Colonial authorities abruptly abolished Korean translations of the neighborhood meetings of Patriotic Groups in May 1942 as part of a ‘radical treatment’ to make Koreans speak Japanese, equating the inability to speak Japanese to a serious medical illness

This May 1942 article announces that Korean translations of the regular meetings of the Patriotic Groups are hereby abolished. The word that they use to describe this abolition of Korean translations is araryōhō (荒療法), which is a Japanese word usually used in a medical context to describe a radical or drastic remedy or treatment to aggressively treat a serious disease. In this way, it is disturbing how this propaganda article equates the inability to speak Japanese to a serious medical illness that has to be drastically treated.

Patriotic Groups (JP: aikoku-han, KR: aeguk-ban, 愛國班) were neighborhood cells which functioned as 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. Every Korean living in Korea belonged to a Patriotic Group. It typically consisted of a few households, led by a Patriotic Group leader, who normally acted as a mini-tyrant micromanaging the lives of everyone within the Patriotic Group. That included things like rationing food and goods, enforcing mandatory State Shinto prayer times and shrine visits, ‘volunteering’ laborers upon the colonial government’s request, arranging marriages, holding mandatory Japanese language classes, spying on ‘ideological criminals’, etc.

After May 1942, ordinary Koreans who could not understand enough Japanese to follow the regular meetings of the Patriotic Groups may have perhaps used the buddy system, asking friends, family, and acquaintances who spoke better Japanese to informally translate for them.

In this photo, Principal Yamaguchi is teaching Japanese to the mothers of his Korean elementary school students in the hopes that the mothers and their children will start to exclusively speak Japanese at home.


Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo) May 29, 1942

Japanese-Korean Unification Starts with the Japanese Language

Korean translation is abolished even for the regular meetings of Patriotic Groups

Cheonggye-dong Town Council sticks to Japanese language-only policy

At a time when the 10 to 20 year-long struggle against old habits to instill the regular use of the Japanese language among households is bearing fruit like a pearl that is polished into a shining brilliance, we take a look at a model town that is practicing “the way forward for the Korean peninsula” with everyone under the banner of the “absolute regular use of the Japanese language”, and examine the actual situation of this all-out effort.

Seoul’s Cheonggye-dong, which borders the Cheonggyecheon River and faces Jongno-gu, has retained the appearance of a traditional residential area with large mansions, and a considerable number of Korean families live there. The Cheonggyecheon River, which once boasted a clear stream, has now become a culvert, and a smooth road connecting Honmachi and Jongno-gu has appeared, showing the rapid changes of the times. The focus of the Japanese-Korean Unification Movement has clearly materialized in the central region of Seoul defined by Cheonggye-dong.

The town’s representative, Mr. Seizaburō Okushima, made a pledge in cooperation with Mr. Yamaguchi, the school principal of Cheonggye National School. The town then launched a vigorous campaign to spread the message of “Let’s move forward with one Japanese language!” to everyone regardless of age or gender.

First of all, the town’s representative made it clear that Korean translations will no longer be provided at the sacred Regular Meetings of the Patriotic Groups held monthly in the schoolyard. The people who were initially apprehensive about this radical treatment became accustomed to it to such an extent that they were amazed, and the regular use of the Japanese language, which has now become a common practice, brought momentum to the entire town.

Last spring, Principal Yamaguchi began holding Japanese language classes for the town’s illiterate residents, and he was touched by the sincerity of the 60 to 70 year-old elderly men and women who worked so diligently while supporting themselves with their canes.

Mr. Yamaguchi first set up a set of tea utensils in the classroom, and over a cup of tea, he began speaking.

“Please have some tea.”

“Yes, thank you very much.”

“Would you like some?”

“I’ve already had some tea.”

As the elderly people talked to each other in this way in a practical and friendly manner, they were able to realize the goal of the complete understanding and regular use of the Japanese language, and the class achieved excellent results. Later, when Mr. Yamaguchi learned that there were surprisingly many children who did not regularly speak Japanese in their daily lives, even though their entire families understood Japanese, he felt extremely surprised as though he had discovered another world, and he devoted his heart into redoubling his efforts.

He immediately conducted a detailed survey of all the children in his school using a new method, the “Japanese Language Household Survey,” and found that the surprising reason for this was their mothers: the housewives of the family.

The fact that “the children will never speak the Japanese language unless their mothers do” gave Principal Yamaguchi a great sense of mission once again. Various methods rooted in the home are now being devised to provide Japanese language training to housewives. The day will soon come when the cooperation of the town’s representatives and the school principals will lead to the biggest flower blossoming in Seoul in realizing the “regular use of the Japanese language” in entire towns. [Photo: Principal Yamaguchi teaching the Japanese language]



京城日報 1942年5月29日