For my second post that I am making during my stay in Korea, I thought it would only be fitting to introduce you to the Korean perspectives that I unexpectedly found in the old Japanese-language newspaper archives at the National Library of Korea. This editorial message is a fascinating piece of history from November 1945, shedding light on the transitional period just after Korea’s liberation from Japanese colonial rule. The message comes from the ethnic Korean staff of the Keijo Nippo newspaper. For those unfamiliar, Keijo Nippo had been the official propaganda newspaper under the Imperial Japanese colonial regime, which had dominated Korea from 1905 to 1945.
In this pivotal moment of history, the Korean staff had recently taken over the news operations from their Japanese superiors. They faced a unique challenge: the need to communicate with their fellow Koreans, but with limited resources to do so in their native language. Due to a shortage of Korean typefaces essential for producing newspapers in the Korean language, they found themselves in a position where they had no choice but to continue publishing in Japanese.
However, the staff wanted to convey a crucial message to their ethnic Korean readership. They sought to reassure them that, even if the articles were written in Japanese, the heart and soul of the content would remain undeniably Korean. The essence of their message was a commitment to the Korean spirit and identity, even amidst the challenges of the transitional period.
It’s a poignant reminder of the complexities faced by nations in the aftermath of colonial rule and the resilience of people striving to reclaim their cultural identity.
Keijo Nippo would continue publishing until its last issue on December 11, 1945. Unfortunately, many of the surviving copies of Keijo Nippo from that month look badly damaged, including the last issue.
Keijo Nippo (Gyeongseong Ilbo) November 2, 1945
Since August 15th, everything in Korea is gradually returning to our possession. In line with this, the Keijo Nippo newspaper has also returned to our possession as of today. We only regret how long overdue this return was.
Reflecting on the long journey of the Keijo Nippo newspaper over the past forty years, it is undeniable that there have been many actions that we, as Korean compatriots, could not condone. Even though we served in our duties and acted the way we did due to compulsion and pressure, we are tormented by our responsibility in all this.
At this juncture, we considered abandoning our pens and becoming the foundation stones for the establishment of the nation. However, given that certain tasks are best left to those who specialize in them, we deeply realized that the only shortcut to contribute to the construction of the new Korean state was to dedicate ourselves with sincerity in our professional field as journalists. Thus, we have picked up our pens again, which we had once put aside, and we have firmly vowed to become a driving force for the establishment of Korea.
However, due to the directives of the military government and the lack of typefaces, we have reluctantly reached a point where we will continue to publish in Japanese for the time being in this transitional period. This is something we deeply regret.
Nevertheless, even if the expressions are in Japanese, the content remains true to our Korean spirit. We sincerely hope that our thirty million Korean compatriots will understand our genuine feelings on this matter.
We vow once again! We will do our utmost to serve as the foundation stones for the establishment of Korea. We will make every effort to rectify this transitional state of publishing in Japanese as soon as possible. We earnestly request the guidance and encouragement of our thirty million Korean compatriots.
November 1, 1945
Keijo Nippo Newspaper Company
From All the Korean Employees