Imperial Japanese colonial regime instilled intense fear and paranoia among Koreans by forcing them to listen to this 20-minute radio broadcast mobilizing the entire nation in counter-espionage to snitch on each other even for complaining about food shortages (July 1943)

It’s been just over 80 years since a terrifying radio broadcast was delivered to the entirety of the Korean nation on July 13th, 1943. Considering this milestone, I felt it timely to share a translated transcript of that very broadcast, offering a window into the intense atmosphere of fear and paranoia that pervaded Korea during Imperial Japanese rule.

Its significance cannot be understated; it’s highly likely that every Korean at the time was compelled to listen to this 20-minute address by Police Chief Tange. If you’re Korean, think about it – your ancestors probably sat anxiously in front of the radio, absorbing every word of this speech that day.

In the article, I’ve highlighted specific passages, including those where the audience is directly encouraged to report on one another. There’s a detailed elaboration on the activities that colonial officials were most concerned about – these descriptions provide keen insights into what the regime perceived as threats, thereby revealing what resistance movements were likely attempting at the time. It’s truly awe-inspiring to consider that resistance activists managed to operate within Korea despite the overwhelming climate of dread and suspicion enforced by such broadcasts.

The contents of this radio broadcast are quite alarming. Koreans were integrated into Aegukban (Patriotic Groups), eerily similar to the Imperial Japanese Tonari-gumi or North Korean inminban institutions. These were essentially neighborhood cells comprising a few households. Each cell was overseen by a leader who made sure everyone complied with regime orders. On that evening of the broadcast, every Korean, as part of their respective Patriotic Group, was presumably gathered to listen in. While the broadcast was in Japanese, a language only approximately 15% of Koreans would have understood, assistants would have likely been translating the words into Korean on the spot for the broader populace.

The broadcast discussed matters of grave national importance, chiefly focusing on thwarting espionage activities. Alarmingly, even expressing discontent about food shortages was deemed a reportable offense. It’s not hard to visualize the palpable tension, with everyone wary of their own words and their neighbor’s actions.

For those interested, I’m also sharing a link to another radio broadcast that touches on similar themes of espionage and counter-resistance, though it’s notably less intense in tone than this one. It provides another lens through which to understand the era’s narratives and anxieties.

I understand that sharing propaganda from this period can be contentious. However, I believe it is important to shed light on the profound sense of fear and paranoia that pervaded Korea during that era. It’s only fitting that we remember the psychological suffering the Korean nation endured at that time. By revisiting these primary sources – propaganda radio broadcasts from the time – we gain a deeper understanding of the atmosphere that Koreans of that time lived in.


Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo) July 14, 1943

Total War and Civilian Counter-Espionage Defense (Broadcast by Director Tange of the Police Affairs Bureau)

The enemy’s dagger is near at hand

Devote yourselves to the spirit of “Ever on the Battlefield”!

The Counter-Espionage Defense Week for the annihilation of the US and Britain has been set up under a 25 million-strong ironclad regime, launching a major offensive simultaneously across all of Korea on July 13th. Director Tange of the Police Affairs Bureau delivered a broadcast entitled “Total War and Civilian Counter-Espionage Defense” for twenty minutes from 7:30 pm on July 13th. He explained the importance of unarmed strategy in counter-espionage warfare and how it can sway modern warfare, encouraging the entire Korean peninsula to rise up against the enemy’s network of schemes. The following is the essence of his broadcast. [Photo = Director Tange of the Police Affairs Bureau broadcasting]

Today, as we begin the Counter-Espionage Defense Week across all of Korea, I wish to express my thoughts and ask for the serious attention of all citizens. A year and a half has quickly passed since we received the Imperial Rescript declaring war. During this period, under the Great Authority of the Emperor, the splendid victories of our Imperial military are unparalleled in world history, and our country is now establishing an invincible regime across all of East Asia, on the verge of building a Co-Prosperity Sphere.

However, the last counterattack of the doomed US and Britain, fueled by their fully matured material civilization, is making a desperate struggle, revealing the true nature of their bestial brutality. The fight is becoming extremely harsh and intense. It reveals the unique aspects of modern total war that mobilizes all of human intelligence and manpower, not allowing any citizen, whether on the front lines or on the home front, to abstain from the battle.

The prominent characteristic of modern warfare is that it is not just a battle of military strength, but a fight that covers the entire nation, pitting the full strength of its people against each other. All methods that can be conceived using all human knowledge and ability are employed. The material and human elements of a nation are all mobilized for the war without exception. Everything is a weapon, and everyone is a soldier. Therefore, in this context, we who are the citizens under wartime must discern the essence of this modern total war, reflect on our daily lives, discipline ourselves, and raise our spirits. In terms of “counter-espionage defense,” I believe that it is necessary to deepen our understanding and put more into practice at this time.

What is counter-espionage defense? As it is already known, it is “preventing enemy intelligence activities” and “suppressing enemy conspiratorial activities.” “Intelligence activities” and “spy warfare” are not new issues; they have always been conducted alongside armed warfare and considered an important element of war. As stated in ancient military texts, “If you know your enemy and yourself, you will win every battle.” Efforts to “know the enemy” have been made through methods such as stealth or deceptive strategies and have produced many stories in the long history of warfare which adorn the pages of important military texts.

Therefore, the efforts to prevent and suppress these, that is, “counter-espionage defense,” is not a matter that was brought up only in modern times. However, the reason why it is being propagated so loudly today and is demanding strict practice from the citizens is indeed a natural consequence of the essence of modern total war, which mobilizes all citizens as fighting soldiers.

In past wars, as in the Battles of Shizugatake or Sekigahara, everything was decided by a confrontation between two armies in a confined battlefield, armed with swords and spears. The activities of spies to “know the numbers” were mainly to detect enemy forces, formations, and tactics, and they were sufficient. Therefore, efforts to prevent them, or the “counter-espionage defense,” were able to achieve their goals with mere military discipline, such as preventing enemy spies from infiltrating the camp and strictly maintaining secrecy among the soldiers.

However, in modern warfare, everything and everyone are elements of war, and the war is not necessarily fought only on what is called the front line, but is fought both domestically and abroad. Therefore, enemy intelligence activities are not just directed at the movements of armies and vessels on the front line, but they infiltrate deeply into the homeland, casting a thorough investigative eye over all the physical capabilities of the state, or in other words, over every field spanning industry, economy, finance, transportation, communication, etc., ranging from the production of military needs and weapons by the state to the daily consumption of food by the average family. They also pay sharp attention to the war capabilities of the people, or in other words, the organization of conscription mobilization, the composition of productive labor, and even the degree of uplift in war consciousness, and the completeness of the home front wartime system, etc.

These enemy spies, having obtained various pieces of intelligence in this way, communicate them quickly and effectively to their allies by shortwave radio and other methods, providing information for their operational tactics. This is indeed the original mission of spies, which should be called intelligence activities. However, the essence of modern total war does not limit spy activities to such passive intelligence activities, but further requires the development of aggressive conspiratorial activities. In other words, in modern warfare, spy activities have moved beyond merely detecting military and national intelligence, which are indirect and passive activities, to direct, proactive activities aimed at reducing and destroying the military power of the opposing country, in other words, all its physical and human capabilities.

In other words, they are trying to destroy physical capabilities by setting fire to and destroying important factories and mines, instigating strikes and sabotage, disrupting railway traffic, and so on, which result in reducing productivity, causing material losses, and hindering transportation and logistics. They do not care about their targets or their choice of methods, and even adopt extremely calculated malicious methods, such as causing chaos in the financial world. They further aim to disturb the financial sector, plunge the economic function into chaos, counterfeit and disseminate paper money, hoard and withhold goods, exaggerate and spread false information about high prices and shortages, all these are extremely calculated and malicious tactics.

On the other hand, they aim to lower human resources, overstate the enemy’s power to induce fear in our citizens, spread rumors that cause doubt about our war achievements, and disrupt the government’s leadership of the people, spreading defeatist sentiments by various means. They may even resort to spreading toxic substances or disease-causing bacteria in cities and other important places, threatening the lives and health of non-combatant citizens without any regard for the cruelty of their methods.

With the rise or fall of the state at stake, and as we now carry out this all-out war, it is natural to imagine that the devilish hands of enemy spies have infiltrated into the home front of wartime Japan, aiming to target each and every one of our daily lives with their relentless cruelty. They also focus their efforts on the Korean Peninsula, a crucial forward base for advancing into the Asian continent and an essential foundation for establishing the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. Their natural objective is to investigate, disrupt, and destroy the economic and military value of the Korean peninsula.

Considering that it has been just over thirty years since the annexation of the Korean peninsula, and the process of Imperial assimilation is still in its early stages, this creates a fragility in ideological unity. Enemies see this as the greatest vulnerability of Japan and, as such, they pour all their efforts into espionage activities here. They persistently attempt intelligence gathering and propaganda behind the scenes in the Korean Peninsula, striving desperately to weaken its military power. This is, of course, to be expected. In fact, this has been proven true. The numerous spy incidents that we have detected and suppressed by our own hands, both in terms of quantity and the cunning and nefarious nature of their plots, truly defy common imagination.

These spies disguise themselves as good citizens, seemingly leading exemplary lives in the home front as loyal subjects of Imperial Japan, doing everything to avoid arousing the suspicion of the public and authorities. Revealing their true identities using ordinary methods is extremely difficult, nearly impossible. People cannot guarantee that they have never before been neighbors with spies, ridden in the same vehicles as spies, or even sat in front of spies. There may be some who have unknowingly revealed important state secrets to these spies, believing them to be close friends. Phrases in our battle instructions like “Spies are always near” and slogans like “There’s a spy next to you” are not mere scare tactics.

Given this, how should we, each and every one of us in our daily lives, fend off and fight against these these spies who are disguised daggers? The first and foremost fundamental understanding is that each and every citizen is part of the state engaged in total war, and in modern total war, each and every citizen is a counter-espionage soldier. Even when we are on the home front, each of us, in our respective fields, is engaged in a brutal, absolute war of survival against espionage. We must bear in mind that we are all on the battlefields of Attu Island and the Solomon Islands, and only by embracing this understanding and standing together can we truly wage modern war.

Secondly, to physically manifest this understanding and stand together, we must perform our duties wholeheartedly. We must regard our workplace as the battlefield, fully devote ourselves to maintaining the secrecy of our tasks and protecting vital resources. If we push forward to increase the military strength of the state, we will leave no room for spies to operate. Thirdly, we must have absolute trust in the state’s measures, not only refraining from discontent and grumbling but also proactively cooperating with the state.

In war, one should always be prepared for death, and suffering and difficulties naturally accompany it. Shortages of supplies and the tightening of daily life are expected consequences of war. To be disheartened by these challenges, to complain about them, and worse, to fall prey to the lies and provocations of spies is utterly unacceptable for the citizens of a nation at war. Every citizen should consider it their duty to endure these hardships without complaint. If people refuse to feel the impact of shortages or express dissatisfaction, then no enemy propaganda, rumors, or tactics such as strategic hoarding or withholding of goods will have any significant effect. Just as soldiers on the front line follow their commanders’ orders and bravely charge into deadly situations, every citizen on the home front must faithfully follow the government’s policies. With such a resolution, even if spies employ their most cunning tactics, there can be no chance for negative thoughts to take root, like war-weariness or anticipation of defeat.

Fourthly, we must strive to root out the enemy spies among our one hundred million national people. With a fighting spirit of “seek the enemy and destroy,” we must consider ourselves as members of a nation constantly at war, even on the streets of daily life. No matter how cunning the spy may be, if we stay vigilant by being on the look out for the spies who have infiltrated among us on the home front, their true identities will be revealed in front of the discerning eyes of a hundred million national people.

We, the people, must relentlessly pay attention to weed out the enemy spies hiding among us. Whether they are beside us, or from within our own Patriotic Groups, if we detect any suspicious or doubtful individuals, we should act like scouts on the battlefield discovering enemy shadows and immediately report them to the police authorities, actively cooperating and assisting in their arrest and investigation. Each of us must consider ourselves as one of the fighting soldiers. Under this awareness, we should pay attention to our health and hygiene, strive to prevent and eradicate infectious diseases, and enhance our physical strength to completely block the enemy’s germ warfare tactics. It is an urgent task to fight on the front lines of this counter-espionage war.

Every individual is a member of a nation at war, united both on the front lines and on the home front, committing to the total effort of the state. Each person must deeply understand and be resolved to face their duties and battles as if they were in the trenches, defending to the death. In doing so, there will be no room for enemy spies or their tactics, leaving them without strategy and rendering their efforts inconsequential. Modern total warfare blurs the lines between the front line and the home front, turning everything into a grave battleground. The secretive tactics of spies targeting the home front have become so intricately complex that they defy common imagination, constantly probing into the daily lives of citizens. Especially now, as the US and Britain intensify their counteroffensive strategies in a bid to turn the tides of war, their espionage and strategic warfare become even fiercer day by day. Any momentary lapse in our vigilance can influence the overall strength of our nation. The fate of our Empire equally rests on the shoulders of those at home. Remember that every one of us carries this responsibility. Embrace Admiral Yamamoto‘s teachings of “Ever on the Battlefield” deep in your hearts, and in honor of the brave souls of Attu Island, be resolved to engage in the war against espionage with an unwavering dedication to victory.


京城日報 1943年7月14日

総力戦と銃後の防諜 (丹下警務局長放送)