Governor Koiso told Korean conscripts in Imperial Army in 1944 address that the onus was on them to reduce anti-Korean discrimination by ‘cleansing away’ the ‘vestiges of the Yi Dynasty within themselves’ to become less dishonest, and be ‘penetrated in the true meaning of national identity’

The following address is a remarkable admission by the Governor-General of Korea that Korean conscripts had filed complaints about being discriminated against. However, the Governor-General dismissed these complaints and reasoned that, if there was anti-Korean prejudice everywhere, then that must mean that the Koreans themselves were mostly responsible for the discrimination that they experienced. Sadly, this talking point is still widely used among the far-right in Japan today. 

However, what is definitely not embraced by the far-right in Japan today are the contrived talking points about the common origins of Japanese and Korean mythology which appear in this article, along with the rest of the propaganda lines about Japanese-Korean unity, unification, and common ancestry which the far-right in Japan would rather conveniently forget about.


Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo) February 23, 1944

Take the initiative and set a good example

The Governor-General’s instruction to the conscripted students

The third batch of conscripted students, who had undergone rigorous training for two weeks at the Army’s First Volunteer Training Center and completed their training on February 17, returned home from mainland Japan under the special warm hospitality of Governor-General Koiso. Kneeling before the knees of their parents, they immediately pledged their firm determination to serve as industrial warriors, and they returned to the training center on the 22nd.

Governor-General Koiso addressing the Korean conscripts at their training center.

Shortly after 1:30 p.m. on the same day, Governor-General Koiso arrived at the training center accompanied by Secretary Kobayashi to give encouragement to the conscripted students. Director Kaida and his staff welcomed the Governor-General to the small auditorium, where he was bathed by the warm sunlight that shone brilliantly through the windows. He quietly took the podium in front of the students, all of whom were determined to be on the front lines of production warfare, with their faces tensed from the rigorous training they had undergone even during that short period of time. The Governor-General stared into each student’s face with the warmth of a loving father. This was the third time that he had addressed the conscripts. Governor-General Koiso has fiercely instructed and encouraged the first, second, and third batches of students, one after the other, who left their nest like young sweetfish. The Governor-General suddenly spoke up.

It is truly a joy to see the students who are about to rise to the forefront of increasing their war potential this autumn, in the face of an intense war situation, when we must establish a posture of victory and undefeatability that must definitely prevail. I would like to express my personal opinion to those students who are advancing to the forefront of society, as well as to those who should lead the front line of production reinforcement as bold individuals,” he began.

The current administration of Korea has been governed by successive Governors-General who have ruled with the same great benevolent spirit in accordance with the imperial decree given at the time of the annexation of Korea in 1910. Compared to those days, Korea has made remarkable progress and development. Furthermore, there are no traces of the past Goryeo and Yi dynasties. Now, even in mainland Japan, there are few people who have not developed their national spirit. Japan, having awakened from its dream of national isolation, rapidly adopted a material culture in response to the global situation.

If Japan had grasped its spiritual tone along with this development, it would have become even more robust. Regrettably, however, there were Japanese who preferred Western culture over their own, and there were many Westerners who wore masks pretending to be Japanese. We should not follow the example of these misguided Japanese. Human beings are the spiritual heads of all things. Humanity does not live within laws and regulations. Laws and regulations are things that were created by human beings, and human beings must live with inspiration.

However, there are some of you who boast that they have studied at a higher education institution, but this is wrong. There are some mainland Japanese people who mistakenly believe that Korea is a colony, but what about the colonial policies of Britain and the United States? They set up financial institutions in Burma, India, the Dutch East Indies, French Indochina, the Philippines, and even in China, which is not a colony, and the funds in these institutions did not come from the home countries.

The funds were extracted from the people of China. With this money, they built factories and companies in China and put coolies to work. All the profits were brought back to their home countries. The home countries exploit other peoples for their own pleasure. This is their colonial policy. If we follow such countries, the development of East Asia will be hindered.

Just as the East Asian peoples were about to wipe out these colonial policies and build a unified East Asian nation, an obstacle stood in their way. It was Confucianism. Confucianism in Korea is an admirable existence. However, the fault lies in the fact that the Koreans were enthralled by the superficial ideas of China and did not grasp the true essence of Confucianism.

Then Christianity entered the picture. The person calling himself a priest or an evangelist would hold the cross of love in his right hand. But behind the scenes, he would try to overturn the basis for the annexation of Korea because Britain’s colonial policy would be doomed to failure if Korea were governed successfully under the great benevolent spirit.

Here, the Governor-General revealed the true nature of Dangun Joseon and Gija Joseon based on their histories, and asserted that Dangun was Susanoo-no-Mikoto or his son Isotakeru-no-Mikoto, and that there was no doubt that the Japanese and the Koreans have the same ancestors and roots. He then went on to say with increased emphasis that Japanese-Korean unity is so obvious that it is needless to mention it.

History and tradition cannot be ignored. I feel sorry for the people of the Goryeo and Yi Dynasties. The traditional spirit that was nurtured in those times has not been successfully removed from Korea. You must have felt discriminated against when you went to mainland Japan. This is due to the lack of education among mainland Japanese people in the first place, but I have heard people in Manchuria and Northern China say that they are troubled by Koreans. They say that Koreans have no sense of responsibility, tell lies, have no patience, and so on. I partly agree with them, but I wonder who gave the Koreans such a spirit. It was ultimately due to the evil governance of the Yi Dynasty. In other words, it was due to the exploitative governance of the Yi Dynasty.

But that is not the true essence of the Korean people. In order to grasp the true essence, the Koreans must be thoroughly penetrated in the true meaning of national identity. Some people laughed at me when I first arrived at my post, saying that I was possessed by the gods, but it seems that they have now understood. You will understand why I, the Governor-General, call on our 24 million Korean compatriots to be thoroughly penetrated in the true meaning of national identity at every opportunity.

The Governor General’s words were sharp and piercing. He promised the students, “Since we do not have time to discuss the true meaning of national identity here and now, I will give you an assignment to read carefully what I, the Governor-General, said in my speeches, which were published in Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo) from the 16th.

He continued, “Some of you did not volunteer to become volunteer soldiers because I did not give you enough guidance. It is not your fault. I must again, give guidance to such people. That is why I made you stand on the front line of increasing the war potential. Life in the training camp holds a clue to grasping the true essence.

If any of you think that conscription is a punishment, then the spirit of the Yi Dynasty still remains within you. Some of you still have wrong ideas, as shown in your writings. That is not the way to go. Such an attitude will not allow you to succeed in any task that you undertake.” The Governor-General’s tone was fervent and intense as he repeatedly admonished them as if they were his own children who took the wrong path.

The responsibility for this lies solely with me,” he blamed himself. Finally, he lowered his tone and said,

You are about to take the initiative as industrial warriors, and your words and actions must be a model for others. You must strive to remake yourselves as human beings. Do it in a manly manner, with a pure heart, as if you were mirrors to each other. We must cleanse away anyone who harbors vestiges of the Yi Dynasty within them. All of you must take the initiative in striving to reach a place where there is no discrimination between Koreans and Japanese, both mentally and materially. I want you all to take the initiative in taking the lead in this effort with the virtue of humility and with an awareness of the true essence of yourselves as spiritual beings, without being boastful about being graduates of higher education institutions.

He then looked around at everyone and said, “How about it? Will you work with us in that spirit? I’m counting on you“. He then turned to Director Kaida and asked him with concern, “Are there any sick people here?” All the participants bowed to him, and he concluded his talk with some cheerful words, “Have a good day. Take care of yourselves.” Then he left at 3:30 p.m.

[Photo: Governor-General Koiso giving his instructions to the conscripted students.]



京城日報 1944年2月23日