Imperial Japanese police in Seoul raided amusement centers, cafes, parks late at night and rounded up ordinary residents labeled ‘rebellious intellectuals’ and ‘insolent fellows’, announcing ‘every single idle person must be exterminated … to bring down the hammer on the neon bugs’ (August 1943)

If you suddenly found yourself in Seoul in 1943 and couldn’t stand your oppressive surroundings, you would have probably been tempted to hang out with friends at the local bars or cafes in the evening. For a little more privacy and to feel freer to speak in Korean, you may have chosen to hang out at a local park with friends late at night. But apparently, local police were conducting raids on all these places, deciding that you were an insolent ‘idle person’ or ‘neon bug’ worthy of ‘extermination’. Those caught up in the raids conducted in August 1943 included a government employee, a bank employee, students, a store owner, and a film distributor.

It may seem a bit strange that the Battle of Attu is mentioned in this article, because it resulted in defeat for Imperial Japan in May 1943, but the propaganda media machine routinely spun military defeats into stories of inspiration.


Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo) August 31, 1943

Simultaneous lighting raids on gathering spots

Honmachi Police Hunt for Delinquents

“Follow in the spirit of Attu!” Thus, Colonel Yamasaki‘s exalted spirit of loyalty, whose glory shone forth from the hearts of the people, serves as inspiration and encouragement for the hearts of the people on the home front. Now is the time for all 100 million people to rise up. Every single idle person must be exterminated at this time. In order to bring down the hammer on the “neon bugs” that are randomly piling up in Seoul at night, the Honmachi Police Department, led by Chief Masaoka, called an emergency meeting of several dozen members of the Judicial, Higher Police, and field work personnel, including Chief Shōji and other high officials. The police then carried out a simultaneous hunt for delinquents throughout the entire area covering Meiji-chō (now Myeong-dong), the Honmachi belt through Shin-machi (now Mukjeong-dong), Namiki-chō (now Ssangnim-dong), Sōkei Temple (now on Dongguk University campus), and Namsan Park on both August 28th and 29th.

More than 50 men were rounded up, including rebellious intellectuals who were found very drunk in the neon district, herds of students who spent their idle time in corners of coffee shops ignoring the autumn training season, and insolent fellows wriggling around like bugs in the darkness of the parks late at night. About half were detained, and the rest were released after strict admonition. The Honmachi Police Department’s wise decision to clear out the idle population attracted a great deal of attention. Among the drunks in Shin-machi were Yoshio Umada (pseudonym, 40-years-old), an engineer for a certain government agency, paper retailer Sōki Minami (26-years-old) of Jongno-3-chōme, who is thought to be a regular of a certain amusement center at Honmachi 5-chōme, and over ten others who were taken away chained together in a single file.

There were many male students from specialized schools in Seoul, and there was a surprisingly large number of students who had returned home from mainland Japan, including two students from Tokyo Women’s College. A group of three delinquent girls who frequented a certain coffee shop in Namsan-dong, a bank employee, a film distributor, and many other intellectuals were arrested. They were caught by surprise, and we will continue this and other efforts in the future to clean up the idle population.

Tobacco Retailers Perform Volunteer Work

1,000 of the 1,100 tobacco retailers in Seoul, who have sold cigarettes for a long time but have never experienced firsthand how cigarettes are actually manufactured, will perform volunteer work at the Uiju Street (now Tongil-ro) and Inui-dong factories for 20 days, excluding Sundays and holidays, starting on September 1. A total of 1,000 workers, including 800 workers at the Uiju Street factory who will serve for 16 days, and 200 workers at the Inui-dong factory who will serve for four days, will work from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day among the male and female workers to learn the actual production of cigarettes and increase production, so that they can appreciate the hard work of the laborers.

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京城日報 1943年8月31日