Propaganda article contrasting the ‘Bad Korean Retailer’ who is greedy, mean, dishonest, and lawless with the ‘Good Korean Retailer’ who is selfless, kind, honest, law-abiding, and committed to Japanese-Korean unification (Seoul, 1942)

This is my translation and transcription of a news article from Keijo Nippo, a propaganda newspaper and mouthpiece of the government of Japan-colonized Korea. This has never been republished or translated before, to the best of my knowledge.

This is a sort of ‘Good Korean versus Bad Korean’ kind of propaganda article, in which the stereotypically bad Korean (greedy, mean, dishonest, lawless) is contrasted with the stereotypically good, pro-Imperial Japan Korean (selfless, kind, honest, law-abiding). To make this point, the reporters go out of their way to smear Mr. Park Soo-bok, one Korean small business owner, on a newspaper read by the entire country.

But I believe there must be more to this story. Mr. Park ran his business at 1-135 Hangang-daero. 1 Hangang-daero corresponds to the First Area (漢江通一番地), which was closely associated with the Imperial Japanese military. My guess is that Mr. Park must have once collaborated closely with the Imperial Japanese military to have run a business inside a military area, but there must have been some sort of falling out in the relationship which led to this smear campaign against him.

The ‘Good Korean’ was Mr. Kim Dal-soo, who worked at the Kitagawa Grocery Store in the Yongsan neighborhood. As shown on the map, he was a close neighbor of Mr. Kaneko, a similarly pro-Imperial-Japan Korean sushi chef who ran Sakura Sushi restaurant, whom I introduced earlier in a previous post. Perhaps Mr. Kim Dal-soo provided Mr. Kaneko with the food supplies for his restaurant?

Below are annotated maps contrasting the locations of Kitagawa Grocery Store and Sakura Sushi Restaurant in Seoul between 1933 and today. The 1933 map of Seoul is available here.


Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo) July 10, 1942

A bright store of Japanese-Korean unification

Practicing the New Way of Business with kindness and honesty

There is nothing more frightening in the world than a merchant who is blinded by greed. In this day and age, merchants and customers alike must unite as one in a powerful unity, working together to complete the Holy War, throwing everything they have into the effort. If merchants lacking self-awareness handle all the necessities of life for the people only to aim for profit, then they must truly be one of the enemies who have the blood of Chiang Kai-shek in their veins, but there are many merchants entrenched in Seoul who have this kind of greed. Let us take a look at the behavior of a typical greedy merchant.

Park Soo-bok (박수복/朴守福) (48), a fruit and vegetable merchant at 1-135 Hangang-daero, was cited four times this spring by the Yongsan Police Department’s Economic Affairs Section and punished for hoarding, not showing prices, and racketeering, etc. Each time, he said “I’m sorry, sir, but I will never do it again, so please forgive me…” He would sob with tears of repentance. However, once he was released, he would immediately do the same thing again with impunity. When the detective who had taken him in confronted him and said, “You did it again,” he replied, “I don’t mind being locked up, as long as I make a profit….” He said it like it was nothing. The officers in charge of the interrogation were always amazed at him.

But bad deeds do not last. Prices were high, the staff was unfriendly, and customers recently stopped coming due to behavior that went against the times and caused trouble with the police. This is a true testament to the fact that a merchant must be honest and kind to his customers in order to survive. We wonder if there are any other stores that are approaching the same fate as this one. We should reconsider the proverb, “bring a walking stick before you fall” [in English, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”].

On the other hand, there is a story of a reliable and cheerful merchant. The Kitagawa Shigekichi grocery store located in the Motomachi 2-chōme Public Market is an impressive store which has been practicing Japanese-Korean unification for ten years now. The owner, Shigekichi Kitagawa (62), who lives in 8 Ōshima-chō and owns the aforementioned store, hired a ruddy-faced boy named Kim Dal-soo (김달수/金達壽) (26) twelve years ago. Kim treats his bosses, Mr. and Mrs. Kitagawa, with the same respect as he shows towards his parents, and is very affectionate toward his customers.

Even when dealing with customers for as little as one sen [roughly 20-25 cents in USD today], Kim treats them with the utmost courtesy. In no time, Kitagawa Grocery Store became well known in the neighborhood. The customers were honest. Business was booming with crowds of customers elbow-to-elbow. Impressed by this, Mr. Kitagawa entrusted his entire current store to Kim. If the owner trusted him, Kim would be even more careful and would not make a single mistake even to a single sen or rin [10 rin = 1 sen] as he managed the store for the owners.

After the Incident, rationing of foodstuffs was implemented. However, Kim’s merchant spirit, as solid as iron and as pure as a mirror, which he had developed over the past 12 years, shone even brighter. His customers were so amicably supplied with the scarce supply of products that it seemed that it was only for this day that he insisted on putting kindness and honesty first. His customers praised him saying ‘What an admirable store!’, and the Yongsan Police Department’s Economic Affairs Section has also given its approval. As long as the merchants show kindness, darkness will never take hold.

Photo: Mr. Kitagawa, the owner of the “Bright Store”, giving a warm welcome to customers.



京城日報 1942年7月10日