One bizarre thing that I noticed in this newspaper is the recurrence of stories about police impersonators who detain passersby in the streets and then steal their cash and belongings. These two public service announcements from February and December 1943, respectively, warn the public about them, but only the one from December has any real concrete advice for anyone who encounters them: call the nearest police station when someone is using police business cards to shoplift and dine for free, and ask to be accompanied to the police station when a fake policeman handcuffs you. If the fake policeman refuses to take you to the police station, then that is probably a tip-off that the policeman is not real.
Who were these police impersonators? I could think of three possibilities: They were (1) corrupt police officers; (2) common criminals; and/or (3) political activists who were raising funds for the overthrow of the colonial regime. It would be interesting to look into these possibilities further and see what the historical evidence says.
Other crimes that were mentioned are ‘strong-arm robberies and obscene acts committed during wartime light dimming’. In wartime Imperial Japan, citizens practiced light dimming exercises during nighttime to make it more difficult for enemy warplanes to navigate, but all that darkness apparently made things easier for thieves and rapists.
By December 1943, the police were increasing reliant on Patriotic Groups (JP: aikoku-han, KR: aeguk-ban, 愛國班) for policing. They 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). 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 regime’s request, arranging marriages, holding mandatory Japanese language classes, spying on each other, etc.
Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo) February 7, 1943
Fake Police Officers Feeding on “Darkness”
We are determined to exterminate them!
Interview with Police Chief Isozaki
Recently, there has been a relative increase in the number of malicious violations against strong economic controls which were put in place in response to the war. In addition, fake police officers have been taking advantage of this detestable trend by appearing frequently, exploiting the weaknesses of violators by imposing fines and confiscating money and illicit goods. The Police Department of the Governor-General’s Office has decided to crack down on this situation by bringing down the iron hammer upon these unscrupulous criminals who are running rampant. On February 6th, an interview with Police Chief Isozaki was released, in which he vowed the firm determination of his police department.
The Governor-General’s Office also made it clear that it would take this opportunity to take severe measures against unscrupulous criminals who dishonor the prestige of police officers by pretending to be police officers or their assistants and forcing people to give them priority in the distribution of hard-to-obtain goods.
Interview with Police Chief Isozaki
It is truly chilling to see that the number of economic crimes has been increasing day by day as a result of the recent tightening of economic controls, which has led to an ever-increasing police crackdown.
However, the unscrupulous criminals skillfully targeted windows of opportunity amid these social trends of tightening regulations and increasing numbers of violations, taking advantage of them by playing various schemes. Various malicious cases have been frequently reported in which various vendors and offenders are exploited by taking advantage of their psychological vulnerabilities to extract preferential distribution of hard-to-obtain goods. The unscrupulous criminals pose as or openly misrepresent themselves as economic police officers or their assistants to seize money or illicit goods under the guise of collecting fines or confiscating illicit goods. As a result, the public often hears complaints about the arbitrariness and brutality of police officers, which is regrettable.
The police department sees such malicious crimes not only as crimes against the victims, but also as crimes that compromise the prestige of the police and disturb law enforcement. In addition to the various types of enforcement actions that are already in place, we will adopt a strict policy of severe punishment against fraudulent acts committed while posing as government officials, and we will make firm and thorough efforts to arrest and suppress such criminals.
In addition, the police themselves should prepare to deal with the secret activities of such criminals by taking measures to prove that they are real police officers whenever they engage in various types of enforcement activities in plain clothes. When using assistants, special guidance and supervision should be given. We hope that the public will fully understand these points and be vigilant not to be taken advantage of by unscrupulous criminals. In addition, if you are under any kind of enforcement action conducted by a person claiming to be a police officer or law enforcement official, please make sure to carefully confirm that the person on the other end is indeed a real police officer or a real law enforcement official. We sincerely hope that you will not be taken for a ride by these unscrupulous criminals.
Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo) December 10, 1943
Eradicating Crime in December
A message from Gyeonggi Provincial Police Chief Mr. Oka
In an effort to prevent the occurrence of crimes at the end of the year, including economic crimes committed due to the difficulty of obtaining all kinds of goods, and to make this year’s holiday season a happy one, Gyeonggi Provincial Police Chief Oka issued the following message, requesting the cooperation of the general public:
In mid-December every year, the police departments of Gyeonggi Province, with the cooperation of Patriotic Group members, have been making every effort to prevent crimes at the end of the year. This year is coming to an end amid this pathetically harsh war situation. It is deeply concerning that, as economic controls have been tightened, the difficulty in obtaining daily necessities has inevitably increased the public’s appetite for goods. In conjunction with this, there has been an increasing trend in all kinds of malicious crimes. At the end of the year, when the purchasing power of the general public is strong, malicious crimes are usually committed in various fields. Economic criminals may commit crimes that disrupt economic controls on the home front, including some traders who are guilty of price gouging, profiteering, hoarding, and cheating in weights and measures. Consumers may also disrupt economic controls on the home front. There is no end to the number of consumers who are using their year-end bonuses and other unexpected income for panic buying and hoarding instead of cooperating in the implementation of national policies, such as saving and purchasing war bonds.
In addition, recent trends such as fraudulent acts to facilitate the purchase of such illicit goods, break-ins at night, thefts, and strong-arm robberies have been increasing as the year-end draws near. Recently, we have witnessed the emergence of malicious crimes such as so-called fake detectives who run rampant, physically searching the bodies of passersby and stealing their cash or threatening to commit fraud. This autumn, in this decisive battle, we are all pushing forward with the reinforcement of our military power on the home front. In order to exterminate such criminals who disturb the stability of the people’s lives, we will launch an early enforcement action this year. In addition to our efforts to thoroughly investigate and arrest these unscrupulous criminals, those who dare to commit crimes, such as strong-arm robberies and obscene acts committed during wartime light dimming, will be punished with particularly severe penalties in accordance with the Law Concerning Special Provisions for the Punishment of Wartime Crimes.
Needless to say, it is extremely difficult to prevent all kinds of crimes, no matter how strictly the police officers alone exercise control and vigilance, and so we must rely on the righteous cooperation of all members of the Patriotic Groups. I sincerely hope that each household will be more devoted to the true meaning of wartime life, that you will exercise self-restraint and refrain from ugly behavior including panic buying and hoarding at the end of the year, and that you will fully practice the guidelines regarding home security that were announced for Patriotic Group members in December, so that you can live a clear and solid wartime life at the end of the year without any impurities and greet the third new year of the Greater East Asia War with hope shining in your hearts. [Photo: Police Chief Mr. Oka]
Cooperation in Crime Prevention is Desired
A message from Yongsan Police Chief Mr. Wakita
As the year draws to a close, crimes that disrupt the stability of life during wartime, such as burglary, snatching, breaking and entering, and illicit trafficking of wartime necessities, are on the rise. This December, the Yongsan Police Department is making every effort to ensure that all members of the department are perfectly prepared to prevent crime and ensure a pleasant end of the year. On December 9th, Yongsan Police Chief Mr. Wakita requested the cooperation of Seoul residents in actively self-policing and eradicating wartime crimes, as follows:
The end of the year usually sees a conspicuous increase in the movement of cash, and the psychologically vulnerable who are involved in it are taken advantage of by the unscrupulous criminals who are always on the lookout all year for a chance to make money. What attracts particular attention these days are their increasingly sophisticated methods. They use counterfeit business cards to impersonate detectives and then eat, drink, and enjoy entertainment without paying. They also swindle merchandise. Most serious of all, they use handcuffs to restrain passersby and seize money from them after physically searching them. Economic crimes are also on the rise, not only among open air street vendors, but also among those who have set up stores trafficking black market goods to take advantage of the increased demand for New Year’s goods. I believe that burglaries and thefts can be largely prevented through vigilance on the part of Seoul residents. To avoid being victimized, I would like to ask you to take the following two points into consideration, especially at the end of the year:
Real detectives do not show their business cards and then shoplift, eat, drink, and enjoy entertainment without paying. If you see such a suspicious person in the future, immediately report him to the nearest police station. Similarly, if a criminal is wielding binding rope or handcuffs, it is essential that you always ask to be accompanied to the police station, and that you remain calm and timely in reporting the incident.
Next, as for the prevention of economic crimes, first of all, each of you must remember the hardships of the generals on the front lines and never purchase unnecessary goods to welcome the New Year. There are some who criticize black market prices, but who themselves are good at black-market buying. In general, if you are aware of black market prices, black market deliveries, or unauthorized distribution of goods, please feel free to report them to us without hesitation. The police will take a strictly punitive approach against these insolent people who are indifferent to the current war situation, and will work to stabilize the lives of Seoul residents.