Hollywood movies and Western cosmetic brands were so popular in pre-WWII Korea that the colonial regime feared that young Koreans were being ‘intoxicated with frivolous Americanism’ by the ‘Jewish devil’ to ‘hold hands in a Western-style manner’ and to ‘advocate the supremacy of romantic love’

This article from December 1942, which particularly stands out for its especially anti-Semitic and anti-American messaging, was written to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Pacific War against the United States, which began with the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7th local time (December 8th Japan time) in 1941. Setting aside the hateful content, this article actually provides some interesting insight into the popularity of American culture, Hollywood movies, and Western products in Korea before World War II. Apparently, the last holiday season that had some semblance of normality in colonial Korea was Winter 1940/1941, which was the last time it was possible for a Seoul resident to walk into a movie theater and watch a Hollywood movie. For example, on December 21, 1940, the 1938 American crime drama “Angels with Dirty Faces” was showing in Seoul.

Ad for 1938 film “Angels with Dirty Faces”, Keijo Nippo December 21, 1940

In the subsequent months and years, life would become more and more difficult for the average resident of Korea with increasing shortages of everything from food, clothing, to daily necessities. Militaristic wartime propaganda was amped up everywhere on the radio, in the schools, and at workplaces. People were conscripted into military service and labor duty to increase food and industrial production, all described in various articles in Keijo Nippo newspaper.

This article is also unusual in how many Japanese, Korean, and Western brand names and Hollywood movie titles that it mentions, so I’ve added links to various websites that explain these brands’ histories. Unfortunately, I could not find any search engine results for the allegedly Korean product brands, Daika, Yuki, Amatsu, and Riapapa, so it is unclear what kinds of products these brands represented.


Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo) December 6, 1942

Domestic products are also fashionable

Enjoying national propaganda movies

Today’s frugal lifestyle and culture

Shut out the United States and Britain!

One year since [the start of the Pacific War on December 8th]

Clothing and Movies Edition

Clothing and movies. Fashion in Seoul always starts with the Honmachi District and its clothing. What has swept through Honmachi District and Jongno District over the past decade has been a Western imitation: shabby, ideologically unfounded, and strangely far removed from the spirit of Japan.

It is said that “today’s fashion in Ginza will come to tomorrow’s Honmachi District,” and “today’s Hollywood movie screen will walk around tomorrow’s Jongno”. The sight of young Japanese and Korean men and women walking the streets alongside the many Westerners living there at the time demonstrated a complete corrosion by cheap Americanism, as if they had plunged themselves into the clutches of an evil conspiracy.

In this sense, department stores were patronized as if they were extensions of Western department stores. Until just two years ago, the cosmetics departments of Jongno’s Whashin and other department stores in Seoul were competing with each other for the limited supply of American and British products. A Western-dressed kisaeng would say, “Japanese products are no good,” and with a flick of her finger, she would pick up a luxurious Max Factor compact from the U.S. or Yardley perfume from the U.K. Things were so extreme that women who did not use Coty cosmetics from France were scorned.

Other items on display included medical supplies, machinery, foodstuffs, leather goods, travel goods, clothing, phonographs, photographic equipment, sewing machines, and more, all in eye-catching splendor. Young men wearing square-shouldered boxing clothes took pride in buying Camel cigarettes made in the U.S.

On the first anniversary of the start of the Greater East Asia War, Western products have been completely wiped out. On the shelves of department stores, there are mountains and mountains of Japanese products shining brilliantly. Club Cosmetics, Rate Cosmetics, Shiseido, Meishoku, Utena, Papilio, Tangodohran, and others have completely destroyed American and British products in terms of quality and appearance. In addition, the reign of Korean product brands such as Daika (Incheon), Yuki (Pyongyang), Amatsu (Busan), and Riapapa (Seoul) is now underway, and this should be noted on the first anniversary of the Greater East Asia War.

Let us now turn our attention to the trail of American films. It is true that American films, many of which are produced by Jewish conglomerates, are a horrendous conspiracy to conquer the world and foment wars in the name of liberating ethnic groups. Its adverse effects were especially severely felt in East Asia, but how was Korea also affected?

In 1930, the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Company produced “Hell Divers,” which showed off the power of the U.S. Navy, and subsequently “Hell Below,” which appeared as a sister film, both of which demonstrated the bravery of the U.S. Navy personnel. However, the Korean box-office operators at that time were riding on the red tongue of the Jewish devil, welcoming these films as dollar bonanzas and turning a blind eye to the pursuit of profits, leaving Korea’s entertainment industry utterly dominated by the culture of the American conspirators.

Furthermore, the popularity of jazz films was truly unbearable. Young Korean men and women, intoxicated with frivolous Americanism, advocated the supremacy of romantic love first and foremost, and public morals were in disarray everywhere. Even clothing had to compete with the American style of glamour and beauty. Who wouldn’t have imagined that Korea was becoming the second Philippines? Increasingly, the poisonous cinema billboards provocatively sucked in the viewing audience, and before we knew it, the public was being poisoned.

There were already more than eight trading companies in Seoul which handled these types of movies, and here, too, the Jews were continuing the struggle to win hearts and minds. However, the day had come to put this to an end. On December 8th, the declaration of war reverberated on American and British films, and in response, solid Japanese national propaganda films took the stage. With Americanism fading, what will become of the previously glamorous lives of the U.S. film distributors?

December 8th! Since that morning, the stinking British-American culture of high-heeled shoes that had permeated deep into the countryside and not just Seoul, but also Busan, Daegu, Pyongyang, and Wonsan, was blown away, and dignified women in Monpe work pants appeared in every town and village on the Korean peninsula. Turning to the world of men, the long hairstyles of the past using pomade were cut off without hesitation, and the disgusting lifestyle of immediately holding hands on dates in a Western-style manner was swept away. Now is the time for us, who have become as clean as the blue sky that the Korean peninsula boasts of, to join together and take a strong step forward in life for the future of Greater East Asia. [Photo: A store decorated with Japanese goods]

Source: https://www.archive.org/details/kjnp-1942-12-06



京城日報 1942年12月6日