Governor-General Koiso blamed excessive chili peppers for ‘stimulating’ Koreans and making them ‘mentally foggy’, and ordered Koreans to ‘improve’ their diets by eating more salt and less chili peppers in his desperate 1944 push to revitalize the war effort

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.

It is February 1944, over two years into total war against the United States and Britain, and it was not going so well for Imperial Japan. There were severe food shortages, and everyone in Korea was asked to consume less in general, but Governor-General Koiso apparently singled out chili peppers to disparage in this speech. Governor-General Koiso was the most powerful man in Korea at the time with near dictatorial powers, so his pronouncements would not have boded well for the average Korean’s access to chili peppers in their food rations.

As a Japanese person, this article uncomfortably reawakened a childhood memory of mine, reminding me of the time my grandmother told me that Koreans were crazy or stupid from eating too much chili peppers. I was immediately skeptical, because my Korean classmate at the time was an overachiever, and my sister was receiving violin lessons from his father, who was a world-renowned violin prodigy from South Korea, so I pointed all of this out to her. My grandmother was 19 years old at the time this 1944 article was written, so unfortunately, she probably absorbed the propaganda of the Imperial Japanese government at the time as an impressionable young woman.

This article mentions the Korean Federation of National Power (国民総力朝鮮連盟, 국민총력조선연맹), which functioned as the one and only political party that you could belong to in totalitarian Japan-colonized Korea, spreading the regime’s Imperial Way ideology across Korea and reinforcing Imperial rule over Korea.


Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo) February 23, 1944

Immediate improvement of eating habits

The Korean Peninsula rallies to strengthen the war effort

Governor-General Koiso announced the following at a meeting of the bureau chiefs on the 22nd:

1. Intention to permeate the administrative apparatus at the lowest levels

2. Intention to improve civilian life

3. Intention to raise the will to fight decisive battles

In the face of the unprecedented urgency of the war situation, he emphasized the extremely important things that the 25 million hearts and souls of the people of the Korean peninsula should be immediately focused on in order to strengthen the war effort.

The permeation of the administrative apparatus at the lowest levels and the heightening of the war spirit are things that Governor Koiso has always emphasized at every opportunity. Among them, the focus on the improvement of civilian life encourages the Korean peninsula to live fighting decisive battles and stand up revitalized.

In other words, the diets of the Korean people do not contain enough salt, and they eat a lot of chili peppers. If they eat chili peppers indiscriminately, they are stimulated and become mentally foggy. The British, as part of a conspiratorial policy, forced black pepper on the Indians and did not provide them with salt. Even looking at this “black pepper policy” involving stimulants, it is clear as day that chili peppers dampen the activity of the human body. In order to live fighting decisive battles, we must immediately improve our diets first.

On the other hand, we should provide healthy recreation to the farming villages to reward their willingness to increase agricultural production.

When the walnut trees along the roadsides and on vacant lots are increased, the nuts become food and the wood can be used as gunstocks.

Next, we focus on the structures of homes. Ventilation and lighting will be studied and improved with simple plans. This is to create a healthy spirit in brightly lit homes. In the villages, shrines should be built to serve as centers of faith, and a forest should be established around the shrine to serve as a meeting place and the center of the farmers’ faith.

In order to raise the war spirit, youth volunteer corps should be formed in each settlement, and they should be the leaders and motivating force of the farming villages and settlements. In addition, we need to rally the people to increase production with a spirit of renewal and daring. Furthermore, we need to establish and activate military labor support programs, and also encourage and comfort civilian industrial warriors. These decisive practices to increase the war potential, which the Governor-General had conceived even in minor details for the sake of victory and the 25 million people in the Korean peninsula, are to be put into action immediately by the Governor-General in conjunction with the Korean Federation of National Power. In response, all the people will be placed in battle positions.



京城日報 1944年2月23日