The Lim Family portrayed as happy, model pro-Japanese Koreans eagerly sending their eldest son Yeongjo to enlist in the ‘honorable’ Imperial Army as his little sister Imako-chan frolics with joy (Dec. 1943)

In December 1943, amidst the turmoil of World War II, Korea found itself under the colonial rule of Imperial Japan, contributing to Japan’s war effort against the U.S. and Britain. A fascinating glimpse into this period is offered through a propaganda article published by the Keijo Nippo, the official newspaper of the colonial government in Seoul, which governed Korea from 1905 to 1945.

This article introduces us to the Lims, portrayed as the ideal Korean family under Japanese rule. The Lims are portrayed as fervently patriotic towards Imperial Japan, eagerly preparing to send their eldest son to fight for the Emperor. The mother is described as worrying whether her son will pass the physical examination required for enlistment in the Imperial Army. This portrayal starkly contrasts with what might be a more common anxiety for Korean mothers today: Suneung college entrance exams.

This piece is just one of the many news articles that I have been uncovering and documenting as part of a broader project to better understand the Korean colonial experience from previously unexplored angles, especially this colonial newspaper that time has mostly forgotten and neglected. By examining these articles, I hope to uncover additional new perspectives into the colonial era of Korean history, which is generally seen as a dark period of national humiliation by the Korean people. I also hope to share additional insights into how the colonial regime sought to shape Korean society and how Korean individuals and families navigated the challenges of life under Imperial Japanese rule.

Almost exactly 2 years later on December 8, 1945, the Korean editors of the newly liberated Keijo Nippo newspaper published a scathing editorial decrying the crimes, injustices, and inhumanities perpetrated by Imperial Japan, including conscription like this one.


Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo) December 10, 1943

Awaiting the Day When He Passes His Exam

The Joyful Family of Mr. Lim

Visiting the Home of a Student Soldier (Last Part of the Series)

Mr. Lim Yeongjo (림영조, 林栄造) and his family reside at No. 90, Gwanhun-dong, Jongno District, Seoul, and the whole family is radiating a bright ambiance. The home of student soldier Yeongjo is also where his father, Mr. Lim Keol (림걸, 林傑), and his mother, Yeongji (영지, 令枝), both not yet over forty-five years old, are in good health. Aside from Yeongjo, the eldest son, he has a younger brother Yusu (유수, 有秀), who is a fifth-year student at Susong (수송, 壽松) National School, and an adorable younger sister, Imako-chan, who attends kindergarten. They are playfully making such a commotion that passersby in the neighborhood cannot help but murmur, “Something significant must have happened in this house.”

“I will also go to war following my brother,” Imako-chan innocently blurts out. At that point, Yusu interjects, “You can’t because you’re a girl. War is scary, you know.” “It’s not scary at all. My brother is a strong soldier, so if I hold his hand, nothing bad will happen,” she retorts. “She is always this lively, leaving us no peace. Ha ha ha…” Mr. Lim Keol, a father devoted to the Military Nation, never takes his delighted eyes off his exuberant children. Ignoring the severe cold of winter, it seems that spring has arrived for only this family alone.

This cheerful scene has been repeated every morning and evening since Yeongjo volunteered with a fervent wish to join the honorable Imperial Army. “Even if the children are happy, their joy doesn’t quite reach me yet, because I’m anxious about whether he will pass his upcoming examination,” his mother Yeongji later said, filled with a mother’s typical worries. “If he fails his examination, he can’t become a soldier, right?” Up until now, Imako-chan, who had been frolicking, suddenly starts to cry.

Exactly. More than anyone, our Yeongjo must pass his examination for the sake of his sister and brother. His glorious examination starts on the 11th, but I’m so worried. Ever since he volunteered to be a part of the glorious Imperial Army, I, as his mother, have never felt such a thrilling joy, nor have I ever experienced such anxiety waiting for the day of his examination, to the point where I cannot sleep well at night.

While mothers in mainland Japan are dedicating one, two, or even three to five children to the battlefield for the completion of the Holy War, we mothers on the Korean peninsula have continued to feel ashamed and embarrassed. But now, under the clear blue sky, we Korean mothers can finally walk proudly as mothers of the Military Nation. However, all of this means nothing if he does not pass the examination. I believe this feeling is shared not just by me but by all mothers of new heroes on the Korea peninsula,” his mother Yeongji elaborates, watching her child, the student soldier, playfully bounce around with his siblings before going to school.

“Brother, let’s go quickly,” Yusu calls out, having left a step ahead. “Yeah, let’s go,” Yeongjo responds. Yeongjo will go to school to build up his martial arts skills, aiming for certain victory in passing the important examination that awaits him tomorrow. Imako-chan is still playfully clinging to the back of her student soldier brother. Standing to see them off, the father and mother murmur, “We look forward to the day when we can send him off to enlist with pride.” “Are you and mom just going to send us off here? I’m going to carry the flag and go to the train station,” Yusu adds, prompting a burst of laughter. [Photo = The Family Sending Off Yeongjo]



京城日報 1943年12月10日