Elderly Korean farmer Kim Chi-gu (김치구, 金致龜), featured in 1943 article fervently donating 150,000 kg of rice to the Imperial Japanese Army every year and receiving honors from Prime Minister Tojo at a formal awards ceremony in Haeju

I wanted to share an intriguing article that I recently came across in an old issue of the Keijo Nippo newspaper, a known propaganda tool for the Imperial Japanese regime during their colonial rule over Korea from 1905 to 1945. This particular article, from 1943, a time marked by the Pacific War and significant food shortages, shines a light on a Korean farmer from Bongsan-gun, Hwanghae province—now part of North Korea.

The article narrates the tale of a farmer who committed to donating an enormous amount of rice—1,000 koku annually (about 150,000 kg) for a decade, starting in December 1938. Typically, stories in this newspaper featured middle to upper-class Koreans as exemplars of loyalty to the Japanese regime, but this one interestingly focuses on a farmer. What makes this story even more unique is the scale of the donation during a time when food scarcity was rampant, and the colonial authorities were desperate to boost agricultural output.

Given the context and the fact that this was a period of harsh exploitation under Japanese rule, the narrative of voluntary large-scale contributions to the Japanese military raises questions. The farmer, described as a model patriot, was likely a wealthy landlord with numerous tenant farmers, which possibly allowed him to make such substantial contributions.

The ceremony awarding him took place in Haeju, also in present-day North Korea. One can only imagine the real motivations and pressures behind such a donation. Given the socio-political dynamics and the subsequent Soviet occupation of the region post-1945, the fate of this farmer, if he didn’t manage to flee south, could have been dire under the new communist regime.

What was the real story behind this farmer’s “generosity”? This article seems to raise more questions than answers.


Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo) April 6, 1943

Minister of the Imperial Army Bestows an Award Upon the Patriotic Elder

The Patriotic Elder Has Two Sons

Continued Devotion to Donating Rice for Military Use

Born in the Imperial nation, yet unable to serve in its conquests due to age and frailty, the Patriotic Elder felt the bitter sadness of his unfulfilled duty. A fierce war was raging over the horizon, yet he was allowed to live in relative peace. This made him feel inspired to find a way to somehow repay this Imperial favor which had allowed him to live in such tranquility.

At the end of 1938, the elderly farmer, Mr. Kim Chi-gu (김치구, 金致龜) inspired the military with his pledge to donate ten thousand koku of tenant-farmed rice for military use. This noble act of the Patriotic Korean Elder of Weolsan-ri (월산리, 月山里) in Sain-myeon (사인면, 舍人面), Bongsan-gun (봉산군, 鳳山郡), Hwanghae province, ignited a patriotic fervor among the twenty-four million inhabitants of the Korean peninsula. Five years later, halfway towards fulfilling his original pledge, he still continues to contribute his annual commitment of one thousand koku of rice with each plentiful autumn harvest, and with each contribution, he receives an appreciation certificate. Deeply moved, the Minister of the Imperial Army upgraded this appreciation certificate to a splendid commendation certificate, not only bestowing shining glory upon the Patriotic Elder, but also deeply stirring the hearts of everyone who learned about the full extent of the Patriotic Elder’s resolve. [Photo= Patriotic Elder Mr. Kim Chi-gu (top photo), with his eldest son Kim Hyang-gwan (향관, 享寛) (right photo) and his second son Kim Hyang-cheol (향철, 享喆) (left photo)]

The story traces back five years. As the Manchurian Incident escalated daily, the valiant efforts of the Imperial troops heralded the robust construction of the Greater East Asia New Order. The Patriotic Elder could no longer sit still in the face of the valiant battles fought by the frontline soldiers and the precious cornerstones of national defense. Starting out as a mere poor farmer, he devoted himself to frugality and hard work, treading on frost in the morning and under the stars at night, challenging the soil to increase and multiply his rice production. He worked himself to the bone and amassed a great fortune in one generation. The pure and honest heart that guided Mr. Kim Chi-gu, a straightforward and devoted farmer, throughout his life, would not allow him to remain passive.

He wrote his donation pledge as follows: “Though my body is already frail and worn, there is no postponing my expression of gratitude to the Imperial favor. As a sign of my devotion to the nation, although modest, I will select the finest rice from my harvest and pledge to donate one thousand koku each year for the next ten years, totaling ten thousand koku of rice for military use. To do so, I will eat potatoes, chew on their skins, and subsist on grass roots. If even a single grain of rice can support the soldiers who are currently fighting, and my feelings are understood, then my joy and my sign of gratitude will be fulfilled.” Leaning on his cane, he visited the Japanese Korean Army on the snowy day of December 19, 1938, his donation pledge held close to his body.

I, though frail and near the end of my life, commit to donating ten thousand koku as military rice. Please accept this humble offering,” he continued in this donation pledge written with such moving words with such resolve. “Starting today, I will donate one thousand koku annually until I reach the age of eighty-eight, by which time the total donated amount should be ten thousand koku. Should I pass before then, my two sons, Hyang-gwan and Hyang-cheol, will surely continue this commitment.” The Patriotic Elder’s firm resolve was entrusted to his sons, sealing their joint commitment in the pledge.

Over five years, each December 19th, one thousand koku of military rice was donated, soon adding up to five thousand koku, amounting to a significant value of 206,527 yen and 8 sen.

The Patriotic Elder, still vibrant and hopeful, looks forward to donating the remaining five thousand koku of rice. His good deeds profoundly moved Minister Tōjō, and three days ago, the Patriotic Elder’s sincere devotion was rewarded with a commendation certificate. Representing the Minister of the Imperial Army, Director Kuramo of the Korean Army Military Press Department, accompanied by Captain Hirai of the Patriotic Department, visited Haeju. In the presence of Director Uchida of the Interior Department at the governor’s office, a formal award ceremony was conducted, bestowing shining honor upon the deeply moved Patriotic Elder.

Returning five days later following the award ceremony, Director Kuramo spoke highly of Mr. Kim Chi-gu’s actions: “Starting from nothing, the elder rose to greatness. Driven by an unstoppable patriotic fervor and a desire to express his gratitude, he resolved to donate one thousand koku of military rice annually. Entrusting this sincere mission to his beloved children due to his old age, his commitment deeply moves and fills us with gratitude. The elder is also profoundly understanding in educational matters and shows deep warmth towards tenant farmers, revered like a benevolent father. Now, as we enter the autumn season of increased food production, let us emulate his noble efforts, live up to the true way of farming, and fervently contribute to the victorious prosecution of the Sacred War.


京城日報 1943年4月6日












Source: https://archive.org/details/kjnp-1943-04-06/page/n1/mode/1up