In this story, the reporters covered an impoverished farming family in Haeju (in present-day North Korea) which was using traditional techniques to make sturdy straw bags known as ‘gamani’ (가마니) in Korean or ‘kamasu’ in Japanese. They were traditionally made in the winter, and used to transport everything including manure, coal, salt, and grain. First, the straw is weaved into rope, and then the rope is used to weave the fabric that forms the bag. Nowadays, there are companies that make biodegradable bags out of jute or hemp instead.
This farming family may have been compelled by colonial authorities to become propaganda props for the newspaper. This fits the pattern of this newspaper taking photos of Korean farmers in awkward poses. Here are some examples:
Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo) February 13, 1943
Even the young sisters are rope weaving
The whole family is working feverishly
[Haeju Telephone Report] In wartime, when the expansion of production is strongly desired in all sectors, there is a touching, elegant story of a farming family in a remote village on our Korean peninsula, which is devoting itself to production and national defense through the hard work and sweat of the whole family.
Mr. Takashima Ju-byeon (주변, 柱變) (46-years-old) of Yibam-ri, Gosan-myeon, Byeokseong-gun (벽성군, 碧城郡), Hwanghae-do, has a family of six, including his wife, Ok-soon (억순, 億順) (33-years-old), his eldest son Jun-seok (준석, 俊石)(15-years-old), his eldest daughter Bok-soon (복순, 福順) (8-years-old), his second daughter Nam-soon (남순, 南順) (6-years-old), and an infant.
They are a poor farming family, but they make their living diligently by doing small farm work, and they are known in the neighborhood as a hard-working family. As the family entered the off-season in the winter, they decided that idleness and inactivity were the basis of laziness. Therefore, the entire family mobilized as a straw bag weaving team to work from early in the morning until late at night. Ju-byeon is the guerrilla unit which purchases the materials and supplies the products, Ok-soon and Jun-seok are the mother-and-son bag weaving team, and sisters Bok-soon and Nam-soon are the young school-aged rope-weaving team. They all sincerely work very hard. Nam-soon, who is only six, can reliably produce rope for one bag in one day. Bok-soon can easily produce rope for four or five bags in one day by herself. They are attracting admiration by displaying such dependable productivity.
Top photo: mother Ok-soon and son Jun-seok weaving straw bags. Bottom photo: young sisters Bok-soon and Nam-soon rope-weaving.