Pro-Japanese Korean colonel (신태영)’s full 1943 speech offering Koreans redemption from their “shame” inherited from ancestors who made them “like cats and dogs” that seek safety and parental attachments over national duty, giving them a chance to volunteer in the Imperial Army

Throughout 1943 in colonial Korea, the main national newspaper of the country, Keijo Nippo (Gyeongseong Ilbo), was filled with war propaganda encouraging young Korean men to enlist in the Imperial Japanese military to fight Britain and America in the Pacific War. This article is just one of many such pieces of wartime propaganda published in 1943, but this speech particularly stands out in that it was written by a prominent pro-Japanese ethnic Korean military official (Colonel Shin Tae-young, aka Hirayama), and it contains a lot of self-hating, explicit language demeaning Korea and Koreans while encouraging young Koreans to become Japanese and volunteer to fight for Imperial Japan. 

Hirayama had a long, distinguished in the Imperial Army which started around 1909 and lasted throughout the entire period of the Imperial Japanese colonization of Korea from 1910 to 1945. Interestingly, he went on to become Lieutenant General in the South Korean Army and Minister of National Defense of South Korea in 1952 and was eventually buried with honors in the Seoul National Cemetery, which is a heated point of controversy, as many Koreans believe that he was a traitor who does not deserve to be honored as a Korean national hero. I shared the first part of his memoir in a previous post. This is the second part of his memoir, which was published on November 18, 1943, the day after the first part was published.

Hirayama’s rant can be a tedious read, but let’s hone in particularly on what he says about Koreans. Hirayama accuses Koreans of being complacent and indifferent like spectators toward the war, being hypocritical for demanding more political rights but evading their responsibilities by making excuses for not enlisting, neglecting national duty, and cultivating a servile and selfish mindset. He blames these transgressions on the shame that Koreans supposedly inherited from their ancestors: a culture with a “soft, scholarly lifestyle” that places family above nation, a parental attachment to their children that is so strong it amounts to “animalistic love”, and a concern with safety that amounts to “becoming like a dog or a cat”.

Hirayama weaves in some Korean history by mentioning the Qing invasion of Joseon of 1636-1637 and bringing up obscure historical figures from that event such as Jeong Gwang-gyeong, Yun Jip, and Kim Ryu as examples of corrupt Korean officials who were dishonorable and shameless, as if to imply that modern Koreans inherited their national shame from ancestors like these figures.

Hirayama then offers Koreans a way to redeem themselves and free themselves of this inherited ancestral shame: by volunteering and enlisting in the Imperial Japanese Military, which would instill in them the Japanese spirit and discipline and fully transform them into loyal, pure Japanese people, thereby achieving true Japanese-Korean unification. 

Hirayama then makes some threats against Koreans in his rant. He says, “Koreans must realize that their own actions have always led to the downfall of Korea”, as if to preemptively blame the Koreans for the defeat of Imperial Japan, if it happens. Towards the end of the rant, he warns that, if any Korean student has to be forcibly conscripted because he didn’t volunteer, then the honor of Koreans will be completely tarnished. Thus, Koreans are supposedly collectively responsible for their actions as a group, rather than as individuals, so if any Korean fails to volunteer, then all Koreans have to suffer the consequences of the loss of honor because of that one Korean individual’s treacherous actions.

Hirayama denies being bribed by authorities or requested by the Imperial military to publish this speech, but his decades-long career with the Imperial Army and prominent rank seem to indicate that he has already received many favors from the colonial authorities and the Imperial Army for his many years of collaboration.

It’s especially striking how dark and ominous the tone of Part 2 is compared to Part 1, which has more of a personal, heartfelt tone. It’s also interesting that Hirayama identifies himself more as a Korean in Part 2, and identifies himself more as a Japanese in Part 1. The two parts of the memoir seem to depict a complex man with many inner contradictions and conflicts, straddling and attempting to reconcile two different cultures and ethnicities: Korean and Japanese.

Note: “Yamato people” refers to ethnic Japanese people throughout the memoir.


Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo) November 18, 1943

The Future of Korea Depends on the Students (Part 2)

Memoir by Imperial Army Lieutenant Colonel Hirayama Hoei, an ethnic Korean

Decide Without Hesitation!

The only way forward is to become loyal and good Imperial subjects

As the Manchurian Incident evolved into the China Incident, the sincerity of Korean patriotism was recognized. As a prerequisite for the implementation of the conscription system in Korea, the special volunteer soldier system was introduced, and many volunteers have already participated in actual combat. These special volunteers have demonstrated their true value as members of the Imperial Army, proving themselves equal to the pure Yamato (Japanese) people. As the Greater East Asia War progresses, the number of volunteers has dramatically increased each year. The patriotism of the Korean people as a whole has reached its peak. As a result, the long-standing desire of Koreans for the implementation of the conscription system has been realized with the promulgation of the relevant laws in the midst of the Greater East Asia War. This system is scheduled to be implemented starting next year, with compulsory education set to commence in 1946.

When comparing this to the state of internal Korean-Japanese relations from the time of the annexation of Korea until very recently, it must be recognized that this represents a rapid and significant transformation for Korea. We must be confident that the foundation for Japanese-Korean unification has already been established. In times of peace and security, there were calls for the implementation of compulsory education, the establishment of a conscription system, and the granting of political rights. However, when faced with a national crisis of life and death, there were those who resorted to pointless arguments to evade their responsibilities. Can Koreans, both now and in the future, truly live their lives this way?

Today’s Greater East Asia War is a decisive battle where the entire Greater East Asian population, risking their lives, is fighting against the long-standing enemies of three hundred years, the United States and Britain. The billion people of Greater East Asia are fighting with all their heart and soul. Can Koreans alone remain complacent and indifferent like spectators? If the Empire loses this battle, the billion people of Greater East Asia will face extinction. Can Koreans alone believe that they can prosper?

Given the current situation, all people within the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, regardless of their location or circumstances, must transcend all emotions and personal interests. Without any excuses, this is the autumn when both the old and young, men and women, must rise, unite, and dedicate their lives to the destruction of the United States and Britain. It is truly disheartening to see some people making petty excuses regarding the newly promulgated special volunteer temporary recruitment regulations. At the very least, it makes me feel deeply ashamed to have been born in Korea. What a pitiful state this is!

Modern Koreans, especially qualified students and their parents, siblings, and other family members, should be genuinely fueled by patriotism and deeply understand the current situation. They should truly think about themselves and their families, be aware of the shame of Korea, and awaken to their mission as Japanese people. If this is the case, regardless of the content of the authorities’ talks on the laws, whether it is in the form of voluntary enlistment or forced conscription, whether they are to be officers or ordinary soldiers, they should not be concerned with such trivial matters. Rather, they should compete against each other to be the first to join the military ranks.

Moreover, the current special temporary recruitment of volunteers is an unprecedented and significant favor for Korea, providing absolute light and hope for Korea’s future. Let us reflect deeply on this together. How much do you think the Imperial Army is mobilizing in the current Greater East Asia War? Even considering just the occupied territories, it is common sense to imagine that the number reaches millions. Despite moving such a large force, it is clear that there are still ample human resources available, considering that, as in peacetime, only able-bodied men aged twenty are required to serve in the military.

In such circumstances, what difference would it make to mobilize five or six thousand Korean students? It is common sense that moving a large force requires a significant number of officers. Students from specialized schools and above in mainland Japan enter the army as officer personnel. If Korean students who have studied alongside them are left behind, it would indeed be an insult to Koreans and a form of discrimination against Koreans by the Japanese. Furthermore, most of the students from specialized schools and above, who are set to be conscripted next year, and their families are part of the intellectual and leadership class in Korea.

By becoming officers in the army, these individuals will become the forerunners for the thousands of soldiers who will be conscripted and join the army next year, rapidly achieving Japanese-Korean unification. Moreover, only by receiving military education can these core members truly grasp the Japanese spirit and bear the significant responsibility of leading the future of Korea.

The outcome of the Greater East Asia War has already been determined. An absolutely impregnable strategic stance has been established. No matter how much the United States and Britain struggle, they cannot possibly reverse this overwhelming trend. It does not matter what happens to Italy or if the Soviet Union confronts us; such matters have no bearing on the outcome of the Greater East Asia War. Victory is undoubtedly ours.

Our belief in inevitable victory is unshakable. When the Empire achieves victory, what will those Koreans who have adopted their current attitude have to say for themselves? They will likely find no place to set foot within the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. Conversely, can they now really turn to the United States or Britain? Koreans must realize that their own actions have always led to the downfall of Korea.

Moreover, if even one person fails to volunteer and is looked down upon, do you think your juniors will be able to study alongside students from mainland Japan without feeling disgrace? Do you believe that such disloyal Koreans deserve higher education beyond the level of specialized schools? Those hesitant to volunteer have various complicated reasons. While there may be some truth in these reasons, the fact remains that if modern Koreans truly awaken to the current situation and willingly dedicate their lives to the Empire, these issues should soon be resolved as a natural consequence. And if, after displaying such loyalty as Imperial subjects, these issues remain unresolved, then it would be appropriate to make demands openly.

In any case, the survival of Korea lies in the hands of Koreans themselves. The path that Koreans must take should be paved by Koreans themselves. The reason I am speaking out so passionately is not because I have been requested by the military or bribed by the authorities. It is simply because, as one of the Emperor’s subjects and particularly as a Korean, I cannot remain indifferent in the face of this situation. I was born in Korea and am well acquainted with Korean circumstances. When I dissect the psychology of those who are hesitant to express their willingness to volunteer, I can assert without hesitation that their various excuses are merely pretexts to avoid volunteering.

Historically, Korea has been characterized by an excessively misguided sense of familial attachment. Apart from the modern youth, anyone who is older will likely be familiar with the Qing Invasion of Joseon. This major event in Korean history occurred 308 years ago. Qing troops invaded Korea, and the king, along with his high officials, retreated and took refuge in Namhansanseong Fortress. The Qing troops besieged the fortress for forty-five days, placing Korea in a dire crisis of survival.

In such a national emergency, there was not a single person who earnestly tried to resolve the difficult situation. Arguments and debates ensued, with everyone stubbornly adhering to their own opinions, resulting in mere verbal conflicts. Jeong Gwang-gyeong, the Seungji (a high-ranking official), upon hearing that his elderly father’s place of refuge was attacked by the Qing troops, submitted his resignation, saying, “My mind is in chaos, my spirit is already scattered, and I am unable to fulfill my duties,” and he returned home. Vice Chancellor Yun Jip, an extreme advocate of war who even attempted to kill a peace advocate, also lost his composure when he heard that the enemy had invaded Namyang, where his grandfather, wife, and siblings had taken refuge. He claimed, “I have lost my mind, my senses are confused, I have lost my sanity, and I cannot perform my duties,” and requested to be relieved of his position.

An extreme example is the then Prime Minister and Chief of Staff, Kim Ryu. The queen had taken refuge on Ganghwa Island, and despite the king being worried about the lack of military preparations and struggling day and night with war expenses and provisions, Kim Ryu‘s private residence was guarded by government troops. His wife traveled around in a sedan chair, and his wealth was said to amount to seventy cartloads. This was the behavior of the nation’s prime minister. He placed his own interests above those of his lord, his family above the nation. There was neither national honor nor shame in such conduct.

I do not believe that all Koreans are like this, nor do I think that the Korean spirit is inherently this way. As history has shown, Koreans possess a sense of righteous indignation and a latent spirit to live for a noble cause. However, years of a soft, scholarly lifestyle have ultimately led to a neglect of national duty and the cultivation of a servile and selfish mindset, which has persisted to this day. Modern Korean parents have a tendency to rely excessively on their children. What parents expect from their children is the eternal continuation of their lineage. The meaning of eternal continuation is not only the flourishing of descendants and the unbroken continuation of the lineage, but it must also naturally include the preservation of the family’s honor.

However, today’s Korean parents and grandparents are filled with the desire to rely on their descendants as they age. They are not content unless they keep their children and grandchildren close, like flowers to be admired, always under their care. If a child tries to engage in any manly endeavor, they are immediately stopped and led into passivity and retreat. It is hard to understand the mindset of parents who have children merely to rely on them in old age and to be taken care of by them. It is truly a disgraceful and laughable lack of spirit, something to be despised. Parents and grandparents cannot live forever, but the lives of their descendants are long. Parents should abandon their selfish wickedness and be content with praying for the future prosperity of their children.

Unlike the feudal era of the past, especially in modern times when the world is the stage, what do you intend to achieve in a tiny place like Korea? The love of parents who want to keep their children attached to them is something even dogs and cats possess. Humans should not be drowned in such animalistic love. Filial piety to parents is not a duty or a law; it is a morality based on natural reason. It must arise from the heart, without the need for parental demands. Filial piety is the foundation of human morality. However, being in perpetual attachment to one’s parents is not the entirety of filial piety.

Modern young men, break away from the old ways! Your stage is vast and wide open. Break down outdated customs, and with firm determination, persuade your parents and grandparents, and boldly seize this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The fate of success or failure rests on your shoulders.

Some have said that they will not enlist even if conscripted. What a despicable and shameful mindset! Are you content to be safe, even if it means being trampled, kicked, or becoming like a dog or a cat? Do you not understand the meaning of conscription? Being conscripted does not necessarily mean you will be working only in Korea or mainland Japan. Why would conscription be necessary in places like Korea and mainland Japan, which have such poor resources? Even if conscripted, you will inevitably go to the front lines and work alongside brave soldiers. You will go to the battlefield, whether you are fighting with swords and guns or working with shovels, hammers, and pickaxes. You must also be prepared to face enemy air raids. You will need to receive the baptism of artillery fire from the enemy. Whether you die gloriously as an Imperial soldier who does not know when he will die, or die as a forced conscript, which is more honorable? If even one forced conscript emerges among Korean students, the honor of Koreans will be completely tarnished.

Humans are living beings who live by conviction. Where there is conviction, there is effort, hope arises, security accompanies, and there is joy. Our only path is to dedicate our lives to serving the Emperor and the nation as loyal Japanese subjects. We must firmly hold this conviction. It is absolute and unconditional. The time is imminent. Let us decide quickly and without hesitation.


京城日報 1943年11月18日


半島出身陸軍中佐平山輔英 (手記)