Korean kindergartners holding rising sun flags shouting ‘Banzai!’, schoolchildren worshiping at Shinto Shrines vowing to ‘defeat the U.S. and Britain’, high school girls ice skating on Chundangji Pond in Changgyeonggung Palace grounds – a series photos of student life in Seoul, late January 1943

The third and final school semester (January to March) began in Seoul in late January 1943, and the Keijo Nippo news cameramen took photos of student life from many different angles as they started school. Some scenes look ordinary enough: students walking to school, boys practicing Kendo in the cold mornings, schoolgirls working on science projects, high school girls ice skating in the old palace grounds. But look more closely, and you can see some disturbing scenes and elements too – the wartime militaristic propaganda enforced by mandatory visits to Shinto Shrines and celebrations of the Flag of the Rising Sun.


Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo) January 16, 1943

We won’t be defeated by the cold!

Dashing young kendo athletes rampage during a cold morning practice session

Spiritedly shouting “Omen!” and “Okote,” the youthful kendo athletes valiantly trained barefoot from 7:00 a.m. in an extremely cold morning. Here at Seoul Migeun-dong National School, 100 boys in the fifth and sixth grades were selected to participate in a martial arts cold practice session every morning from 7:00 to 8:00 a.m. at the school’s auditorium from January 15th to January 20th. On the first day of training, the principal, Mr. Terada, the male school staff, and the children arrived at the school on time.

After the national worship ritual, the students were divided into groups and began sparring, full of energy. After the first day of practice, the students said, “It felt so good! It was cold, but that was nothing when you consider what the soldiers protecting the northern borders have to go through. Studying martial arts like this will help a great deal when we become soldiers,” they said, smiling with cheeks like apples. [Photo: Migeun-dong National School students practicing in the cold]

Everyone is in good spirits going to school (article published on January 17)

Today is the beginning of the last school semester

The sounds of strong footsteps of the third school semester are heard at the school gates, which open quickly to the left and right. After a long winter break for training, this group of young students is ready to valiantly fight decisive battles for the final semester of the school year, and they will start school today.

Seoul Teachers College-Affiliated National School, which was the first in all of Korea to end its winter break, will beat the opening drum and rush into the final semester of the school year on January 16th.

After that, the students will move on to the next grade level. The first day of their decisive battle has begun today. [Photo: Students of Seoul Teachers College-Affiliated National School arriving at school after the winter break]

Vigorous young maidens in fierce competition like flying swallows (article published on January 17)

The Ice Competition of Seoul No. 1 Girls’ High School, rich with a wartime spirit

The brightness of the silvery ice surface was reflected in the bright blue winter sky. No matter how many degrees below zero it was, the skaters glided over the ice with the lightness of flying swallows.

The Seoul No. 1 Girls’ High School Ice Competition were held at a special competition venue set up at Chundangji Pond in Changgyeongwon from 9:00 a.m. on January 16, and the competition began with classroom teams paired against each other in relay races, which was a befitting format for a wartime training event for maidens on the home front. The cheerleading squads were stomping on the ice and cheering enthusiastically as the girls engaged in powerful offensive and defensive battles, as if the relay races were establishing an air defense posture. The girls on the home front were cheerful and lively. The competition ended at around 2:00 p.m., the girls having shown off their vigorous spirit which blew away the winter and the cold. [Photo: The Ice Competition]

Well-behaved young children studying science (article published on January 19)

Wartime education at the Women’s Teachers School-Affiliated National School

Why does this propeller turn?” asked a cute first grader with a bowl haircut as she eagerly fiddled with a model airplane, her eyes filled with curiosity.

The propeller spins because there is an elastic rubber band, and the propeller spins as the elastic band unravels. Real airplanes have engines,” explained a bigger girl in the sixth grade. On the other side of the room, second grade girls were tinkering with paper tanks and cars, expressing their adorable admiration and gratitude for the Imperial Military Science Corps, which has performed brilliantly in the Greater East Asia War. This group of scientific youngsters consists of students of the National School affiliated with Seoul Women’s Teachers School. These are the products of the homework projects that each of them worked on during the recent winter break, twisting their young minds with creativity. These homework projects of one hundred promising ‘well-behaved children of science’ were set up for display in the school work room.

Among the projects made by the older students were a wooden “charcoal box” and a wooden “book stand”, as well as beautiful playing cards featuring ‘100 patriotic poems’ made by sixth graders with all their hearts and souls. Surrounded by the happy children and their works, Mr. Watanabe said,

“These are all works that the students voluntarily created during the winter training period as a result of their scientific education, so to speak. I try to nurture the children’s creativity as much as possible. I believe that this kind of scientific training will also help them to become highly qualified mothers of healthy soldiers.” [Photo: Students at Seoul Women’s Teachers School-Affiliated National School performing science]

We will not lose either (article published on January 20)

Hinode National School students pledge to bless the nation with their academic work

The four warm breezes crossed the pine trees on Mount Namsan. But the shrine head was covered with frozen snow that had fallen some time ago. A group of schoolchildren walked up the stone steps of the shrine head. The city of Seoul was spewing morning smoke as the day’s activities got underway to fight decisive battles. The group of schoolchildren lined up in front of the Shinto shrine. The children were beginning their third semester of studies at Seoul Hinode National School on January 19th after their winter break. After the opening ceremony at 9:00 a.m. that day, Principal Etō and three other teachers led the children to Keijō Shrine to worship the shrine’s guardian deities.

Bowing deeply before the shrine, they let their Imperial blood surge in their young hearts. They vowed with their adorable voices, “We will study even harder with our strong hearts to defeat the U.S. and Britain! We will not lose to British and American children!” They clapped their cute hands and prayed for the longevity and military success of the Imperial Japanese military. They earnestly vowed to serve on the home front as schoolchildren. [Hinode National School students worshiping at Keijō Shrine]

[Note: This Japanese-language academic paper from Kyushu University indicates that Hinode National School only enrolled ethnic Japanese students and few, if any, ethnic Korean students.]

Banzai to the Flag of the Rising Sun! (article published on January 28)

On this day, when you peek into the Patriotic Kindergarten in Seoul, you can see 285 Japanese and Korean children, some as young as six and some as old as seven, lined up in the bright winter yard, holding the “Rising Sun Flag” in their hands. Principal Asagara said to the children:

Look everyone! This is the flag of Japan, the strongest country in the world. This flag is used by the soldiers who are fighting in the Great War to defeat the soldiers of the United States and Great Britain. Today is the anniversary day of this flag.

Then the “Hinomaru March” began, followed by the lyrics “the Rising Sun is dyed red on white …” which was performed with great energy and enthusiasm. Then, the children celebrated by shouting “Banzai to the Flag of the Rising Sun!” in a loud voice, led by Principal Asagara. [The Rising Sun Flag celebrations at the Patriotic Kindergarten]

[Note: According to this 1942 brochure from the actual kindergarten, there were a total of 287 students: 176 ethnic Japanese students (61%), 108 ethnic Korean students (38%), 2 Chinese students, and 1 Turkish student.]

Source 1: https://www.archive.org/details/kjnp-1943-01-16
Source 2: https://www.archive.org/details/kjnp-1943-01-17
Source 3: https://www.archive.org/details/kjnp-1943-01-19
Source 4: https://www.archive.org/details/kjnp-1943-01-20
Source 5: https://www.archive.org/details/kjnp-1943-01-28


京城日報 1943年1月16日



『オメン!』 『オコテ!』裂帛の気合も若々しく少年剣士は、凛冽の寒朝、午前七時からその素足も健気に錬武する。ここ京城渼洞国民学校では同校五、六年生男子百名を選抜して十五日から二十日まで毎朝午前七時より同八時まで講堂を道場として武道寒稽古を行っている。その初日寺田校長初め男子職員、児童達は定刻に参集。


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