Koreans first read of the US/Soviet Division of Korea on Aug. 25th, 1945 in this historic Keijo Nippo news article explicitly announcing for the first time that ‘Korea is to be made free and independent’

This is another fascinating historical article that I stumbled upon during my visit to the National Library of Korea a few months ago. This news article is from August 25th, 1945, which stands out for its historical importance as it explicitly mentions for the first time that Korea was going to be divided into U.S. and Soviet occupation zones, and the impending dissolution of the Imperial Japanese colonial regimes in both Korea and Taiwan. This was just 10 days after Imperial Japan’s unconditional surrender on August 15, 1945, which marked the end of World War II. This announcement was likely a reaction to the rapid advancements of the Soviet forces, which had reached Pyongyang by August 24th. Given this context, I speculate that the colonial regime, feeling the pressure of these developments, published this article on the following day in order to acknowledge the reality of Korea’s impending shift towards freedom and independence. Note that this announcement makes no mention of the 38th parallel, so it would have left Koreans in the dark as to how the Korean peninsula would be divided.

This article also marks a dividing line in terms of the tone of the language used in public announcements. The announcements before this date tended to use bombastic, inflated language along the lines of typical Imperialist propaganda, but after this date, it quickly disappears to be replaced by more restrained and conciliatory language. It’s a clear indication of the changing tides at the end of World War II. However, the article also assured ethnic Japanese residents in Korea that their properties would remain secure, a promise that was not entirely fulfilled, especially in the Soviet-occupied regions.

Alongside this, I am also including a translation of an adjacent announcement in the same newspaper. This secondary announcement sheds light on the cessation of hostilities in Sakhalin and the logistical challenges the newspaper faced in distributing its issues amidst the unrest following Imperial Japan’s surrender on August 15, 1945.

Remarkably, the newspaper apparently managed to keep publishing and circulating its editions throughout Korea, even under the challenging circumstances of U.S. and Soviet occupation, until the newspaper finally closed on December 11, 1945 after 39 years of operation. For all the flaws that this newspaper had, at the end of the day, millions of Koreans still relied on this Japanese-language newspaper to keep informed on the latest current events in Korea and around the world, because it was still the main national newspaper with the largest circulation in Korea.


Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo) August 25, 1945

Korea Will Be Under US and Soviet Occupation (Mainland Japanese People Will Be Absolutely Safe)

The Potsdam Declaration implements the terms of the Cairo Declaration regarding the disposition of our territories, stating that (1) Manchuria, Taiwan, and the Pescadores Islands are to be returned to the Republic of China, and (2) Korea is to be made free and independent. This marks the end of our overseas control of Korea, which lasted 36 years, and our overseas control of Taiwan, which lasted 51 years.

In the case of Taiwan, it is expected to soon fall under the military administration of Chiang Kai-shek, while Korea is expected to be placed under the divided occupation of the United States and the Soviet Union until an independent government is established there. Currently, about 1.2 million Japanese reside in Korea and about 400,000 Japanese reside in Taiwan. They have established a firm foundation in various fields such as politics, economy, and culture over many years. Rapid repatriation and other measures would only lead to chaos, which is clearly intolerable given the current situation in Korea and Taiwan.

Politically, both local Governor-General’s Offices will eventually be dissolved, but the contribution of the Japanese in economic and technical sectors is extremely significant. Furthermore, the private property of these Japanese residents, under international law, is of a nature that will not see any changes. Therefore, there is no need for undue anxiety on this point. Moreover, the authorities emphasize that Japanese residents should continue to utilize the foundations of life that they have cultivated over many years, dealing with the new situation with an open and honest heart under international principles and the spirit of ethnic co-prosperity.

Ceasefire in Karafuto (Sakhalin)

【Stockholm, August 21st (Associated Press)】 Moscow Telegraph – It is said that hostilities on the Karafuto front ceased at noon on August 20th.

Notice from Our Newspaper

Since August 16th, there have been some delivery failures or deliveries lost in transit due to accidents involving delivery personnel entrusted by our company, resulting from transportation issues. We earnestly ask for your understanding of the current situation. Our company is doing our best to ensure delivery by encouraging other entrusted parties, including the management office, but there may still be instances of delivery failures or deliveries lost in transit…


京城日報 1945年8月25日









Note: I’m sorry that the newspaper’s notice about the delivery failures is cut off in the photo. I just didn’t think to take more pictures of this newspaper page at the time I was at the National Library of Korea. I only wish that I had taken more pictures of the newspapers when I was there, and I hope the library gets around to tracking down the original newspapers and making high quality digital scans of them publicly available.