This propaganda editorial from 1943 spreads the myth that the Korean people invited Imperial Japan to colonize Korea, alleging that one million Koreans submitted a petition (韓日合邦を要求する声明書/한일합방을 요구하는 성명서) to Imperial Japan to annex Korea. If it that were true, that would mean that one in every 13 Koreans alive at the time supported annexation. But the historical evidence strongly suggests that this is not true. A Japanese historical blogger did some in-depth research into the annexation petition here, and found lots of documentation suggesting that the one million figure was fabricated. The blogger found that the one million figure referred to the self-reported membership count of Iljinhoe (一進會; 일진회), a pro-Japan organization in Korea formed in 1904 which was responsible for submitting this annexation petition in December 1909, that the true number of Koreans who signed the petition was closer to 3,000, and that opposition to the annexation petition was overwhelming and widespread. In addition, there was evidence that Uchida Ryohei, a Japanese ultranationalist agent, was actually the one who initiated the petition.
Sadly, this myth is still making the rounds in Japan today. To illustrate this, I’m sharing some anti-Korean comments reacting to an article from 2channel, a Japanese online forum, dated February 28, 2022, about then South Korean presidential candidate Yoon Seok-youl who responded to his opponent Lee Jae-myung who said that Ukraine provoked Russia into invading it, by rhetorically asking whether Korea provoked Imperial Japan into colonizing it. I’m not sharing it as an active link since it contains pornographic ads. Warning: The following comments contain graphic language (translations are in red text).
Now, I know that it is controversial to translate racist comments from the Netto Uyo cesspool of the internet, which according to this study is populated mostly by middle-aged Japanese men, but the frequency at which this myth appeared in just one 2channel post seemed unusually high to me (over 10 posts in the first 100 posts), so I believed it was in the public interest to document this and demonstrate just how pervasive historical misinformation has become in modern Japanese society.
I would point fingers at the far-right political leanings of the modern Japanese establishment which longs for the restoration of prewar and wartime Japanese society, which they nostalgically perceive as morally pure and righteous. This is known in Japanese as 昭和回帰 or 戦前回帰, or Showa restorationism or prewar restorationism, respectively. The unreformed Imperialists consolidated power in postwar Japan ever since the American occupation rehabilitated them and propped them up to serve as a reliable anti-communist force during the Cold War. The postwar legacy of the unreformed Imperialists can be traced through the legacy of former Prime Minister Kishi Nobusuke and his grandchild, Abe Shinzo, as I have explained in this lengthy blog post.
I would not underestimate the power and impact of translating controversial comments into English. There is a Great Translation Movement on Twitter translating the official pronouncements and of the Chinese government and comments of Chinese internet users into English, and it’s causing the state-run media in China to attack it as a ‘smear campaign’. The translations undermine the carefully created public image that the Chinese government has groomed for itself, and it’s harder for them to hide its embarrassing extremist ideas.
While the Imperial Japanese newspapers are decades old, a lot of the political ideas that they promoted are surprisingly still supported in the far-right elements of the Japanese government today, like the Nippon Kaigi (which current Prime Minister Kishida is a member of) and the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform. That is why Imperial Japanese propaganda editorials from 1943 are still relevant to modern Japanese politics today.
Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo) March 7, 1943
The True Meaning of National Identity and the Righteous Peninsula
By Kamata Sawaichiro
The Core of the Japanese World View
Revealing the Great Ideal of Hakko Ichiu
Japanese rule over Korea is the manifestation of the great ideal of Hakko Ichiu, which is the core of the Japanese worldview, and as a model of our national engineering, our rule over Korea is an internationally unprecedented model of national governance whose righteousness should be proudly shown off to the nations of the world by the Great East Asian Nation as an excellent state policy.
This state policy consists of non-exploitative rule in accordance with the Imperial Way, respecting ethnic groups, respecting each individual, begging for their future development and improvement, and trying to bestow upon them, as soon as possible, the same personality as the leading ethnic group of the home country, which is a phenomenal approach.
It goes without saying that the annexation of Korea was not done by mere military force. Objective circumstances are that the Korean Peninsula is in a geopolitical situation that does not allow for the existence of a small nation with an area of 220,000 square kilometers and a population of less than 20 million. The leaders of the time arrived at a position where they had no choice but to choose one of three options: to become a vassal state of Qing China, with whom Korea had deep, longstanding political, cultural, and geopolitical ties, to become dependent on Russia, which was aiming its sights at Manchuria and Mongolia, or to join hands with the newly emerging Japan. The leaders of the time wisely chose the path of annexation, foreseeing the prosperous future of Japan’s national fortunes, and they did so voluntarily. The fact that the petition for annexation, which was mediated mainly by the Iljinhoe, was signed by over one million people is proof of this.
In addition, when Japan considered that the prosperity of its nation’s destiny was strongly linked to the Asia continent, Japan thought that placing Korea in a close and inseparable relationship with itself would truly establish the basis for peace in East Asia, because Korea occupied an important geographical position as a bridge to the Asian continent. Thus, this is how the bloodless union of the two peoples occurred. Korea is not a mere colony as Westerners would understand it, and governance policies in Korea are not to be seen as official colonial policies.
However, if we analyze things in a Western way, we can say that governance policies in Korea belong to the category of home country extensionist assimilation policies. However, we must not overlook the fact that these policies are not merely uniformitarian, and they started from the basis of something uniquely Japanese.
The colonial policies of countries around the world at that time were based on the belief that assimilation was the best policy. Uniform assimilation was being practiced everywhere, and it was said to be the ideal method of governing different ethnic groups. However, various countries which been practicing this policy have mostly been failing.
Assimilationism was originally adopted mainly by the three Latin countries of Spain, Portugal, and France, which continued the Roman Empire’s policy of assimilation. They called their colonial territories ‘extensions of the home country’ or ‘overseas provinces’. They ignored the traditions and cultures of the indigenous ethnic groups, and forced them to integrate with the ethnic groups of the home country. Such national individualism produced the same results as the tyrannical policy of direct rule. As a result, Spain, Portugal and France had painful experiences of failure in places like Algeria, India, and China.
France’s colonial measures were based on Marquis de Condorcet‘s doctrine that “the good law is good for all men as though it were a just and logical proposition”. However, despite aiming for a strong cohesion between the home country and its colonies, the colonial measures of France mostly resulted in failure due to the home country putting its own interests first. It was impossible to govern colonies that differed from the home country in ethnicity, history, customs, culture, and social organization with exactly the same rules and regulations as the home country.
The same was true of Algeria, which had a low level of civilization, as well as India and China, which had a relatively higher level of culture. The higher the degree of difference in the traditions and cultures between the ethnic groups that are coming into contact with each other, the more easily difficult problems emerge. The French colonial policy was seriously flawed in that it attempted to force assimilation on native peoples who, due to their strong differences, could not share the same national consciousness as the French. The failure of the uniform assimilation policy was not limited to France, but was also true in Germany, the United States, and Russia.
The actual situation of colonial rule in other countries was no different from that of tyrannical subordination and ended in failure with coercion sparking rebellion, despite the highest goal of assimilation policy being to solve problems with ethnic groups. In contrast, only Japan has succeeded in its assimilation policies – what is the significance of this fact? It is because there are two major issues at stake: objective natural conditions and the reality of Imperial rule.
Assimilation assumes heterogeneity as a starting point, and it is fully realized when a new structural quality is created through the cross-fertilization of different cultures. To realize this assimilation, the living spaces of the respective ethnic groups have to be close together, there have to be many points of contact between the respective cultures, and interactions have to be frequent for a long period of time.
The assimilation and fusion of the Japanese and Korean peoples has been fundamentally blessed with these natural and historical conditions.
In other words, since the founding of their respective nations, interactions between Japan and Korea first began as a geographically bound communal body, but then they are progressing to become a blood-bound communal body, and in modern times, they will form an intimate communal body of destiny. This will be clearly confirmed when the authentic cultural communal body of Asian culture forms a consistent stream and becomes apparent as heightened reality.
The following is from my book, “The New Way of Manchurian Emigration”. Let us take a look at two or three of my humble observations on this issue.