This is another interesting article that I found at the National Library of Korea last month. The article is from Keijo Nippo (Gyeongseong Ilbo), a propaganda newspaper under the Imperial Japanese colonial regime that governed Korea from 1905 until 1945. Following Korea’s liberation in August 1945, Korean staff assumed control of the newspaper in November of the same year. This transition led to a significant change in the paper’s editorial direction, shifting towards a pro-independence Korean viewpoint. The publication of Keijo Nippo continued in Japanese until Korean typesets became available; its final edition was published on December 11, 1945.
Although the Korean employees were the editors and writers for the most part, the Korean editors did allow some Japanese guest writers to share their viewpoints on this liberated version of Keijo Nippo, as this article illustrates. This is an extremely rare instance of a Japanese writer discussing and criticizing “Japanese-Korean Unification (内鮮一體)” ideology, which was responsible for so much of the abuses that were perpetrated against the Korean people by the colonial regime in Korea. It is unfortunate that there is minimal discussion about 内鮮一體 in both Japan and online spaces, when it was so central to colonial policies that touched so many areas, including comfort women and forced labor. I hope that this changes eventually.
The Japanese writer also offers a fascinating prediction that Korea will eventually “become the birthplace of a new world culture in literature and the arts.” This prediction has, to some extent, materialized with the global popularity of K-Pop. However, it is worth noting that such a prediction would have seemed quite improbable in 1945, at a time when many Japanese doubted that Koreans could govern their own nation without Japanese assistance.
The Japanese writer asks the Korean people for forgiveness for not understanding their desire for independence. Would Korean readers have forgiven him at the time of publication in December 1945? If modern Koreans read this essay today, would they forgive him?
Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo) December 8, 1945
The Illusion of Japanese-Korean Unification: The Path to Salvation for Japan Lies in a Life of Repentance
By Sakamoto Yoshichika, a personal account
I was born in Korea and spent my childhood days there. However, I have only lived in Korea as an adult for the last year and a half. When I finally acquired my adult intellect for the first time and saw the towns in Korea, everything appeared strange. Signs promoting “Japanese-Korean Unification” were everywhere, intimidating me. Could a delicate endeavor like “Japanese-Korean Unification” truly be accomplished through mere signs? These were not signs celebrating the completion of Japanese-Korean Unification. Rather, they were signs that constantly undermined the political and economic situation throughout the towns, perpetuating Japanese-Korean Disunity.
I was troubled. For the sake of human culture, what form should a true union between both nations take, one that aligns with reason and fairness? This was my sole and deeply serious contemplation day and night. For my Korean friends, there was only one clear answer: “National Independence”. I wonder whether the Koreans will forgive me for having thoughts that were too convoluted to arrive at this answer?
There were two answers that I initially arrived at. I wonder whether the Koreans will forgive me for wavering between my two answers like a pendulum? My two answers were: “Complete Union, with immediate implementation of non-discriminatory governance and maximum expression of local culture,” and a “Complete National Federation on the basis of independent ethnic groups that have gained complete freedom”.
I yearned for a confidant with whom I could discuss this issue deeply and honestly. I wanted to have a Korean friend to whom I could ask, which of these two options would seem more realistic? However, I was never able to find such a close friend. Then came August 15th (the day Japan surrendered in World War II). I felt that, if I had such a friend, no matter how close that friend was to me, there would always be a thin wall between us that could never be broken. Only when I finally understood the true feelings of my friends and broke through that thin wall did I realize that it was a historic turning point, a moment of parting.
I can say for certain that I am one of those in the world who wished the most for the revival of Korean culture. I envisioned a future where Korea, a land of ancient civilization that gave the world its first movable type and elegant customs reminiscent of the Heian period of Japan, would one day lead the world in science and become the birthplace of a new world culture in literature and in the arts. That is because I believed that the path for Japan to survive lay together with the path for Korea to survive.
Let’s strive to build one culture. National Liberation. The thought that was most active in the depths of my heart was just this. The great principle that could truly save both Japan and Korea, and humanity itself, was National Liberation. End
*Note: The contributor of this article was previously a reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Shanghai Continental News, and Keijo Nippo.
（完） 坂本嘉親 手記