This is an intriguing article from November 5, 1945, originating from Keijo Nippo, which I found at the National Library of Korea during my trip to Seoul in September 2023. Keijo Nippo (Gyeongseong Ilbo) served as the propaganda organ of the Imperial Japanese colonial regime, which exerted its rule over Korea from 1905 until its liberation in August 1945. However, a significant transformation occurred around November 1st, 1945, when Korean nationalists commandeered Keijo Nippo following liberation, and continued its publication in Japanese with an avowed Korean nationalist editorial stance until December 11th, 1945. As the Korean employees of Keijo Nippo explained in their message to the readers, this was a temporary measure, undertaken while Korean typefaces were being prepared for eventual use.
This article enthusiastically covers a public event held on November 3rd, 1945, when a broad spectrum of Koreans from various political and civic groups, including Communists, gathered at the Meijiza Theater in the Myeondong District of Seoul to commemorate the anniversary of the 1929 Gwangju Student Independence Movement, which was a major act of resistance against Japanese colonial rule led by students across all of Korea. During the event, a unified pledge was made to support the People’s Republic of Korea (not to be confused with the North Korean state of DPRK), eradicate traces of Japanese Imperialism and pro-Japanese ‘national traitors’, and promote ‘class liberation’.
However, the story takes a turn with the U.S. military’s subsequent shutdown of the People’s Republic of Korea on December 12, 1945. Intriguingly, the last issue of Keijo Nippo was published just a day before, on December 11, 1945. This coincidence begs the question: Did the U.S. military also target Keijo Nippo for its perceived left-wing editorial stance?
The disbanded People’s Republic subsequently splintered into various People’s Committees, which would later evolve into the modern North Korean state in the North. But in the South, the U.S. military cracked down on these People’s Committees in the name of anti-communism, and even went so far as to kill thousands during the Jeju Uprising of 1948.
Alongside these significant articles, Keijo Nippo also included smaller yet telling pieces, like the opening of a new newspaper, the reopening of the Whashin department store, a political party moving its headquarters, and daily updates on the number of Japanese evacuees, which all capture the mood of the Korean post-liberation period.
Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo) November 5, 1945
Commemorating the Gwangju Incident: A Day of Unity and Strength for Students
Students Day Solidifies Fervor and Strength
Successful Memorial Ceremony and Lecture
On November 3rd, seventeen years ago from this day, students in Gwangju raised their voices against Imperial Japan, fighting for the freedom of their campus and academic research. This memorial day commemorates their struggle, marked by the blood and fervor of these organized young men and women. Today, with the promised liberation and independence of Korea, the first commemoration of “Students Day” was held with vows to put in their maximum effort. The Gwangju Student Incident Commemoration Struggle Committee, organized by the Korean Student Corps, the Korean Student Soldier Alliance, representatives of Seoul youth organizations (26 groups participating), the Communist Youth Alliance, the Education Reform Alliance, the Nation-Building Alliance, the Nation-Building Women’s Alliance [Note: Park Sun-cheon was its vice-chairwoman], and the Gyeongseong Youth Labor Department, held a memorial lecture at Meijiza Theater at 9 a.m. Young men and women from participating groups filled the hall, and the event progressed with youthful energy and strength.
The Gwangju Student Movement was started by students who truly loved this country, and now, in liberated Korea, it is imperative for all citizens to absolutely support the People’s Republic of Korea and to strive for the complete construction of a sovereign state. The urgent task is to eradicate the remnants of Japanese imperialism and national traitors. That was our conclusion of the day. Following speeches of encouragement and support from representatives of various sectors and social strata, the meeting wrapped up by sending the following message to the students of Gwangju, where the movement originated, and successfully concluded amid three enthusiastic cheers of ‘Long live the People’s Republic!’
Representing the will of the youth and student masses, we look back on the historical and social significance of the Gwangju Student Incident that caused a significant social impact and aroused world opinion. We express our heartfelt gratitude to the fighters who were directly or indirectly victimized by the brutal repression of Japanese imperialism. We pay our utmost respect to the brave struggle and the revolutionary youth and student masses who rose up throughout Korea as a result of this incident. Today, having attained freedom and liberation, we take it upon ourselves to rightfully address the political reality where various parties and factions are in a state of disorderly entanglement. It is the culmination of our sincere efforts to develop the youth and student movement in its true and rightful direction. We pledge to actively fight for the complete independence and class liberation of a new Korea, with proper theory and indomitable courage, in response to the youth and student masses developing a heroic plan at the site of the incident.
We are confident that our efforts and courage will contribute to new developments and improvements, not yielding to any adverse conditions, and making use of our valuable past experiences. We sincerely hope that this unanimous will and confidence of the youth and student masses will be widely organized among the general national masses, ensuring the heroic achievements of complete independence and class liberation.
November 3, 1945
Gwangju Student Incident Memorial Planning Committee
Kukmin Sinmun Launch (Bi-Daily)
The Kukmin Sinmun is a newly launched newspaper, primarily targeting Christian believers, and will be published bi-daily with its headquarters at 133 Insa-dong in the city.
Korean Democratic Party Headquarters Relocation
On November 2nd, the Korean Democratic Party moved its headquarters from the Korean Smelting Building on Taihei Road [present-day Sejong Road] to the former Dong-A Ilbo building on Gwanghwamun Road.
Whashin Department Store Reopening
Whashin Department Store, which had been closed since August 15, smoothly reached a compromise after mediation by the Military Government’s Labor-Management Mediation Committee. It was scheduled to reopen on November 3, but was postponed for a couple of days due to circumstances.
Total Number of Japanese Repatriating: 246,000
On October 31, 2,683 Japanese military personnel and 10,637 Japanese civilians were evacuated, and 3,289 Koreans returned home on the same day. The total number by that date was 222,134 Japanese military personnel and 114,873 Japanese civilians who have been evacuated, and 191,011 Koreans who have returned.
[Note: I usually translate 京城 (Keijo in Japanese, Gyeongseong in Korean), the colonial era name for Korea’s capital city, as Seoul in these articles, but from September 1945 onwards, the Keijo Nippo editors start referring to their city as Seoul (ソウル) in Katakana letters, but they still occasionally refer to their city as Keijo, so in this article, I will use both Seoul and Gyeongseong to refer to the same city, depending on which word is used.]