This photo shows the inside of an interrogation room of the economic police in the Dongdaemon precinct of Seoul. It appears to be quite a crowded room crammed with desks, with suspects sitting at separate desks facing police officers one-on-one. However, the standing woman with a slightly slouched, dejected body posture is facing a plain-clothed man, and a uniformed man sitting next to the plain-clothed man has his face turned toward her. My guess is that the plain-clothed man directly in front of the standing woman is a Korean translator working for the Japanese police officer sitting next to him.
The suspects are depicted to be greedy and immoral black marketeers, but in reality, many were probably selling on the black market without proper business permits just to survive, which was a story arc in the Pachinko series. The police chief confidently claims that he has eyes and ears everywhere on the ground, so the economic police presumably have a large network of spies and informants who report directly to them.
This is another propaganda article in a series of ‘Good Korean Retailer versus Bad Korean Retailer’ propaganda articles contrasting the stereotypically bad Korean (greedy, mean, dishonest, lawless) with the stereotypically good, pro-Imperial Japan Korean (selfless, kind, honest, law-abiding). See this other related article from July 10, 1942:
Japan Center for Asian Historical Records entry on the Economic Police (my translation): The Economic Police Division was a section in charge of economic control and supervision. With the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937, a wartime economic control system was established in Korea. At first, the Commerce and Industry Division of the Regional Industries Bureau, the industrial divisions of each province, and the security division of the police were involved in controlling the soaring prices of daily commodities and gasoline, a strategic commodity. However, the need for specialized police officers to enforce these controls led to the assignment of police officers “engaged in police affairs associated with economic controls” to the Police Bureau in November 1938, which marked the beginning of the economic police. The Economic Police Division was established in February 1940, with four sections (General Affairs Section, Guidance Section, Control Section, and Information Section), which were assigned to take charge of affairs related to economic police. On the other hand, since the Economic Police Division was in charge of economic control and supervision, it was also expected to be involved in the area of labor mobilization to strengthen wartime productivity, and in the reorganization of December 1943, matters related to “labor recruitment control,” which had been handled by the Security Division, were transferred to the division.
Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo) July 5, 1942
We are especially rude to black marketeers
The eyes of the police are all-seeing mirrors!
“Merchants and black market transactions are said to go hand in hand. Ha ha ha! I don’t think it’s that bad, but there are indeed quite a lot of bad guys out there”.
We are in an office of the Dongdaemun Police Department’s Economic Crimes Section. The person speaking here is the police chief, Captain Hoshiro.
“I’m inside all the time, so the merchants may think I don’t know anything, but my eyes and ears are like an all-seeing mirror, and I can see everything. These days, even in hell, I can see everything and hear their voices at the same time like in a movie, so it’s pretty interesting”.
What Hoshiro is saying is a bit amazing. “Well then, I’ll do as you wish and first introduce you to the good store owners. Since I can guarantee that they are good, please make sure to praise them properly”.
Now let’s see what sorts of good store owners Mr. Hoshiro is talking about.
◇．．．Mr. Kim Dong-yang (김동용/金東用) is the owner of Hyehwa Trading Company and Grocery Store at 126 Hyehwa-dong. His store has a good reputation in the neighborhood. Even when women or children enter the store to buy something, he would still bow politely to each and every one of them, and not use pressure sales tactics on them as some merchants do. Of course, the prices are the same as the official prices, which is a great help to the housewives in the neighborhood. Moreover, once inside the store, the goods are displayed in an orderly fashion without a single gap in the rows of goods, so that the necessary items are immediately visible even to a new customer who peeks in.
◇．．．The next good store is a general store at 4 Yeji-dong in the Dongdaemun Market. The owner, Mr. Yuh Yong-sang (유용상/劉容相), is proud to be in charge of an important kitchen in the eastern part of the city, and he is doing his best to serve his community. He is the model merchant at Dongdaemun Market. He is always kind to his customers. He tries to sell his smile more than his products. Hats off to Mr. Yuh, who stands alone by himself aloof and sneers at the other merchants who are vigilantly watching for the economic police to let their guard down.
While the above two stores are model stores that were highlighted by Captain Hoshiro’s high praise, the next two stores are owned by notorious offending merchants. They are a rare breed of sick individuals of the black market who have not reformed themselves despite being warned repeatedly by the economic police.
◇．．．A man named [redacted], who runs a grocery store at 182 Wonnam-dong, has been punished three times so far by the Dongdaemun Police Department, and he is a habitual pricing violator. He has a bad reputation in the neighborhood, and his arrogant attitude toward his customers with his pressure sales tactics sums up everything. This man does not change his ways no matter how many times he is warned by the police, and he is well documented in detective inspectors’ notes as the leader of the delinquent stores in the Dongdaemun police precinct.
◇．．．A man named [redacted] runs a grocery store in the same Dongdaemun Market as Mr. Yuh. He has always been pursuing his own personal gain and has been operating his business with a hateful and arrogant attitude, taking advantage of his customers’ weaknesses, and making unreliable and unscrupulous statements about prices. This man is notable for having been scolded four times by the Dongdaemun Police Department so far, but he has not changed his ways. Although we warn him every chance we get, we may even take away this immoral merchant’s business license if necessary.
The above four stores mentioned by Captain Hoshiro represent opposite ends of a spectrum between light and darkness among the grocery stores that are entrusted with the lives of the residents of the Dongdaemun police precinct.
Captain Hoshiro went on by saying, “Since problems with food supplies affect the hearts of the residents the most, the attitude of the merchants who deal with food supplies should always be to take responsibility for ensuring the stability of the lives of the people on the home front, so they must not be absorbed even a little in making a profit. If there is a merchant who is still unwilling to cooperate …” Captain Hoshiro looked around at the faces of the suspects in front of him and continued, “they will have to be interrogated like this”. As he popped his fingertips on a stack of documents, he giggled.
[Photo: Interrogation at the Dongdaemun Police Station]