Japanese news staff wrote sad and internally conflicted farewell essays to the Korean people in the very last page of Keijo Nippo (colonial propaganda newspaper) published under Japanese control before takeover by Korean activists on Nov. 2, 1945

The following is content from a Seoul newspaper published on November 1, 1945, two and a half months after Japan’s surrender in World War II and the liberation of Korea. Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo), the colonial era newspaper that had served as the main propaganda newspaper for the whole of colonial Korea from 1909 to 1945, was still publishing in Japanese as the national newspaper of Korea. The ethnic Japanese staff managed against all odds to retain control over the newspaper during those two and a half months, until they were finally forced to relinquish control to the Korean employees. These Koreans independence activists took over and subsequently continued the publication of this newspaper in Japanese with an avowed Korean nationalist editorial stance from November 2nd until December 11th, 1945.

However, before the ethnic Japanese staff was forced to leave, they were allowed to publish one last issue, dated November 1st, 1945, with the very last page dedicated to farewell messages that they wrote to the Korean people as a memento, in which they eloquently express their sad and conflicted thoughts and feelings. Unfortunately, I found this last page in poor condition with big ink blots, gashes, and faded text, so it was very difficult to read them. Nonetheless, due to the compelling content of these long forgotten messages, I decided it was worth spending some time deciphering them as much as I could. There were seven different essays on this page with six different authors. Due to their sheer length, I will share two of the essays in this post, and share the rest in later posts as I unlock this long forgotten time capsule.

From what I can gather from reading these essays, these Japanese news editors were no longer writing as regime spokesmen, but rather as private individuals and as proud news professionals. They felt besieged in their stubborn determination to keep the national newspaper of Korea as a newspaper representing ethnic Japanese interests, for the sake of the Japanese people still remaining in Korea. Understandably, this created conflict with the Korean news community and ultimately led to the November 2nd Korean takeover.

Their essays reveal a profound sense of sadness and internal conflict as the authors grapple with the reality of defeat. Yet, remarkably, there is an absence of bitterness or resentment towards the Korean people or others. The tone of the essays is, in fact, quite gracious. One essay notably extends well-wishes to the Korean people in their endeavors to build their new nation. The essays also include interesting personal anecdotes, some of them about their own families.

This post is a continuation of my ongoing exploration of the old newspaper archives from 1945 Korea that I checked out at the National Library of Korea in September 2023.


Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo) November 1, 1945

To Our Readers

Words of Farewell to Korea

From the Staff at Keijo Nippo Newspaper

We have found it difficult to put away our pens, which we had dedicated solely for the Japanese people who are in Korea. Ah, but as of today, the time has now come for us to part with this beloved part of our bodies, our pens. Is there anything more sorrowful for a journalist? Overwhelmed with countless emotions, we find ourselves at a loss for words. The members of our editorial team are embracing each other, crying tears of men. The scene resembles the tragic end of the Byakkotai Samurai warriors on the top of Iimori Hill. But what has robbed us of our pens? Now is not the time to speak of it. Perhaps we too must bear some responsibility. It goes without saying that this is due to our “defeat in war”.

Since August 15th, the reality in Korea has been excessively harsh for us. It was an immense pressure that we could do nothing about. Yet, we endured, never abandoning our pens for the sake of the Japanese people, for the sake of their peace and tranquility. However, the end has finally arrived. It was a catastrophe we had braced ourselves for, but two months after the end of the war, in a Korea now entering the month of November, hundreds of thousands of Japanese are still awaiting their return to Japan, battling mental unrest, material hardship, and physical suffering.

From tomorrow onward, we can no longer convey our thoughts or write with our own hands to those people… Losing our light in the dark night, our canes broken, our thoughts turn to the sky… and our hearts are torn with pain.

Today’s end is an inevitable outcome, but we regret not being able to maintain “a newspaper for the Japanese by the Japanese” in Korea until the very last Japanese person remains. However, we console ourselves thinking that we have done well over these last two and a half months. The immediate policies of the U.S. Military Government regarding the Japanese were somewhat clarified by the Property Disposition Measure No. 4, published in our paper on the 31st of last month. The issue for the remaining civilians is to return to Japan in a calm and orderly manner, following the U.S. military’s plan for repatriating Japanese citizens. We believe we have somewhat fulfilled our duty to report the news during this process.

Regardless, today we must lay down our pens. And now, being forced to put down our pens, as journalists for whom the pen is our lifeblood, we suddenly feel a profound desolation. There are so many things we want to ask, say, explain, write, and simply scribble without reason. Each and every social phenomenon in Korea stimulates the senses of a journalist, resonating with all six senses. There may be presumptions. There may be bravado and posturing. As human beings, we may even make excuses. Finally, we would like to offer the following sentiments of the remaining staff as a memento to our readers in Korea. (Written by Shinichirō Takada)

Defeated in War

By Shinichirō Takada

The fact of the war’s end, which I had half-believed and half-doubted, became an immovable and solemn reality… When I glimpsed it through Dōmei News Agency reports, the first dilemma thrown upon my intellect, albeit feeble, was how to cook up a newspaper article based on this earth-shattering fact. Until this moment, driven by patriotic passion and nationalist ideology, and considering various conditions, including the fact that this newspaper is in a unique place called Korea…

The essence was, if we were to faithfully report the truth in accordance with our essential duty as a newspaper, the only task that was left for us was to report this fact as a fact, and somehow imprint it calmly and in detail on the readers, while minimizing the shock that they received as much as possible. During the war, handling such anti-nationalistic facts in this manner was just the common sense of the newspaper. Even when faced with the fact of defeat, we hardly understood the common sense of defeat at that time (or perhaps it is more appropriate to say that we did not have that luxury in our minds). It was not surprising for us to follow such newspaper common sense.

But the next moment, something nagging like a small lump suddenly formed in my mind. What was this culprit? It took a few moments to find it, but it was undoubtedly a small “unconscious sense of defeat.” This stark reality had such a terrifying and immense pressure. However, in my actual editorial work, I particularly ignored this “lump.” To put it plainly and simply, at that time, my optimism dominated my intellect more than my pessimism did. No, actually, that might be the wrong way to say it. My so-called “unconscious sense of defeat” should not be interpreted as mere pessimism, but rather, I want to defend myself by saying it was a calm and fair judgment of intellect. But in reality, the surface of my current self was still dominated by my own optimism as well as other conditions, such as various inertias and face-saving tendencies, and this sense of defeat did not deepen. And until then, I did not feel such a strong contradiction between these two consciousnesses.

However, since that day, the fact of defeat began to materialize as an unpleasant reality in my personal life and work. I began to be involuntarily pressed by the fact of defeat as a consciousness. And this fact is still expanding even now. I do not want to use the word bluff, but the situation has progressed to the point where such stubborn optimism alone cannot handle it, and it’s clear to me that my mental preparation seems nothing but a bluff. As a result, I had no choice but to develop an unconscious sense of defeat and ultimately had to shift from subjectivity to objectivity in my work on newspaper production. As an editorial writer, I had no choice but to temporarily give up my honorable job at that time.

American-style journalism focuses on faithful and rapid reporting, but over these two months, regardless of our preference, our newspaper has ironically become akin to that American style of journalism. Of course, we have not forgotten our position as a newspaper representing the interests of the Japanese people. We have received various criticisms from the Korean newspaper community for this, but it is not due to any ideological confrontation or sheer obstinacy or anti-defeatist consciousness. Rather, it is merely a difference in positions and interests.

Thus, I must honestly confess that there is a considerable difference between my consciousness two and a half months ago and now. It is not just that optimism has turned to pessimism, but I have come to boldly understand or honestly accept the fact of defeat. It is agonizing, but not as painful as before, and the feeling of dying from the pain has decreased. The feeling that the defeated Japanese nationals are so miserable is endless, but I have come to accept it to a certain extent as a natural course of events. It could be said that I have attained the intellect and composure to calmly understand the facts as they are. Or perhaps I have come to possess a small enlightenment, akin to consolation. Anyway, I am in such a state of mind now, whether it is progress or regression.

This consciousness of defeat will not end as it is. That is, the consciousness of defeat will inevitably affect my ideological tendencies to a greater or lesser extent. This is a serious matter. To be honest, I have already started to have doubts and concerns in this regard. Sooner or later, a true ideological turning point due to the end of the war will come to me. I grew up in the era of liberalism, learned in the winds of socialist thought, and was dyed in nationalist thought upon entering real society, further intensified by the long war. Now facing a significant ideological transition, my feelings are immensely complex. If I can isolate myself from everything after returning home to Japan and gain the confidence to overcome this period of ideological transition, I think there is no greater happiness.


京城日報 1945年11月1日









戦い敗れて (高田信一郎)