Propaganda articles say Koreans men are cowards because of ‘literary effeminacy’ and too much filial piety toward Korean parents who ‘just play around and live off their children’s income’ after age 50, and resolves to ‘reshape’ Korean Confucianism by ‘beating it’ into a Japanese form (1943)

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


The Federation refers to the Korean Federation of National Power (国民総力朝鮮連盟, 국민총력조선연맹), the single ruling party of Japan-colonized Korea.

Annexation refers to the annexation of Korea into Imperial Japan in 1910.

Literary effeminacy is the translation for the word bunjaku (文弱) and refers to the excessive emphasis on book learning.


Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo) November 8, 1943

Talking about the students who went off to war (2)

Understanding the family comes first

Young Koreans are strong in both body and mind

Federation General Secretary Hada: Some of the schoolteachers are present, but if there were some who hesitated, what kind of mindset did they have? Please tell us what you noticed.

Mr. Jeong: Mr. Watanabe from Hyehwa Specialized School, your thoughts?

Mr. Watanabe: I have talked about this spirit with my students since the implementation of the conscription system. They may think that they do not have to volunteer just because it is a voluntary system, but that is not the case. I have told them that they must be ready to accept the call at any time, and my students are agreeing with me on this point. So I think that if you leave it with me, my students will voluntarily become conscripted. The young men are pure. Mr. Natsuyama was here for a leadership conference of the Federation, when he said that both family and society must be mobilized, and I agreed wholeheartedly with his words. Indeed, even if the students are mentally prepared to go out to war, their families may stand in their way.

Speaking from my own experience, I am engaged in a job placement campaign for young Koreans, and I feel this from beginning to end. If I told my students to go to Manchuria, their parents would oppose it even if the students were willing to go. If I told my students to go to China, their parents would say something like, ‘Your father is too old’, tending to be too focused on the family. In this respect, there is a difference from families in mainland Japan.

There was talk about the Korean students returning to Korea from mainland Japan, but I think that they returned to Korea to consult with their families. I hope that the Federation and the newspapers will make efforts to educate families and society.

I may be stating it too bluntly, but it is obvious that the war will be won. After victory, the people of Japan will be able to walk proudly throughout the world as citizens of a victorious nation. We can walk proudly as the leading and superior people throughout East Asia with the honor of war.

But what would happen if you did not participate? What would you have done? If this happens, Koreans will forever fall from the position of leaders as an inferior people. They must do it because it is the best opportunity for the future improvement of the Korean people.

In the past, when the idea of white superiority was popular, East Asian peoples were regarded as inferior. Therefore, the government of the time took great pains to put them on an equal footing with the whites. However, it was difficult for them to recognize the East Asians. However, after defeating the Russians in the Russo-Japanese War, the colored race was recognized as a great nation. There is nothing like war to demonstrate the power of a people. If you do not participate in this war, your future will be dark, and after all, this is for the sake of Korea.

I have been educating Korean children for many years, and they are very smart, and their grades are astonishingly good. No matter where they go to school, Koreans get good grades and have good physical fitness. Some people may say they are lacking in character, lacking in energy, or irresponsible, but they do very well in martial arts and in training.

I have been promoting martial arts for two years, and we are now ranked second among all Korean specialized schools. If you encourage them, they will grow. In terms of physical strength and academic ability, they are the same as the people of mainland Japan. If they take that strength and join the military and become a junior enlisted noncommissioned or commissioned officer, their strength will be recognized because there is no discrimination in the military. There has never been such a good opportunity. Indeed, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. So I told them to go straight ahead. [‘transcription paused’] Then I talked to them about how much their participation represented a social movement for the Korean people. I hope that we will make efforts to educate families as part of this social movement.

President Kanegawa: Just as you said, I also have to say, at the same time, that the most urgent task is to rebuild the worldview of the Korean people. Since the Koreans do not have a national worldview or a social worldview, I have heard that they hold the sentiment that, since Prime Minister Tojo said that he would allow the independence of Burma and the Philippines as soon as possible if they cooperate from the bottom of their hearts in the Greater East Asia War, shouldn’t he allow the same for the Korean people? 

Their other sentiment is that this is a war for Japan, and that they have nothing to do with it. This is because they have not yet developed a worldview. It is only natural that we should use the power of newspapers to educate and guide them, but I believe that it is most desirable for school authorities to use their efforts to nurture young people in a normal manner.

Parents always put family problems first, so when I tried to get them to work for the police which, as Mr. Watanabe has said, are the most disciplined in Northern and Central China, Manchuria, and in Korea, they would say that their children are weak and so they should be sent to work for the Ministry of the Interior or the Ministry of Industry instead of the police.

In fact, when I was a bureaucrat, I wanted to reform these bad cultural attitudes. If I ordered the people in Seoul to work in the provinces, they would complain that they would be separated from their families. I did not approve of such personal excuses, but things did not go the way I wanted. In the end, they were able to get away by various means, but such young men never rose up in the ranks. There were lots of cases like this one in my personal experience.

From this point of view, I hope that those who have been given this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity as Japanese people to live under this decisive time of war, and who are qualified to serve, will fully realize that such an opportunity will never come again. No one should be able to sit still to miss such a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It is really sad that we are still talking about this. We at the Federation must make every effort to rebuild this old way of thinking. If their fundamental worldview is not corrected, even the best and the brightest will be corrupted. I hope that the school authorities will make efforts to eliminate these bad cultural attitudes in these students as soon as possible.

Mr. Watanabe: Korean parents ask too much of their children, and these parents are really cowardly. They are enforcing too much filial piety. This is not only a problem in schools, but also in society as a whole. Parents should not think of their children taking care of them. They must fix this tendency to think that they are elderly people when they reach the age of 50, after which they will just play around and live off their children’s income.

Mr. Jeong: School Principal Kim of Poseung Specialized School, what are your thoughts on this point?

Mr. Kim: As the General Secretary of the Korean Federation has just mentioned, what is the reason why young Korean men cannot become brave despite the fact that the way to martyrdom has been opened for them? I think the main reason is the weakness of literary effeminacy. This may enrage the Korean people, but this is a fact. For 300 years, the Koreans have never participated in a war. Even in peacetime, we Koreans have learned to seek shelter from a young age.

No one can deny this. I have heard so much about Jirisan in Korea or Mount Kongō in Japan being good shelters, so much so that I have developed calluses in my ears. This is second nature to Koreans. As a Korean, I am truly ashamed to talk about this, but I acknowledge this as a fact. The people of mainland Japan may be outraged that the Koreans are so indifferent when they are fighting for the survival of their nation, but the fact is that this is the cause of the problem.

They also have a fear that they will die if they join the military, which is completely cowardly. Not all those who go to war necessarily return home dead. It cannot be guaranteed that they will not die at all, but with bad luck, one-twentieth to one-tenth of them will die. After all, as a result of their long-standing literary effeminacy, it is difficult for them to harden their resolve [‘transcription paused’].

In accordance with the Governor General’s instructions, I greatly emphasized that the young Korean men should go willingly, precisely because they are not forced to do so. However, there are many who hesitate to do so, and some go back to the countryside to consult with their parents there. If it is true that Koreans are indifferent to the war at this time, holding the sentiment that this is not a war for Korea, or that it is someone else’s war which has nothing to do with the Koreans, then it is understandable that the people of mainland Japan may feel offended, but I think that is the main cause of the problem. Korean people, please don’t get mad at me. It’s a fact that the Koreans have this characteristic.

It may sound like I’m only mentioning faults, but Koreans are no less smart or strong than the people of mainland Japan. However, they lack the spirit of bravery. In this respect, they are inferior to the people of mainland Japan. When their moment arrives, their second nature gets in the way, and that is where the problem actually arises.

Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo) November 10, 1943

Talking about the students who went off to war (3)

Destroy your view of life and death!

Wake up, all influential Koreans!

Keijo Nippo Reporter: It is said that the main reason for this problem is that the Korean people suffer from literary effeminacy and lack the martial spirit. Myeongnyun Specialized School is said to be emphasizing Confucianism in its education, but in recent days, how are students being guided regarding this problem? Mr. Shirakami, your thoughts?

Mr. Shirakami: In a sense, there are strong indications that the Confucianism of the past was a sort of decorative form of Confucianism tailored for a special class of people. It seems to me that this kind of Confucianism was a way of responding to science and enjoying poetry. I am now in the process of reshaping this form of Confucianism by beating it into a Japanese form of Confucianism, just like the Confucianism practiced in mainland Japan, as I believe this will be a meaningful way for their future.

The school has been in existence for only a year and a half, and this is in accordance with my own personal philosophy. The way of life of the school is to advance Confucianism in accordance with the Imperial Way. Confucianism is beautiful in its qualities, and I believe that it would be deeply meaningful for the various peoples of the Greater East Asian region to rework this form of Confucianism into a Japanese form by re-tailoring old clothes of high quality into a common doctrine for the peoples of today’s nations. 

In response to your question, I would like to add my own personal view that the mistakes we made in the past with respect to educational methods may be one of the weak points in the thinking of today’s students. I believe that the subjectivism and liberalism of Western education may be one of the reasons why today’s students are encouraged to make free decisions in matters of their own volition. In addition, while Confucianism has a strong influence on life and death issues in family life structures and life practices, it is Daoist thought that truly penetrates into the depths of the views on life and death. From one perspective, the shaman is a very powerful force. Roadside divinations can have the authority to make decisions on important events in life, and the idea of longevity and immortality is also very strong. This is a trend that will eventually lead to an emphasis on life and a de-emphasis on death in matters of life and death.

In addition, the ability of the culture to change is generally tied to the influence of continental culture. Korean culture, including its way of life, will not change overnight. It is difficult to change the Koreans’ outlook on life or the world, or change the appearance of the cultural layers of the Korean peninsula in a single morning without encountering emergencies of historical proportions. The same is also true in their material life.

In family life, too, there is a family-centered, genealogy-centered morality, and also the idea of inheritance by a legitimate son and respect for boys. Boys are respected even when they are children, while girls are treated lightly. The idea that the eldest male child is treated more seriously than the youngest male child will eventually cause obstacles in decision-making when the eldest son or only child becomes qualified to serve in the military. I have been thinking about whether or not there are points of hesitation when it comes to the survival of the family line in matters of family structure, and I have been discussing various ways forward. To this day, I’m not sure about the way forward, but what do you think?

Federation Director of Training, Mr. Ōie: The fact that it is difficult for their fathers and mothers to make up their minds today is not only a problem regarding today’s fathers and mothers. We have come to know that it is also a result of longstanding historical conditions that have inevitably led to this situation. Thus, I think we have to take a new approach in connection with what is going on.

Korea has not had any political training in its history. Dr. Tokuzō Fukuda once said that from an economic standpoint, Korea could not establish a full-fledged new economic system because it did not have the background to do so, as it is said that Korea did not pass through a feudal phase in its history. But the fact that Korea did not go through a feudal phase in its history was a very negative thing from a political and military standpoint. History has taught us how the Japanese Bushido (the way of the warrior) was trained by the feudal system through families, although mainland Japan no longer has a feudal system today. The political and military struggles of the various regions, domains, and feudal lords were the driving force that created the spirit of the Japanese people.

Korea had none of this. In mainland Japan, ever since the early days of the founding of Japan, even during the times when there still was no feudal system, the center of the nation has always been clearly defined. The people of Japan have always rallied around the center, and each and every one of them has submitted to the center. Every Japanese person without exception has been trained in the governance of the nation since its founding to express submission. In the process of its development, it has further refined its power through the feudal period. Even when the Japanese people were not coming into conflict with other peoples, military training has been added through the internal struggle for power within Japan.

Korea has had no such training. It had no struggles with external forces. Nor were there tense situations within Korea where two forces were at each other’s throats. They were only guided by Confucianism without any agency of their own. Today, in the face of war, this has given rise to a view of life and death in which one cannot make up one’s mind. If we go back to earlier times than the Yi Dynasty, the situation is a little different. There are many examples of the Silla, Baekje, and Goryeo dynasties that we can take up today and be inspired by.

Goryeo defeated the great army of Sui Dynasty, Baekje defeated the great army of Tang Dynasty, and Silla was training its young men in the Hwarang Corps. A 15- or 16-year-old child of a general went into battle, fought as fierce as a lion, and was taken prisoner. When he took off his helmet, it was revealed that he was still a boy. The enemy general even recalled that, since even the boys could fight like this, they could never win against Silla. The enemy general thought it would be a shame to behead him, and sent him home. When he returned home, his family said that he had returned home defeated and would not even let him see his dying father. This is just one example, but there were many such cases in Silla.

Mr. Watanabe: I completely agree with your opinion. In the Yi Dynasty, Confucianism was the core of family and social morality. The teachings of Confucianism are very good, and they include the principles of good moral training, family governance, political governance, and peaceful reign, but in Korea, they stopped short at good moral training and family governance, and forgot about the principles of good political governance and peaceful reign. I think this is the reason why the Korean people’s mindset has become stagnant and depressed.

Mr. Natsuyama: I agree.

Mr. Watanabe: Buddhism in Japan has always been linked to the Imperial family. The idea of filial piety is to be of service to the sovereign, and this is the Japanese view of life, which is not the case in Korea. Confucianism is not necessarily a bad thing, but in Japan, when the country was not yet under the principles of good political governance and peaceful reign, it was considered a great honor to die in front of the sovereign’s horse, and even the parents praised it. It is regrettable that, although individual Koreans thought about the development of their own families, they never thought about the development of Korea as a whole.

Nowadays, I think it is necessary to link Confucianism and Buddhism to the Imperial family.

Mr. Natsuyama: If we discuss the Koreans from a historical perspective, we will probably not be able to solve their problems even if we spend a year on it, so let’s move on to the issue at hand.

Generally speaking, Koreans have become Japanese in a short period of time. But where will their patriotic spirit come from when they suddenly become Japanese, considering that the Koreans have had a weak patriotic spirit since the old Joseon Dynasty? They have not yet arrived at the stage where they could say, ‘The Japanese empire is my country, and I must die a martyr for my nation.’

Koreans do not have the idea of a martial spirit. They are said to have literary effeminacy, but they are not even well educated. Even the sons of peasant farmers volunteer to serve as soldiers, and they do so as valiantly just like mainland Japanese soldiers. So it is not as if we should wait until they become like this. However, their weak patriotic spirit itself is something that has been carried over from the old Joseon Dynasty. There are many among the influential classes who, since annexation, have attained a certain level of patriotic spirit earlier than expected.

In short, they misunderstand Japan and do not fully grasp Japan. For example, a student at school simply dismisses the principal’s words just because they came from the principal, even if they are important.

The other is the ideology of the students, which is the result of their parents’ ideology manifested through the students along with their environment. There is no such thing as a student’s ideology which exists independently. Even if a student tries hard to become an Imperial person, it is not so easy to do so within the family. Nowadays, I hope that proper guidance is provided in this regard by the Federation, which is a touchstone for the manifestation of the patriotic spirit by influential Koreans.

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京城日報 1943年11月8日


























京城日報 1943年11月10日