Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo) August 14, 1943
A chorus of sincerity in response to gratitude
Receiving encouragement from the heroes in white
Performing arts comfort team
Roundtable discussion and report following their return
Keijo Nippo reporter: It seems that you went to Tokyo after that. What was your impression of wartime Tokyo?
Gil Song-ja (길송자/吉松子): I was amazed at how well Tokyo regulated its city illumination. On the night we arrived, being country bumpkins, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into, and it was so dark that we wouldn’t have known if our noses were being pinched. The seriousness of the air-raid drills touched our hearts so much that it made us ashamed of what we were doing. All the girls wore Monpe work pants, which were very different from those worn in Korea and more suitable for practical use. We really felt that we needed to wear them too. They were not the thin, flimsy Monpe work pants that we wear here in Korea, but they were made of simple cut fabric, and we really felt that our work pants had to be like that.
Park Sun-sil (박순실/朴淳實): We were overcome by the greatness of Japan proper and the mental strength of the people of Japan proper, as we were directly confronted by the natural scenery as well as by the men and women who lived there, who were far better people than we were. In Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyushu, we were treated like true sisters. Even the upper-class ladies were full of kindness through their humble words and mannerisms. We felt a beauty that we could never see on the Korean peninsula, and we learned about the strength of the children who grew up there. On the one hand, they are kind, but on the other hand, they are also very strong. We were deeply moved by the training activities of the women’s associations and secondary school students, and we were deeply convinced that Japan had to be a strong country if they could do this so well. We strongly felt that Korean women should definitely learn from them.
Keijo Nippo reporter: You must have been deeply moved when you went to many hospitals for comfort visits.
Kim Wol (김월/金月): At every hospital, we would go around to greet seriously injured patients before the performances start. When we finished our greetings at the First Army Hospital, a soldier came to us and encouraged us saying, “I hear that conscription has finally been established on the Korean peninsula. Congratulations! We are relieved to hear that. Please do your best. We’re counting on you, we’re counting on you…” At that time, we became firmly determined to completely live out our lives strongly as military women.
Kim Jeon-wang (김전왕/金田旺): I believe it was at the Second Army Hospital that the Yomiuri newspaper photography team visited us. As usual, we were visiting patients in the hospital wards, and when we saw one of the patients smiling at us despite the pain of his serious injuries, we were all moved to tears and encouraged by his smile. A patient who could not get up said, “I’m fine, I’m fine,” as he turned his head and waved his hand still lying on his back. We met Mr. Ōyama, who was a Korean volunteer soldier, and we were all sincerely happy to see that he was in such good spirits, not at all different from the soldiers of Japan proper. When we greeted Mr. Ōyama saying, “we will serve our nation rising up 25 million strong in the Korean peninsula”, Mr. Ōyama’s voice and body trembled as he responded with just one phrase, “I’m counting on you”.
Yoo San-hong (유산홍/劉山紅): I think that happened at a hospital in Hiroshima. I remember a soldier wearing white who surprised me by suddenly calling out to me, “Sister….” He said to me with the same friendliness that one would show to one’s siblings, “Even after you return to Korea, please do your utmost best for the nation. If I go back to the war zone, I will surely tell stories about your heartfelt comfort to my war comrades,” whereupon I bowed my head.
Kim Geum-hong (김금홍/金錦紅): At the Red Cross Hospital in Tokyo, there was an isolation room where patients were not allowed to receive comfort during normal hours. The regulations did not allow it, but we were hoping that we could do it here as well for these patients. We asked them if we could give these people comfort visits. When we went to the hospital rooms, we found that all the windows in the hallways had been opened, and there were people lying on bed chairs and in wicker chairs looking out of the windows, and many nurses were lined up behind them.
It was a hot day in the courtyard, but we were about to leave after singing the Arirang chorus and the Patriotic March with all our hearts when we suddenly saw a brave warrior who could not even come to the window sill, borrowing a mirror from a nurse in the room and looking at our reflection. When we saw this, we were deeply moved. We had already said our goodbyes, but we felt that we could not leave just yet, so we asked the branch manager, “Excuse me, but please let us sing one more time”, and then we sincerely sang the poem “Outside the city of Jinzhou”.
Afterwards, everyone outside also sang the “Baektu Mountain Song” and various other songs before we returned home. We were truly moved by the words of the head nurse who later told the branch manager, “The soldiers are all grateful to you for singing with such sincerity. As we stood by and watched, we could understand why everyone sang so willingly even after the farewell greetings had already been made. I believe that ties between Japan proper and Korea will be strengthened when hard and fast principles are set aside, and our hearts are in contact with one other”.
[Photo: The patriotic march sung by the comfort team at the Kokura Army Hospital, censored by the Shimonoseki Fortress Command Headquarters].
Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo) August 18, 1943
Here are the patriotic Kisaeng
Beautiful stories about the changes in the members of the performing arts comfort team
Dispatch from Keijo Nippo head office
Impressed by the fighting spirit in Japan proper
At the time, the head office of Keijo Nippo organized a “performing arts comfort team” composed of Korean kisaeng. The group visited army and navy hospitals in various parts of the country, offering heartfelt comfort to the brave warriors in white. One of the members, Ms. Yoshiko Kaneshiro (22), also named Ms. Kim Gang-seok (김강석/金剛石), a kisaeng of the Sanwa Kenban Agency at 107 Hunjeong-dong (훈정동/薫井洞), Jongno-gu, was deeply moved by the divine appearance of the fighting women of Japan proper who were working hard towards finishing the Holy War. She said, “I cannot stand still. I will become a serious woman on the war front and work hard for the sake of the nation”. On August 17th, she reported to the Jongno Police Station and surrendered her four-and-a-half-year life as a ‘red light’ worker.
She submitted a notice of abandonment of the kisaeng trade, saying “Starting today, I will lead a serious life”. At the same time, she deposited 100 yen in gold to the head office as consolation money for the Imperial military in commemoration of her giving up the kisaeng trade. She renewed her firm resolve to be an Imperial woman. Ms. Kaneshiro spoke of her joy at the beginning of her new life as follows [Photo: Ms. Kaneshiro].
“I have recently visited the wounded and sick soldiers of the Imperial Military in Japan proper through the arrangement of your company. I was shown the true image of the fighting Imperial Nation, and taught the attitude of an Imperial woman. As a Korean woman, I was able to learn a great deal. In this critical time when we have to eat or be eaten, I continued the trip saddened that we had to live smiling under the ‘red light’ as kisaeng putting on a face that would have been more appropriate for more normal times, not able to do a thing to help our nation. After returning home to Korea safely, I reconsidered my life and decided to part with my life as a kisaeng and become a respectable family woman, so that I could send out more robust and loyal soldiers of His Majesty from the Korean peninsula, and I have done the necessary paperwork today. From now on, I will keep this inspiration in mind with the determination to live my life without shame as a sister and mother of splendid soldiers of the Korean peninsula. This is a small amount of money, but it is a part of the cost of canceling the reception that was to have been held to commemorate my abandonment of the kisaeng trade, which had been made possible by the generosity of our guests. Please use this money for the sake of the wounded soldiers who were infinitely pleased with our humble Korean performances.”
The above articles are about a “performing arts comfort team” of 14 Korean comfort women, or kisaeng, who went to Japan in July and August 1943 to sing, dance, and “comfort” wounded Imperial Japanese soldiers in Japan.
Kisaeng were Korean female entertainers who sang, danced, played musical instruments and wrote poems to entertain upper-class men. In earlier times, their work did not necessarily always involve sexual service, but during Japanese colonial rule of Korea, they were more closely associated with sex work. By the 1940s, the vast majority were involved in prostitution.
I previously posted three other posts on this blog about this comfort team under these titles:
2. Korean comfort women interviewed after whirlwind 1943 Japan tour visiting wounded Imperial Japanese soldiers who ‘showed us again and again with their bodies, not with their words, that Japan and Korea were to be unified as one’ and ‘we were often moved to tears because we did not feel worthy’
3. 1943 editorial calls for Korean language to be wiped out, says Korean comfort women were touched by the noble appearance and hearts of the Imperial Japanese soldiers, and the women offered heartfelt comfort in response as their chests filled with excitement, their sincere hearts touching each other
The August 14th article precedes the August 15th article which I translated earlier under the second previous post. The August 14th article seems like it continues from a previous article, which I have not been able to find so far.
The August 18th article is notable, in that it reveals a slight hint that at least one of the comfort woman was less than happy and even shameful about her line of work, as she announces her intention to retire to “live life without shame as a sister and mother of splendid soldiers of the Korean peninsula”. The propaganda articles reveal a tension between the impulse to portray the comfort women’s service as patriotic and honorable, and the contradictory impulse to portray the comfort women’s work as shameful. The same contradictory impulses can still be seen among Japanese historical revisionists today who deny that comfort women were coerced and even applaud them for their ‘service’, but at the same time deny their suffering and flippantly dismiss them as willing prostitutes. The 1943 editorial (see above link number 3) attempts to reconcile these contradictory impulses by arguing that the comfort women’s service was a sort of initiation rite to turn these comfort women into true Imperial Japanese women, and suggests that this ‘initiation rite’ could be used more widely to assimilate more Korean women into Imperial Japan.
The First Army Hospital refers to what is now the National Center for Global Health and Medicine (NCGM) in Tokyo.
The Second Army Hospital, where the comfort team met Mr. Ōyama the Korean volunteer soldier, was in Hiroshima, and it was wiped out in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. Today, there is a memorial to the former hospital at the landmark: 広島第二陸軍病院跡 (Google map link).
The poem “Outside the city of Jinzhou (金州城外)” (YouTube video of poem recitation: https://youtu.be/3_R2VkZhke0) is about the Battle of Nanshan which was fought between Japanese and Russian soldiers on the southern tip of Liaoning peninsula in 1904 during the Russo-Japanese War.
Kenban Agency (券番) refers to a management agency which manages the kisaeng and their performance fees. The Kenban agency for Kim Gang-seok was located at 107 Hunjeong-dong and is shown on this map of Seoul from 1933:
Today, the agency is gone, and the former location is now a part of Jongmyo Plaza Park.