Converted Korean ‘ideological criminals’ (a.k.a. independence activists) at ‘Yamato Cram School’ tearfully apologize for fighting against Imperial Japan and are spellbound as Governor Koiso explains in propaganda speech that the greatest significance of life is hidden in Japanese mythology (1943)

This is my translation and transcription of a news article from Keijo Nippo, a propaganda newspaper and mouthpiece of the government of Japan-colonized Korea. This has never been republished or translated before, to the best of my knowledge.

This article covers Governor Koiso‘s inspection visit to Yamato Cram School (대화숙/大和塾), or a brainwashing center to ‘convert’ Korean ‘ideological criminals’ (a.k.a. anti-colonial nationalists or independence activists) into Imperial collaborators. The topic of Korean thought crimes and converts (tenkōsha) is relatively well-researched in academia. Thought Crime: Ideology and State Power in Interwar Japan by Max M. Ward is a good book on this topic, and chapter 5 is available online as a free PDF. 

There is also an excellent paper written by Hong Jongwook of Seoul National University entitled “The Thought Control Policy and the Yamato-juku in Colonial Korea“, but unfortunately this paper is only available in Japanese.

Japan-colonized Korea could be described as a dictatorship of the Governor-General, who was appointed by the central government in Tokyo, under one party rule by the late 1930’s. Within very broad constraints, they had almost unlimited power in Korea to do whatever they wanted. Governor Koiso tended to be more narcissistic than most of his predecessors, and he loved to splash the newspapers with his propaganda speeches and writings, and also articles, including this one, covering his inspection visits and work activities. He is notable for putting young Korean girls into internment camps to turn into ‘true Japanese’ mothers, with the idea that this would have a multiplier effect as these Korean girls become mothers who raise Japanese children. But immediate wartime needs apparently turned this project into a more practical wartime work force program. 

The sign on the left says “内鮮一體” or ‘Japanese-Korean Unification’, and the sign on the right says “京城大和塾” or “Gyeongseong Yamato Cram School”, with Gyeongseong being the old name for Seoul.


Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo) September 17, 1943

Live by the Mythology

The Governor-General Visits Yamato Cram School and Delivers a Prolonged Address

At 2:30 p.m. on the afternoon of the 16th, Governor-General Koiso, accompanied by his secretary, Mr. Kobayashi, suddenly appeared at Yamato Cram School in Takezoe-chō (present-day Chungjeong-ro), Seodaemun-gu, Seoul, and walked into the reception room to the amazement of everyone. Upon hearing the news of Governor-General Koiso’s visit, Probation Office Director Mr. Nagasaki hastily returned to the school and was asked by the Governor about the general situation at Yamato Cram School. He was particularly interested in the current state of thought of the converts, and when the director described the indignation felt by the converts toward the unconditional surrender of the Italian government under Badoglio and the converts’ pledge of loyalty to Imperial Japan, the Governor General’s tense expression showed a nod of agreement. Then, Director Nagasaki led them to a classroom where the converts had gathered non-Japanese speakers in the neighborhood from the unemployment job center to teach them Japanese, and then they went to the auditorium. After seeing the art club and returning to the reception room, the Governor- General responded to the students’ requests and began to explain the profundity of Japanese studies, which are connected to mythology, by stating that ‘learning is what it is because of the state’.

He began his speech by saying, 

“Man must contemplate things from various angles in order to spend his life in a meaningful way, or he will turn to science, philosophy, and religion to answer the cries of his soul. However, even though we live in a world where science is universal, we still feel that we are lacking something profound if we are confined to science alone. Even modern philosophy and religion, which delve deep into the spirit, are not enough as long as they remain within those limits. The place to go is history and tradition. But even here, the cry of the soul cannot be fully satisfied. The last place to go is mythology. It is easy for people to think that the significance of mythology is nothing, but they are mistaken.

It is in this mythology that the greatest and ultimate significance of life is hidden. When I was a division commander in Hiroshima, I once visited the Yamaguchi Boys’ Prison. There, I saw a military drill review and was very impressed by the performance that was so magnificent that the specialist soldiers blushed, and I gathered the prisoners together and gave them a lesson. The words in each sentence that I spoke contained a tone of excitement, but there was someone who listened to everything I said with tears in his eyes, and I read his book. However, in order for a person to live, there must be a center. If we analogize this to the shape of a cone, when we look at it from the bottom with the apex at the top, the visible bottom is reality, and the invisible apex is mythology. The vertical line descending from the apex is the so-called center. No matter how many times you cut the sloping surface from the side, you will always reach the center. This center is noble and leads to the path of living the mythology. You are this center. When you live by the mythology, you can live with firm conviction, unmoved by anything”. 

As the Governor-General spoke for about 20 minutes, the room was filled with deep emotion.

Mr. Moto Koyama, reflecting the deep emotion of the audience, spoke with tears in his eyes: ‘In the past, we were sinners who drew our bows against Imperial Japan. Today, we have awakened to this fact, and we are firmly determined to compensate Imperial Japan using the arms and heads that we used to lay down our bows’. The Governor-General replied with a quiet, warm facial expression, ‘Make sure you do it right’, and tried to leave. The group apologetically asked, ‘May we take a picture with you?’ The Governor-General readily agreed, and the group took a picture in a friendly yet solemn atmosphere, and the Governor-General returned to his residence after 4:00 p.m. as the group looked on. (Photo: Governor Koiso leaving the school after being seen off by everyone.)


(End of Translation)


1943年9月17年 京城日報