In 1943, Japanese company bosses discussed how to ‘train’ Korean workers to work even harder – one punished workers who suffered heat exhaustion by making them run, pushed them to work until they collapsed, strictly reprimanded them for consuming a 10-day food supply in only 3 days


Notes: It is July 1943. Imperial Japan, including Japan-colonized Korea, has been mobilized in total war against the United States and Britain for over a year and a half, and the strains of war are starting to show. Food shortages are starting to show up, Korean workers are going hungry, and hungry workers cannot work as hard. Here, Japanese company bosses from across different industries are gathered together exchanging ideas about how to ‘train’ their Korean workers to work even harder. The company boss of RIKEN Research Institute, which still exists today, boasts that he punishes workers who space out from heat exhaustion by making them run, and also pushes his workers to work until they collapse from exhaustion. 

The last comment at the end of the article about two Korean workers developing ‘teething fever’ is made as a joke infantilizing Koreans as babies. Unfortunately, these kinds of jokes are still circulated around in Japan today. Recently, Hideaki Kase, director of the Alliance for Truth about Comfort Women, and a major supporter of denialist causes, made a comment calling Koreans ‘cute’ like children. The infantilization of Koreans has a dark history of being used to justify the oppression of Koreans, including the abuses of colonialism and Imperialism in the Korean peninsula. 



Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo) July 14, 1943

Responding to the demands of the nation in wartime

Willing to die on the production line

The spirit of fierce warriors who increase production

Seongdong-gu Industry Roundtable

First Roundtable Discussion

Mr. Yoshida: Invention and discovery can be true or false. For them to be true, one must start from “divinity”. There are so-called mathematical inventions as well as philosophical inventions, and only when “divinity” is added to an invention can great effects be expected.

From my own point of view, it is difficult to accept a materialistic view such as Darwin’s theory of evolution. We should not start with the sun. Rather, we should look at what existed before the sun. Therein lies a mysterious and unfathomable world, and a divine age is discovered in which the universe was formed from the power source (electrons) of yin and yang. I believe that, without the “mind of God”, there would be no modern age, and discoveries and inventions in advanced modern chemical warfare would not be possible.

In short, I would like to say that, in order to make inventions and discoveries in decisive battles, you must raise your spirit to a high level. “Polish your spirit instead of figuring things out” – this is my creed, and I believe that one’s own inspiration will spring up there, and inventions and discoveries will then be possible.

Chief Fukuda: I think your very profound words are enlightening in many places. Now, let’s talk about training methods. How about you, Mr. Moriya?

Mr. Moriya (Idemitsu Kosan Company, Ltd.): I would say that all our workers are involved. At first, they were not very enthusiastic about the training, and they said they couldn’t help but go hungry during training when they eat just rationed rice (laughter). But gradually they got used to it. We told them to follow the example of Greater Japan Riken Research Institute next door, which is conducting intense training. Nowadays, they are training voluntarily, and it has been quite effective.

Mr. Shirakawa (Japan Anthracite Coal & Steel Co., Ltd.): Starting June 1st, we have organized units in a military style, and each unit leader (plant manager) and others below them assume their duties to perform morning assembly and recite our mission statement aloud every morning. Instructions are also given to underlings at this time, and it has been effective.

In addition to providing lunch and rubber-soled work socks, company housing and dormitories are also provided for the employees. The workday is ten hours, but a 20% bonus is given for two hours of overtime.

We give awards to those who do little good deeds, such as covering up important wartime supplies to prevent them from getting wet when it rains, and we also give awards to excellent technicians and workers.

The other day, we sent ten of our employees to a training center for mid-career workers hosted by Gyeonggi Province, and the employees were very impressed, saying “We never knew such a good place even existed. For the first time, we touched on what the Japanese spirit was, and we were just excited”. 

Mr. Mobara (Korea Pharmaceutical Co.): We have about 70 male and female employees. There is nothing unusual about our methods, but we take extra precautions by holding morning meetings to give encouragement and conducting daily mental training at every opportunity.

Mr. Watanabe (Korea Shoes Co.): As you know, we have a lot of buildings and no vacant land, so training has been very difficult. We have been using others’ vacant lots for military unit training and wooden sword exercises. Everyone is passionate and always thinking about introducing shinai (bamboo swords) and teaching kendo soon, and the 100 employees are very enthusiastic about it.

Mr. Koyama (Korea Petroleum Co.): Because of our location, fire is very dangerous, and working in such a place is a kind of training in itself, so our daily lives are quite tense.

Mr. Yoshida (Greater Japan Riken Research Institute): Manners and training are included in our company policy, and we strictly enforce polite bowing, even if it causes discomfort. It is totally inappropriate for employees at work to stare at visitors’ faces. If a worker is lazy, he is punished by being made to run at full speed.

When people run, all distracted thoughts disappear (laughter). Therefore, whenever I feel that the heat is getting to them and they are feeling a little spaced out, I immediately make them run (laughter). Whenever we assemble, we practice fire drills. At our company, training is part of our job. We shouldn’t think that work and training are separate.

We have our staff go to work at 7:00 in the morning, but we make sure they arrive at the office ten minutes before 7:00. Then we do ten minutes of intense naval exercises to strengthen our bodies. Of course, at noon, they train for 30 minutes as well, which seems to have become quite popular.

Those who are foolish or lukewarm are told, “You must work until you collapse. Do not fall short compared to the soldiers on the front lines. You must work hard until you collapse just like the soldiers for whom you take absolute responsibility, vowing that you won’t let them die in vain”. Thanks to this, they seem to have become more aware of the current situation.

The workers would grumble that there is not enough food, and when I asked why, they told me that they ate up a ten-day supply of food in just three days (laughter). I strictly reprimanded them that this was not OK. We serve miso soup for lunch, which is effective in replenishing calories, but miso is in somewhat short supply these days.

We also strictly enforce bathing. We set up a bathhouse in the factory and encourage them to bathe. If a person gets sick to his stomach, we immediately send him to see a doctor. Our policy is for a worker to see a doctor as soon as possible so that he can be cured quickly.

Recently, we sent about 10 people on a field trip to Japan proper, and it was very effective in helping them acquire the Japanese spirit. For example, on the way to the Ise Grand Shrine, a member of the group was talking to an old farmer and asking him how he was cultivating his fields. It was a nice scene.

When I later asked them about their impressions of their visit, they all said in a curious tone of voice, “There was not a single person in Japan proper who was playing around”. This was the most eye-opening thing for them. After studying and returning home, two of them developed severe ‘teething fever’ (laughter). To be continued…


京城日報 1943年7月14日