Another peculiar institution of Imperial Japan was the ‘Superior Children’ competition, where a panel of medical doctors would perform extensive mass medical inspections of large numbers of little children, score them based on various health metrics, and then celebrate the top scoring children as the top ‘superior children’ who were expected to grow up into ‘strong Japanese soldiers and respectable Imperial women’. The colonial regime may have wanted to get the Korean people accustomed to the state invading into their personal health matters, while also getting the children used to the invasive medical inspections that they would get as newly conscripted soldiers.
It will be noted that Nazi German doctors were also performing mass medical inspections of populations at around this time, so Imperial Japan may have been at least partly inspired by their example. German medicine had long had a strong influence on Japan at least since the Meiji era in the 19th Century.
In 1943, the mass medical screening started on May 2 (see first article), the Seoul finalists were selected on May 15 (see second article), and the final winners for all of Korea were selected on June 26 (see third article), with an awards ceremony held on July 7 (see fourth article). There were four pediatric doctors who performed the mass medical inspections and the judging, including one token Korean named Dr. Lee Seong-bong (이성봉/李聖鳳). Interestingly, his name comes up on a list of South Korean nationals who were abducted by North Korea. He was kidnapped by the North Korean People’s Army on July 31, 1950, at around the outbreak of the Korean War, and his whereabouts are still unknown to this day. The National Diet Library in Tokyo keeps some pediatric journal articles that Dr. Lee wrote in the 1930’s.
The competition was co-sponsored by Maeil Sinbo and Keijo Nippo with support of the Korean Federation of National Power, the single ruling party of colonial Korea. Maeil Sinbo was the last remaining Korean-language newspaper in Korea after Chosun Ilbo and Dong-A Ilbo were shuttered in 1940.
Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo) May 4, 1943
Child rearing is excellent
Crowded scene at the Superior Children Screening Committee
The 5th Superior Children Screening Committee, co-sponsored by Maeil Sinbo and Keijo Nippo, was held on the second day of the Healthy Peoples Movement on May 2nd at 9:30 a.m. in the Whashin Department Store Event Hall. It was held in the belief that, in order to win this war, it is essential to ensure the strength and stamina of the people on the home front, and so the Health Peoples Movement is to vigorously campaign in all of Korea for 10 days in the month of the Dragon Boat Festival, beginning on May 1st. Parents, burning with the conviction that their beloved children will grow up to become strong Japanese soldiers and respectable Imperial women, crowded into the screening room with their infants in their arms. The screening committee members on this day were Dr. Hironaka, Director of the Department of Pediatrics at Seoul Medical College, and Dr. Lee, Director of the Department of Pediatrics at Seoul Prefectural Hospital.
Dr. Lee, with the support of 25 nurses, examined more than 300 infants, all of whom were in better condition than in previous years, showing the improvement of the parents’ child-rearing spirit. It was encouraging to see them displaying the strong will of a fighting people.
Height, chest circumference, body weight, etc., were measured meticulously, and their fat, naked bodies were placed in front of the doctors in charge of examining their eyes, teeth, etc. By looking at the appearances of these infants, you could almost hear the sounds of the footsteps of the healthy people and healthy soldiers who are preparing for conscription. Burning with a desire to secure human resources, the screening committee was adjourned after 4:00 p.m. [Photo: The Event Hall]
Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo) June 2, 1943
Six Superior Children Honored
The representatives of Seoul were chosen
Awards ceremony co-sponsored by Maeil Sinbo and Keijo Nippo
In the belief that the best Momotarō of Japan should come from the Korean peninsula, the 5th All-Korea Superior Children Awards Ceremony is to be co-sponsored by Maeil Sinbo and Keijo Nippo with the support of the Korean Social Service Association and the Korean Federation of National Power. Beginning with the first rounds of screening at Mitsukoshi Deparment Store and Whashin Department Store on May 2nd, there were 723 participants who responded to the recruitment drive held in all of Korea in the belief that those who will anchor victory in the Greater East Asian War on a solid bedrock foundation will be the healthy children of the next generation. On May 15th, the second round of screening in Seoul was held in an outpatient room at the Department of Pediatrics of Seoul University Hospital and the Department of Pediatrics of the affiliated hospital at Seoul Medical College. After careful selection by four judges, including Professor Izumi at Seoul University Hospital, the following six children were selected to represent Greater Seoul:
Junko Inoue (41 Sindang-dong), Nobuo Hirayama (149-236 Ahyeon-dong), Hiroaki Hoshimoto (141-1 Haengchon-dong), Toshio Lee (151 Nakwon-dong), Takeko Matsubara (192 Chebu-dong), Nam Hee-jong (남희전/南煕典) (530-7 [illegible]-dong)
The final selection will be made from a total of 45 children, 39 of them from all other parts of Korea. The final judging will be held in Seoul in late June.
[Photo: From the top: Inoue, Hirayama, Hoshimoto, Lee, Matsubara, and Nam].
Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo) June 27, 1943
Healthy Korean Children of Honor
Sponsored by Keijo Nippo
The screening of superior children has been completed
Who will be the healthy children who will carry forward the next generation of the Imperial Korean peninsula on their shoulders? The 5th All-Korea Superior Children Awards Ceremony, co-sponsored by Keijo Nippo and Maeil Sinbo with the support of the Korean Social Service Association and the Korean Federation of National Power, called on all Koreans to “Identify yourselves, healthy children!” The number of respondents actually climbed to 70,000, and starting on May 15 with the selection of superior children in Seoul, the central review committee reviewed the total of 45 candidates representing all provinces of Korea, and made their final selections at the Josun Seoul Hotel from 3:30 p.m. on June 26.
The four judges, including Mr. Shingai, Deputy Director General of the Administration Bureau, Mr. Nagai, Director of the Seoul Social Affairs Division, Dr. Otsuka, Director of the Korean Social Service Association, and many others concerned, attended the meeting. Careful consideration was conducted by the four members of the panel: Dr. Izumi (Director of Pediatrics at Seoul University Hospital), Dr. Takai (Assistant Professor at Seoul University), Dr. Hironaka (Director of Pediatrics at Seoul Medical College), and Dr. Lee Seong-bong (이성봉/李聖鳳) (Chief of Pediatrics at Seoul Prefectural Hospital). The first and second prizes were awarded to one contestant each, and the third prize was awarded to two contestants.
First place: Toshirō Ōuchi (Mileuk-dong [미륵동/彌勒洞], Sinuiju, Pyeonganbuk-do)
Second place: Takeko Matsubara (192 Chebu-dong, Seoul)
Third place (shared): Hiroo Takada (Geonip-ri, Jeju-eup, Jeju Island, Jeollanam-do), Keizō Kamitaka (39 Imperial Army Officers Residence, Daehyeon-dong, Daegu, Gyeongsangbuk-do)
The Superior Children Awards Ceremony for the representatives from each province in all of Korea as well as Seoul will be held in the auditorium of Seoul Citizens Hall on July 7.
[Photo: Central Screening Committee]
[Photo: The screening committee and the prize-winning superior children (from top) Toshirō Ōuchi (first place), Takeko Matsubara (second place), Hiroo Takada (third place), and Keizō Kamitaka (third place).
Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo) July 8, 1943
Award certificates were received by the cute hands of the children
The hall was filled with cheerful laughter
Cosponsored by Keijo Nippo and Maeil Sinbo: Superior Children Awards Ceremony
Co-sponsored by the Maeil Sinbo and Keijo Nippo, the 5th All-Korea Superior Children Awards Ceremony, which boasts of having the top “superior children” on the Korean peninsula as a foundation for a prosperous Asia with healthy people and healthy soldiers, was held at 2:00 p.m. on July 7 in the auditorium of Seoul Citizens Hall, with Deputy Director Shingai, Director Hada of the Korean Federation of National Power, Councilor Kiyomichi of the Central Advisory Board, Lieutenant Colonel Gama of the Military Press Department, Dr. Izumi, Dr. Hironaka, Dr. Lee Seong-bong (이성봉/李聖鳳) and others, as well as a large number of military and civilian guests in attendance. The ceremony was attended by 150 people including many military, government, and civilian guests, the All-Korea superior children, other superior children from Seoul and the rest of Korea, and their parents.
Following the National Ritual (bowing to the Emperor), there was an address by President Kanekawa of Maeil Sinbo and greetings by Commissioner Tanaka (read on his behalf by Deputy Director Shingai). Mr. Nagai, Director of the Seoul Social Affairs Division, reported on the progress of the project. Following Dr. Izumi’s comments, Director Hada of the Korean Federation of National Power said, “Parents and siblings must not neglect to pay full attention to the upbringing of healthy children. Superior children are the wings of a victorious Japan. I would like to express my deepest gratitude to both newspaper firms for their efforts in this endeavor”. After the ceremony, Deputy Director Shingai handed over the certificates and prizes to first-place winner Toshirō Ōuchi of Sinuiju, second-place winner Takeko Matsubara of Jongno-gu Seoul, and third-place winners Hiroo Takada of Jeju Island and Keizō Kamitaka of Daegu. The audience was filled with cheerful laughter as the certificates and prizes were first being handed out to the cute little boys and girl. Mr. Yutaka Takada, the representative of the superior children, gave a strong speech saying, “I will continue to devote myself to raising these children so as not to disgrace this honor, and raise them to become respectable Japanese people who will carry the next generation on their shoulders”.
The pledge was recited by Mr. Takahashi, Director-General of the Publications Bureau of Keijo Nippo. The meeting was adjourned at 3:00 p.m. with a chorus of “Long Live the Emperor”, led by Councilor Kiyomichi of the Central Advisory Board.
Dr. Izumi of Seoul University, one of the member of the screening committee, said the following:
“The physical makeup of people is not to be simply determined by their appearance. The everything about the person has to be weighed and averaged. The screening judges were happily working hard and breaking a sweat, because the remaining 45 contestants were all superior children who were difficult to distinguish from one another. This year’s first-prize winner was from Northern Korea, even though Southern Korea has been the winning region in past competitions. Seoul has also performed pretty well in every competition. This suggests that warm weather is not the only factor that determines the outcome of the competition. The results also proved that, just as in the care of plants and trees, the way in which infants are nurtured is just as important. In short, it is desirable to ‘carefully nurture’ and be prepared to ensure that today’s superior children do not become tomorrow’s frail children.”
[From left to right facing the photo: Matsubara (second place), Kamitaka (third place), and Takada (also third place)]