Western firms including Shell, Mobil, HSBC, Otis Elevator, Singer were active in colonial Korea, a US firm had a corn starch factory in Pyongyang, until the regime confiscated their assets with the outbreak of war, accused of having a ‘Jewish spirit’ which ‘exploits the entire wealth of mankind’

This is an article from December 1942, and it particularly stands out for its especially antisemitic, anti-American, and anti-British messaging. It is part of a series of articles written to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Pacific War against the United States, which began with the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7th local time (December 8th Japan time) in 1941. Setting aside the hateful content, this article provides a unique insight into the British and American corporations that were actively operating in Korea before they were confiscated by Imperial Japanese authorities about two months after the outbreak of war.

The article lists 15 British and American corporations actively operating in colonial Korea, including what were apparently joint ventures operating under the names of local companies, like Sakuma Industries, Pyonggang Industries, Unchang Industries, and a U.S. joint venture, Corn Product Refining Company, that apparently ran a corn starch factory in Pyongyang. Shell and Mobil had gas stations throughout Korea. Singer Corporation sold sewing machines to the Korean public under layaway plans. Other surprising appearances include HSBC, Otis Elevators, North British Mercantile Insurance Company, and Commercial Union Insurance Company.

Unlike colonies run by Western countries, Imperial Japan allowed Western companies to come and operate inside Korea from the very beginning, when Korea was annexed in 1910. Western missionaries set up hospitals and schools, and mining operations were started by Western companies. However, leading up to 1941, restrictions against Westerners were gradually escalated. In April 1940, Westerners were no longer allowed to buy land in major cities and within 4 kilometers of railroads. In July 28, 1941, regulations for the control of foreign nations, aimed at U.S. and Philippines residents, were passed, and even stricter regulations were passed after the outbreak of war.

I was able to figure out many of the company names and the above background information thanks to an excellent 2011 Japanese-language academic paper (PDF) entitled “The Management and Disposal of the Westerner’s Property in Colonial Korea during the Second Sino-Japanese War, the Pacific War and the Korean Liberation Period, 1937-1948”, written by Ahn Jong-cheol (안종철, 安鍾哲).

However, further offline research will be needed to clarify some issues about this list. What company was “Compronpial”? My speculation is, maybe they misread the faded text saying “Compton” as “Complon”, and the actual name of the company started with “Compton”. There is no online historical information about many of the listed companies, including “Compton”, Uo-oto pharmaceuticals, and the local companies, so the historical trail will have to be picked up offline in libraries.


Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo) December 5, 1942

Roots stretched throughout all of Korea

The epitomy of loan sharks,

Totally reborn into a new wing of the war effort

Shut out the United States and Britain!

One year since [the start of the Pacific War on December 8th]

Production Edition

Of our country’s total production, the amount of production that the Korean peninsula assumes as a military base of operations is [redacted] billion yen, or about 10% of our country’s total production. The clutches of the enemy’s capital extended even into this great peninsula’s output. Before the war, the amount of the enemy’s capital reached a total of [redacted], turning the Korean peninsula into a bastion of American and British capitalism’s aggression and exploitation of Greater East Asia by casting an insidious web of financial power.

As soon as the Greater East Asia War broke out, at 10:00 a.m. on December 9 of last year, the Ministry of Finance issued regulations (asset freezes) for the control of foreign nationals. The Ministry of Finance issued a notice to the American and British nationals that all general permission orders would be forfeited. Even in Korea, the Enemy Assets Control Law was immediately enforced on December 12 of that year to actively control assets belonging to the enemy and quasi-enemy nationals. On February 7, the Enemy Assets Control Law was implemented for trading companies, especially commercial corporations belonging to the production sector. Here, the Japanese government confiscated enemy assets, which now play a role in the war aims of the new Japan that prospers as it fights. Active efforts have begun to use the confiscated enemy assets to supply the war effort. The following are some of the major confiscated enemy assets:

Firstly, the U.S. and British oil companies including Standard Vacuum Oil Company (U.S.), Rising Sun Petroleum (U.K.), The Texas Company (China) Limited (U.S.), followed by Singer Corporation (U.S.), Compronpial (U.S.), and Nippon National (U.S.). Japanese grain companies and others include Uo-oto Pharmaceutical Company (U.S.), North British Mercantile Insurance Company (U.K.), Tōyō Otis Elevator (U.S.), Shinkō Cotton (U.K.), Hongkong and Shanghai Bank (U.K.), Commercial Union Insurance Company (U.K.), Sakuma Industries (U.S.), Pyonggang Industries (U.K.), and Unchang Industries (U.K.). The capitalization of these 15 companies amounted to over [redacted] million yen.

The three oil companies alone had invested 450,000,000 yen. They built an oil depot in Busan and expanded their sales channels to all corners of the Korean peninsula, making a strong inroad into Korea’s economic world and focusing on invasion and exploitation. They attracted attention by using the symbol of a heavenly horse or a shell-shaped mark on street corners. Gasoline stations and signage were also outlandishly set up in the streets.

Those dens of U.S. and British aggression are still fresh in our memories, but in the first year of the Holy War, the people’s determination to destroy the U.S. and Britain, their sworn enemies, successfully swept away the Americans and the British, and the stronghold of aggression that they had built over the past hundred years was replaced by the blade of justice that was aimed at their throats. The taxis, trucks, and buses that sped through the streets have now been replaced by fuel-efficient vehicles, and the triumphant songs of scientific Japan are now played in high spirits. Out of mischief, gas stations previously painted with bright red and yellow paint were reduced to signboards calling for the defeat of the U.S. and Britain.

Yoshikuni Nakatani was newly appointed to become president of the U.S.-affiliated Japan Grain Company, which boasts a vast site and modern facilities on the banks of the Taedong River in Pyongyang with a capital investment of 780 million yen. He has been making strenuous efforts to increase food production for Japan, which is now fighting a new battle every day. In April 1930, the U.S.-affiliated company began manufacturing starch from Korean corn, with an annual production of [redacted] hundred-thousand tons. In the meantime, he paid 200,000 a year to the U.S. government for the use of a U.S. patent, and also manufactured high-grade oil and chemicals as by-products. The company expanded its sales channels not only within Korea and mainland Japan, but also in the Chinese mainland. They were literally enjoying the beautiful juice of exploitation, and they had cast and unleashed their plutocratic financial web. They have always exploited under the guise of “equal opportunity” and the welfare of mankind. It is the Jewish spirit to spread surplus money all over the world and exploit the entire wealth of mankind in all corners of the world. The Greater East Asia War is also a war to drive this Jewish spirit out of the land and skies over Greater East Asia.

Their ingenious and extremely vicious dollar policies ate up nations and insatiably sucked the blood and fat of the world’s humanity. The death struggles between Germany and the Soviet Union, the defeat of France, and the downfall of the Netherlands and other small countries were all the results of their schemes. We can all be taken in by their ingenious schemes before we even know it. A good example is the monthly installment sales of Singer sewing machines.

When we think about the fact that most of the people to whom they sold these machines were meager monthly wage earners, and that most of them were using their meager paychecks to support their greed, we still become infuriated at the insatiable inhumanity of it all. The monthly installment system is a vicious business scheme designed by the U.S. to squeeze every last penny out of the world’s poor.

One year after the war began, the world’s loan sharks, the U.S. and Britain, have been completely defeated, and even here on the Korean peninsula, the triumphal song of victory over the U.S. and Britain has been loudly proclaimed. All enemy facilities have now become activated as important parts of Japan’s war efforts, rehabilitated as the driving force for the grand creation of Greater East Asia. The peoples of the Philippines, East Indies, Malaysia were previously deprived of their lands and had their nations destroyed, but they are now growing rapidly under the warm military rule of the Imperial Japanese forces.

The world’s loan sharks have been using all kinds of tactics to continue inflicting suffering. They want beds, clothes, hats, and even shoes to be paid for by monthly installments. It is more difficult to provide healthy lives to the people under such a system than it is for a great person to be born from perfectly ordinary parents. Moreover, their usual modus operandi is to hone in on people who are in difficult situations, beat up each and every member of the human race, and then seize their land after first wreaking havoc on the national characters of their nations. [Photo: An abandoned gas station]

Source: https://www.archive.org/details/kjnp-1942-12-05


京城日報 1942年12月5日