Colonial officials claimed ‘Korean must naturally stop being spoken as a result of the spread of Japanese’ ‘no words in Korean can express the essence of the Japanese spirit in a straightforward way’ ‘Korean will one day be regarded as just another local dialect like the Kyushu dialect’ (June 1943)

In June 1943, Keijo Nippo ran a long series of roundtable discussion articles, where colonial interior ministry officials gathered to have frank discussions about their dealings with Korean people. Here, I’ve translated parts 3 and 4, where the officials discuss their strategy for increasing the use of Japanese and decreasing the use of Korean. They stress the importance of training and recruiting ethnic Koreans, including women, to become Japanese language teachers in rural communities. They envy the success of Western missionaries in winning the hearts and minds of the Korean people. North Hamgyong Province is praised as the Korean province with the highest rate of adoption of the Japanese language.

There is some acknowledgment of the extreme complexity of the Japanese written language and the need to simplify it, especially when even many native Japanese speakers have trouble understanding obscure terminology and difficult Chinese characters. They make insinuations that most Koreans have ‘low moral standards as human beings’, and jokingly compare them to ‘bad product samples’ that are distributed by stores. They also seem to suggest that the Korean language is inadequate in expressing the ‘deep spiritual content’ of the ‘essence of Japanese culture’.

One colonial official floats the idea of actively exterminating the Korean language, but that idea is shot down by his colleague who said that would backfire. They express their hope that Korean will naturally fade away into becoming just a local dialect like the Tohoku or Kyushu Japanese dialects as people become stigmatized for speaking only Korean, Japanese becomes spoken as a lingua franca between speakers of mutually unintelligible Korean dialects, and Japanese eventually becomes the dominant language of Korea.

The biographic information for individual colonial officials was readily available online, so I added links to their names and noted their birth years and death years in the translation.


Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo) June 17, 1943

A real look into the Korean Peninsula at war

Roundtable discussion with executives at the Interior Ministry of the Governor-General’s Office (Part 3)

The focus of training should be the Japanese language

Find the right teachers for Japanese instruction

Mr. Yamana Mikio (1905-1982), Chief of the Documentation Division: Regarding Japanese language education, if housewives and mothers at home do not understand the Japanese language, things will not go so well, so there are places that are conducting the “One Word a Day Campaign” in which mothers are taught the Japanese language by elementary school students, and it seems to be quite effective. I have high hopes that the time will come when people who cannot speak Japanese will be looked down upon as country bumpkins.

Mr. Kōtaki Motoi (1894-?), Director of the Production Bureau: This kind of sentiment is becoming stronger in the rural areas. The government is planning and promoting Japanese language courses, but even in their absence, there is still a sincere desire to learn the Japanese language in the countryside.


In general, women’s education is lagging behind very much in Korea. I don’t know how it is now, but in the past, it was not possible to send women to elementary schools unless their family was above a certain stature. It is a great pity that such women do not know the Japanese language when they raise their children, so some of them voluntarily come to school to earnestly learn Japanese. That’s why even people in the rural villages can generally understand everyday conversations in Japanese.

Mr. Shiota Seikō (1899-?), Director of Department of Rural Villages: In the end, I believe that the first and foremost issue is to obtain teachers for women’s Japanese language education. Once you have such teachers, then you will be able to thoroughly implement the programs. The Governor-General was impressed when he went to see them, and I was also very impressed when I went to see them for myself.


There were two middle-class women, about 20 years old, who were at a farm in Hwanghae Province. Their training performance was very similar to the men at the training institutes, so to pursue further training, they left Hwanghae Province and went to Tokyo to go on a holy pilgrimage, and then they went to Kinkei Academy to undergo further training with male trainees. Since they were 19 and 20 years old, respectively, they were vehemently refused admission at first, since the academy did not want the two young women to be the only women in the otherwise all-male group. But the women insisted, saying “There is no law that says that we should be deprived of the opportunity to complete our training, when we have completed the requisite training and acquired the necessary qualifications. Isn’t it the men who seduce the women? There is no law that says the men who seduce the women can go to mainland Japan to pursue further training, while the women who were seduced by the men cannot go to mainland Japan to pursue further training” (laughter).


Now, both of the women are working as teachers for the women in their settlement. When we go visit their settlement, the housewives greet us with smiles wherever we go. They greet us with, “Irasshaimase! (Welcome!)” in Japanese. That made us assume that they understood Japanese, so we went into their kitchen and asked them what they had for lunch that day. However, they could not answer. Another housewife rides her bicycle 2 to 3 miles to attend her training in the evenings. When you have such people as teachers, you know that things are thoroughly getting better.

Mr. Hyōdō Masaru (1897-1946), Director of Planning: I recently went around the countryside to observe how the special training programs were progressing. It has been only around 40 days since the special training started and conducted every two to three days, not everyday. Already, young boys who had never attended school could competently answer questions like, “Do you have a father?” and “How many siblings do you have?” At this rate, if they spend 600 hours a year in the program, they should be able to achieve a considerable amount of success. The Japanese language is now rapidly penetrating Korea through these special training programs for young people, and there will be 110,000 more people who can understand Japanese over the course of this one year.

Mr. Shiota Seikō (1899-?): When you go to the countryside and use a Korean interpreter to ask someone a question, assuming that they wouldn’t understand Japanese, they may actually reply competently in Japanese. Even if they learn something at school, they may forget it when they return home, and that ultimately depends on their environment. Therefore, the government officials who are their leaders must try to convert their surroundings into a Japanese language environment as much as possible. If they are forced to use the Japanese language, they will start to remember what they learned. If we don’t do this even in our agricultural teaching programs, I don’t think it will be thorough enough.

Mr. Morita Masayoshi (1908-2004), member of the Interior Ministry: In the end, the core of the training programs in Korea boils down to Japanese language education, doesn’t it? I think we can conclude that Japanese-Korean unification should also be based on Japanese language education. In order to truly realize Imperialization, they must thoroughly use the Japanese language regularly. If we don’t go that far, I don’t think we will be able to improve our achievements. In this respect, I have heard that British and American missionaries first learned the Korean language when they arrived in Korea, and then they lived among the Korean people to win their hearts, but I believe that we should take a completely opposite approach moving forward.

Mr. Shiota Seikō (1899-?): In order to improve our agricultural activities, we have to understand the feelings of the people we are dealing with. If we only know Japanese and they only know Korean, as has been the case up to now, there will be a wall separating the two sides and we will not be able to improve our performance. Only when our feelings freely flow to the other side can we truly share our hearts with the other side. That is why it is absolutely necessary to convert their surroundings into a Japanese language environment.


To help along with this process, the fact that we know the Korean language is the best thing. Although we have been too negligent to realize this, I believe that understanding the feelings of others is the key to thorough instruction in everything. I think that is how U.S. missionaries built churches that are so magnificent, people are amazed that they managed to build such magnificent churches in such remote places in the countryside. No wonder then that they conveyed their feelings and won the hearts of the people by first learning Korean and then living among the people in the countryside.

Mr. Morita Masayoshi (1908-2004): So that’s how they did it? Since our goal is to thoroughly educate the people in the Japanese language, I don’t see how we can’t be thorough unless we adopt a method of exterminating the Korean language….

Mr. Kōtaki Motoi (1894-?): That would have the opposite effect. I think we have to go about it in a way so as to ‘let the water soak in’, so to speak. We should not exterminate one language in order to promote the Japanese language. The Korean language must naturally stop being spoken as a result of the spread of the Japanese language. (to be continued)


Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo) June 18, 1943

A real look into the Korean Peninsula at war

Roundtable discussion with executives at the Interior Ministry of the Governor-General’s Office (Part 4)

Show us the Righteous Koreans! Their leaders must come to their senses

Mr. Yamana Mikio (1905-1982): I had an interesting conversation the other day about a Korean laborer who went to the South Pacific for military-related work. The natives thought that a Japanese man had arrived, so they spoke to him in Japanese, but the Korean laborer could not understand them, so the natives refused to take him seriously, saying, “You are not Japanese, so you are no good”. So, the Korean laborer wrote a letter to his compatriots admonishing them that, if they go to the South Pacific as laborers, they should definitely learn the Japanese language. Otherwise, they would lose face because they wouldn’t be seen as Japanese. In this way, the time has now arrived when it is necessary to learn and adopt the Japanese language. I believe that the time will soon come when the Korean language will be regarded as just another local dialect within the co-prosperity zone, like the Japanese dialects of Kyūshū and Tōhoku.

Mr. Kōtaki Motoi (1894-?): Even now, the language used in the North Hamgyong Province of Northern Korea is different from that of Southern Korea. It is said that it is difficult for Northern and Southern Koreans to express one’s true feelings and communicate with each other speaking their respective Korean dialects. I heard from a Korean official who is now in North Hamgyong Province that, when people from Northern and Southern Korea come to Seoul and have a complicated conversation, they speak in the Japanese language.

Mr. Nakai Kazuo (1889-1991), a member of the Parliament and a member of the Interior Ministry: Even in mainland Japan, if you go to Kagoshima or places in the North and hear the local dialects, we would not be able to understand them.

Mr. Kōtaki Motoi (1894-?): This is the reason why the rate of Japanese language adoption is better in North Hamgyong Province than in any other province.

Mr. Shiota Seikō (1899-?): Statistics show that North Hamgyong Province is number one in terms of Japanese language adoption.

Mr. Yamana Mikio (1905-1982): Compared to other languages, the Korean language has only the bones of a language. There is no blood or flesh attached to the Korean language. Therefore, when Koreans talk in their language about the essence of Japanese culture, which has a deep spiritual content, they have to say things in a roundabout way to make their meaning understood. Korean people who have spiritually opened their eyes find it necessary to vigorously use the Japanese language. Life is connected to language, and where life is poor, language is also poor. Therefore, there are no words in the Korean language that can express the essence of the Japanese spirit in a straightforward way.

Mr. Nakai Kazuo (1889-1991): In this respect, there is still a problem in the teaching of the Japanese language, in that much reflection and effort are required on the part of the instructors. The Japanese language we use is not so difficult, but it becomes very difficult when we write it down. The foundation of our language is Chinese characters, but the way we use them is too difficult. First of all, laws and ordinances are difficult to understand. Then, military terminology is also extremely difficult. Furthermore, the terminology used in newspapers is extremely difficult. Keijo Nippo is the most influential Japanese-language newspaper in Korea, but how many people in Korea can read all the words written in Keijo Nippo? In this sense, even in mainland Japan, the attitude of the leadership toward the use of the Japanese language comes from a very elevated position. It is necessary to lower the level of the Japanese language to such an extent that those who have graduated from elementary school can generally understand it.

Therefore, it is necessary to pay special attention to restricting the use of Chinese characters, especially when considering that the power of our country is expanding widely and we have to stand and embrace the billions of people of East Asia. Nevertheless, I think it is extremely inappropriate to teach the Japanese language to our Korean compatriots and tell them to learn it quickly, but at the same time use difficult Japanese words that even most ordinary people in mainland Japan do not understand. We hope that Japanese language education for our Korean compatriots will become thorough as soon as possible, and at the same time, we hope that we will not use particularly difficult Japanese words with them.

Mr. Kōtaki Motoi (1894-?): We are keenly aware of this every day. This is true whether you listen to broadcasts, read newspapers, or read documents issued by government offices. For example, a document is sent to the provincial governor from the Governor-General’s Office. That document is gradually sent down from the provincial office to the county (gun) office, and from the county office to the township (myeon) office, largely unchanged with only the date and the name of the addressee altered as the document is passed down. Therefore, there are times when the people at the township office cannot understand the document at all. I think it is necessary to change such things as gently as possible.

Mr. Nakai Kazuo (1889-1991): Earlier, the Director of the Production Bureau said that the people in mainland Japan do not know enough about the Korean peninsula and that they do not have enough understanding of the Korean people, and I agree with him. However, I would like to make a complaint to the Korean people at this time. No one likes people who have low moral standards as human beings. The most important thing is to be able to frankly admit that such people would be ostracized by anyone. Even among the mainland Japanese, good people are respected and bad people are ostracized. Even among our Korean compatriots, if you are a respectable person, you will always be respected by the mainland Japanese people.

In Kobe, I have walked around apologizing and making excuses for our Korean compatriots, but there are often times when there is no excuse, no matter how patronizing it may seem. I am told that there are 1.5 million Korean compatriots who have come to mainland Japan, but most of them are not very well educated. I have always regretted that this has led to misunderstandings among the people of mainland Japan. To use an analogy, it is standard business practice in Japan to show off good product samples, but the Korean peninsula keeps showing off bad product samples to mainland Japan (laughter).

In order for mainland Japanese people to make the Koreans bear the fruits of Japanese-Korean unification, it is necessary for the Korean people themselves to bear these fruits by becoming Imperial subjects and Righteous Koreans. That is the fastest way to achieve Japanese-Korean unification. We respect from the bottom of our hearts the fact that Governor-General Koiso emphasized the establishment of a Righteous Korea. Especially after the Greater East Asia War began, I believe that one of the most important ways to establish a Righteous Korea and to realize the Imperialization of the Korean people is to lead the Korean people so that they have a strong sense of responsibility and awareness that they, along with the people of mainland Japan, are the older brothers and leaders of the Manchurians, the Chinese, and people in the South Pacific region. What are the guidelines of the Governor-General’s Office in this regard?

Mr. Kōtaki Motoi (1894-?): You are absolutely right. The Governor-General is also in agreement. Therefore, we are educating young people to be disciplined through school education and special training for young men, which came out with the introduction of the conscription system. Even in the Meiji era, there was not much moral education. However, the Imperial Army and Navy were educating their young men to that extent. (to be continued)



京城日報 1943年6月17日






















京城日報 1943年6月18日