Niece of Korean collaborator nobleman Yoon Deok-yeong (윤덕영, 尹徳栄) was featured in 1939 article declaring ‘I really want to marry a Japanese man’ and adopting the Japanese surname ‘Izu’ to improve her marriage prospects

The following article from 1939 features a young 21-year-old Korean woman celebrating her newly given ability to change her surname to a Japanese one so that she can find a Japanese husband more easily. This story was presumably published to encourage Koreans to adopt Japanese last names in the wake of a November 1939 ordinance that was issued to require the creation of Japanese family names for all Koreans.

This young Korean woman was not just any woman, but the niece of a prominent Korean nobleman, Yoon Deok-yeong (윤덕영, 尹徳栄), who is widely reviled in Korea today as a pro-Japanese collaborator. Even being a distant relative of the prominent nobleman appeared to confer advantages for her, since she was able to find employment at Sanseido, a renowned publishing company known for its dictionaries.

Published in Keijo Nippo, the colonial newspaper and official mouthpiece of the Imperial Japanese government that ruled Korea from 1905 to 1945, one propaganda purpose of this article was probably to encourage Korean women to adopt Japanese surnames by enticing them with the prospect of attracting Japanese men more easily. Another propaganda purpose was probably to encourage Japanese men to consider marrying Korean women, as a part of the overall Japanese-Korean Unification (naisen ittai, 内鮮一体) policy of Imperial Japan.


Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo) November 14, 1939

A hopeful start toward the unification of the “family system” [4]

“I really want to marry a Japanese man,” says Miss Yoon, relieved from her worries

“It is quite absurd to have two surnames within the same country. Having two surnames naturally divides people, doesn’t it? The Japanese language is used as the standard language, while the Korean language is only for home use. Furthermore, Korean is just a local language understood only by people like my parents who don’t know the standard language.”

Miss Yoon Hee-yeong (윤희영, 尹嬉栄) lives in 2-47 Gye-dong, Seoul, and she is a 21-year-old employee of Sanseido Seoul branch. She continues with glistening eyes:

“If any man comes and spends time in Korea for a year or two, he would understand the merits of Korean women. However, Japanese men judge women merely for having surnames like ‘Yoon’ or ‘Lee’, failing to see the goodness within those names.”

“It’s wrong to dislike someone just based on labels,” Miss Yoon argued, her eyes widening slightly. Miss Yoon was born in Gye-dong, Seoul, as the eldest daughter of Yoon Byeong-gu (윤병구, 尹丙求), who is the brother of the great nobleman Yoon Deok-yeong (윤덕영, 尹徳栄). After graduating with honors from Gyeonggi Girls’ High School in March 1937, she helped with household chores, sewing, and flower arrangement for about a year.

But she realized that it was hard to get a real-world education unless she went out into the streets. Bravely deciding to join the women’s professional front, she started working as a clerk at a branch of Sanseido in Hasegawa-chō (present-day Sogong-ro) in Seoul last December.

On the 31st of last month, even when her colleague Kenjirō Yamamuro (27 years old) was honored with military deployment, Miss Yoon stayed up late at the entrance of Honmachi District, sewing a Sen’ninbari amulet, which deeply moved Mr. Yamamuro.

“Instead of saying that Miss Yoon sent the Sen’ninbari amulet, doesn’t it sound more pleasing to the ear with better rhythm if you say that Miss Izu sent the amulet?” Miss Yoon explained. She had never thought about marriage during her school days, but now she feels that it is not a bad time to start considering it at her age. Lately, she occasionally dreams of the future. However, her beautiful dreams had always been marred by the impossibility of changing her surname to a Japanese one.

“If I am really permitted to do so, I’d like to marry a Japanese man … but with my current surname, it’s tough,” Miss Yoon repeatedly contemplates and agonizes. However, a groundbreaking decree that instantly alleviated the worries of a generation of young women across the Korean peninsula was finally issued. Holding the evening edition of the Keijo Nippo Newspaper from the 9th, Miss Yoon began to worry again while, at the same time, she suppressed the excitement in her chest. Her two cheerful worries were about how to persuade her father and what Japanese surname to choose, leading to her delightful worries about marriage.

[Photo caption: Miss Yoon pondering her cheerful worries]


京城日報 1939年11月14日