In Cooperation with American Soldiers
Cleaning Effort by the Patriotic Group of 1-Kōgane-machi
On September 19th, every Patriotic Group member in 1-Kōgane-machi Town Association started their cleaning effort at 9:30 AM, collecting rubbish and cleaning both sides of the main road and the open land (the rundown former site of incineration of printed materials) near the Hantō Hotel and the former Mitsui & Co. building, where US soldiers are stationed. The unsightly view was something even the American soldiers turned their faces away from. This cleaning effort, a voluntary service by the town’s residents, was also supported in gratitude by the US military, which provided trucks for transportation.
The American soldiers are extremely health-conscious, paying meticulous attention to food and cleanliness. Therefore, residents should make an effort to keep the city clean.
Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo) September 22, 1945
Flowers and American Soldiers
“Oh, beautiful”… Like butterflies frolicking among flowers, American soldiers, allowed to tour the city for the first time in a long time since their stationing in the Seoul-Incheon region, spread their wings like birds released from a cage, seeking joy in various places in Seoul. At a florist on Honmachi Street, the charming and fragrant flowers in full bloom brought them much delight. The soldiers holding flowers, flowers, flowers, brought smiles to the faces of passersby, brightening the city. [Photo: American soldiers seeking flowers]