Young Korean men were ‘beaten into shape’ at militaristic farmers’ dōjō (Imperial Japanese training indoctrination camp) to cultivate the next generation of rural Korean leaders who would spread the Imperial Way of farming throughout the Korean countryside (Daejeon, 1943)

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. It has never been republished or translated before, to the best of my knowledge.

I have to acknowledge historian Jeong Jae-jeong (정재정/鄭在貞) for writing an excellent paper about Imperial Japanese indoctrination camps in Korea, including farmers’ dōjōs, in his 2005 paper, ‘日帝下朝鮮における国家総力戦体制と朝鮮人の生活’ (‘The National Total War System in Korea under Imperial Japanese rule and the lives of the Korean people’), which he wrote in Korean and Japanese as part of a project of the Japan-Korea Cultural Foundation (Japanese language PDF link, Korean language PDF link). Unfortunately, this article is not available in English. 

As Jeong explains in his papers, colonial authorities set up training camps and centers for students, laborers, farmers, young women, and even government officials to indoctrinate Koreans in Imperial Japanese ways. The Yuseong Farmers’ Dōjō was one training camp that was originally set up more as a normal vocational center for local men to learn the latest modern farming techniques, but later taken over by Imperial Way fanatics to become more like a religious cult indoctrination center. There was apparently also a parallel Yuseong Women’s Training Center for young women to learn farming techniques, child rearing, and house chores, which Jeong mentions in his paper.

This article describes inmates singing songs by Ninomiya Sontoku (alternatively named Ninomiya Ginjiro), whose teachings South Korean dictator Park Chung-hee adopted in his New Community Movement, which was a campaign to modernize rural South Korea incorporating ideas from traditional Korean communalism and didactic techniques that were commonly used in Imperial Japan. Quoting a passage from The New Community Movement: Park Chung Hee and the Making of State Populism in Korea by Han Seung-mi:

Nevertheless, the New Community Movement met with genuine response from the countryside. Its key methodology was spiritual training. It was enforced under guidelines set by Park himself, and “non-economic” mental/social issues were addressed in order for the economy to prosper. Park was influenced by Japanese-style mental training, as were his high-ranking officials and policy advisors, who also believed in a Weberian emphasis on work ethics. “The Swiss had the Puritans, and the Japanese have Ninomiya Ginjiro” (interview, April 1999). Interesting, this comment by a former NCM policy maker at the Blue House was echoed by an elderly farmer in the countryside: “I knew instantly what the president was getting across. It was Ninoyama Ginjiro! He was in our 6th grade textbook!” (Interview with a farmer in his seventies, Yeoju County, Kyunggi Province, May 1999). In fact, it assumed an urban bias to assume that the culture of poverty—laziness, despair, and intemperance—was behind the slow economic growth in the countryside. Farmers in general had not given up on life before the NCM was introduced, as the slogans suggested. Rather, the problem was structural in nature. 


Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo) May 3, 1943 (Monday Special Edition)

Increase Production in Harmony with the Earth

Valiant Training Without Any Sundays Off

Young People Leading Tomorrow’s Farming Communities

In order to win the Greater East Asia War, it is necessary to increase production in all areas of production, and the Korean peninsula is currently continuing its daring battle toward increasing its military strength. In particular, Korea, which is called the ‘granary peninsula,’ is in a position of having to fulfill its duty given to it to increase food production. However, the emphasis on increasing food production is not limited to the conventional increase in crop yields. Indeed, Governor-General Koiso stresses the need to turn the farmers of the Korean peninsula into farmers of the Imperial Way at every opportunity, and explains the necessity of spiritual training. To this end, each province is committed to training the young men who are to become the central figures in the rural villages, and they are constantly training day and night at their respective farmers’ dōjōs.

How are the young farmers being trained? How are they creating the core group of young farming men who will carry the future of the Korean peninsula’s farming villages on their shoulders? This newspaper visited the Yuseong Farmers’ dōjō in Chungnam, the oldest farmers’ dōjō in Korea and a model for other provinces, to report with a pen and camera on the reality of “farmers being trained”. [Correspondent Kimura]

The sign says 忠清南道儒城農民道場, or Chungcheongnam-do Yuseong Farmers’ Dōjō.

How the dōjō is organized

The first farmers’ dōjō was established in Korea not long ago, during the reign of Governor-General Ugaki, as one of the measures to realize the policy of rural development, and was established in each rural village to train a core group of young men to become self-sufficient farmers. The Yuseong Farmers’ dōjō, established in June 1934, was the spearhead of this project. Since then, this facility has been recognized by each province as being very useful for training farmers, especially for creating core groups of young men in each village, and now there are no provinces without a farmers’ dōjō. At first, the goal was to establish self-sufficient farming through self-rehabilitation, but after the war, under the great mission to secure food for the Co-prosperity Sphere under the Greater East Asia War, there will be a strong demand to practice farming the Imperial Way, not simply to expand the area of arable land and rationally use fertilizers. They are being trained to “love the soil, live with the soil, and die with the soil” just as they do in mainland Japan, to practice Korean farming carried forth by spiritual training. For this reason, the Yuseong Farmers’ dōjō, which serves as a model for all of Korea, has increased its capacity from 60 to 100 inmates this year to accelerate the Imperialization of Korean farmers.

Photo: A panoramic view of the Yuseong Farmers’ dōjō in Chungnam.

This dōjō is located 12 kilometers from Daejeon, or a 30-minute walk from the Yuseong Hot Springs. The dōjō is surrounded by pine forests on one side and farm fields on three sides. It has a blessed environment with a view of orchards run by mainland Japanese operators in the far distance. The dōjō students currently undergoing training here are 60 men selected from the six counties of Daedeok, Yeongi, Gongju, Nonsan, Asan, and Cheonan. They live together in independent farmhouses in groups of five and undergo training without taking time off on Sundays.

The farmhouses were given names such as “rehabilitation,” “promotion,” “self-reliance,” “service,” “community,” “thrift,” “wise farming,” “benevolent farming,” “diligent farming,” “respectful farming,” “encouraging farming,” “loving farming,” and so on. For each farmhouse, whoever had the most outstanding academic background or agricultural ability was chosen to be the house leader, and he was placed in charge of the four remaining housemates. There are 12 farmhouses, six each on the east and west sides of the dōjō, with five people living in the same room, forming a completely independent farmhouse. There is a pigpen, a chicken coop, a compost shed, a cow shed, and so on. While they are cramped, they are equipped with the most ideal facilities for Korean farmers. The 12 farmhouses are of the same standard design and currently accommodate five people each. But since the dōjō is being planned to accommodate another 40 people in the near future, each farmhouse will eventually accommodate seven people each. There are plans to build two additional farmhouses. The dōjō owns arable land including rice paddies (4 chō + 1 se + 6 bu = 4.0 hectares or 9.8 acres), farm fields (5 chō + 4 tan + 6 se = 5.4 hectares or 13.4 acres), muddy fields (9 tan + 8 se + 5 bu = 1.0 hectare or 2.4 acres), forestland (6 chō + 8 tan + 6 bu = 6.7 hectares or 16.7 acres), 12 cows, 60 chickens, 18 sheep, and 12 rabbits, and is self-sufficient in everything except miso and soy sauce. On top of that, since annual revenues are 4,800 yen with vegetables alone, it means that highly intensive farming is being practiced compared to farmers overall. Since the number of inmates is increased by 40 while the amount of cultivated land remains the same, this means that we will have to put extra effort into intensive farming going forward.

In addition to the house leader, all four members of the farmhouse are assigned to the following tasks in an organized manner: rice cultivation, vegetables, animal husbandry, and facility management. In addition to the work assignments for each house, the dōjō as a whole is assigned a public morals officer, a power facility officer, a sales officer, a purchasing officer, and a cooking officer. All the harvested produce is submitted to the sales officer, and proceeds are transferred to the savings accounts of each farmhouse.

Beat them into shape to stop their “reliance on others”

Dōjō Life

The life of the dōjō students here is the same as that of the Navy: Monday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Friday, and the daily routine is repeated day in and day out with total discipline. In the morning, they wake up at 5:00 a.m., clean up the area around the farmhouse, tidy up the house, and wash up by 5:35 a.m. Then they gather in front of the Ōkura Worship Hall in the pine forest for the morning assembly, during which roll call is held, and then participants reverently bow towards the Worship Hall performing two claps, two bows, and then one clap, followed by Kyūjō Yōhai worship bowing in the direction of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo and then the Ise Jingū Yōhai worship bowing in the direction of Ise Shrine. Then the dōjō leader or instructor gives a speech, followed by national calisthenics exercises. From then until seven o’clock is the first working hour, during which they are assigned to work on such tasks as manure collection, weeding, straw work, farming, and livestock management, and in some cases, they are gathered in the auditorium for lectures.

Breakfast time is from 7:00 to 8:00 a.m. To instill a sense of gratitude for food, they are required to say the pre-meal and post-meal vows three times. For breakfast, the inmate would stand in front of a bowl of miso soup, takuan picked radishes, and a heaping pile of rice, with his palms pressed together, chopsticks between his thumb and forefinger, and say,

“I am deeply grateful to the gods and Buddha for their blessings and the labor of so many people that went into the food being served to us. I will not be averse to eating this food because it tastes bad, nor will I be greedy because it tastes good. Let’s eat.”

After making this vow, he takes his chopsticks, and finishing breakfast, he is full of strength in body and mind, and now he will strive hard to perform the morning’s work. The same vow is made at lunch, but they make the following vow after dinner:

“Now that dinner is over, we are full of strength, so let us reflect on today’s work and prepare for tomorrow.”

In addition, from February until the end of the training period in December, the students are required to memorize six Chinese characters a day, two at a time after each meal, in order to reach the goal of learning 2,000 Chinese characters. Although the dōjō students are usually graduates of national schools (elementary schools), they cannot actually write letters in their everyday language, so this training in Chinese characters is based on their parents’ wishes that, after they return to their villages, they will be able to read the correspondence from the local myeon (township) office and explain the contents to fellow villagers, or at least be able to write letters on their parents’ behalf.

After breakfast and learning Chinese characters, the second work period lasts until 12:50 in the afternoon, and the third work period lasts from 2:00 p.m. to sundown at 7:00 p.m. These are meant to be thorough “training periods” for the dōjō students to become farmers of the Imperial Nation. This daily routine is a time to seek a rethinking of the farming practices which they had been doing at home under the orders of their parents. It is a time to beat them into shape to rethink older farming practices involving reliance on others, which include sowing seasonal seeds according to the calendar, applying fertilizer when they sprout, giving up when it does not rain, and relying on others for help when there is drought. We teach them, if it doesn’t rain, dig a well. If insects appear, take them out. If there is not enough fertilizer, make more compost.

In fact, the farmers in this area only add 100 kan (375 kg) or at most 200 kan (750 kg) of compost per tan (0.1 hectare, or about 1/4 acre), but at this dōjō, they make it an absolute requirement to add 2,000 kan (7500 kg) of compost per tan. At 8:00 p.m., after the hard daytime agricultural training is over and dinner and after-dinner events are finished, lectures, diary entries, and round-table discussions are held as needed. At 9:00 p.m., the night assembly, roll call, night greetings, and greetings to the hometowns are held, and at the sound of the bell at 9:30 p.m., all 12 farmhouses turn off the lights and go to bed at once.

Competence is better than talk

All training is done in the military style, reward good work and punish bad work

Training of dōjō students

Dōjō students are selected among young men between 17 and 25 years of age. From the time they enter the dōjō in February until the busy farming season in April, they are exclusively trained to become accustomed to group life. This year’s dōjō students have completely picked up military-style training after only two months. One ring of the bell under the worship hall will prompt them to immediately gather at the same time, each farmhouse reporting nothing unusual among the five housemates, and all sixty of them instantly line up.

When the inmates first entered the dōjō, they were all different from each other. The children of poor farmers were accustomed to work, but their behavior was rough, and the worst ones did not even know how to use the toilet. The sons of independent farmers were frail and useless, and the best way to train them all at the same time was to train them military style. Next, it is important for the instructors to blend in with the dōjō students and be with them. Per long-standing practice, head instructors wake up before the students, ring the bell to wake them up, and eat the same meals together with the students. We also strictly enforce the “reward and punishment” policy, profusely praising students for good behavior and readily scolding them for bad behavior, and within two months they somehow become full-fledged dōjō students, just like in the military during the first inspection period.

The dining/lecture hall is crude with desks like chopping blocks, but all around hang the nameplates of students who completed the first through the ninth terms, and in front of them hangs a portrait of Yamazaki Nobuyoshi, a distinguished agricultural expert who is lauded as the ‘father of the Korean farmers’. Written on the portrait are the words, “Ideals are more important than appearances, beliefs are more important than titles, and competence is more important than talk”. The students strive to cultivate their spirit by singing the songs of Ninomiya Sontoku, following the lead of their instructors, so that these words are deeply engraved in the minds of the students.

Open Your Eyes

Characteristics of the dōjō

“Open your eyes! The eyes are not only for seeing what is on the surface. Look at the difference in the growth of the barley here and the barley next to it, and look for what is causing this difference. Opening your eyes means to look and to think.” When managing and sowing the barley, or practicing any work task, they are told to pay attention to the way they look at things. Just because you have sown the seeds and a crop is produced, it does not necessarily mean that you have ‘made’ the crop. Rather, the accomplishment comes when you work hard to take care of the soil, when there is not a single weed in the rice paddy, and the crop has been pleasantly produced. That’s the first time you can say that you have ‘made’ the crop. The dōjō’s approach to crops is aimed at instilling the concept of breathing in harmony with the soil, breaking away from the plundering mentality of agriculture that Korean farmers tend to fall into. 

In order to take advantage of the creativity and ingenuity of the dōjō students, the students are allowed to build their own livestock barns, compost sheds, and fences to accompany the 12 farmhouses, designing the structures in accordance with their own ideas. The dōjō is unique in that each farmhouse is led by a house leader, and each cow shed is built according to the students’ own ideas, and each chicken coop is built in a different way.

The production amount for fiscal year 1943 is projected to be 14,434 yen, and the farmers are instructed to reduce the amount land that they have been using to cultivate vegetables from 1 chō + 2 tan (2.9 acres or 1.2 hectares) last year to just 6 tan + 1 bu (1.5 acres or 0.6 hectares) this year, which is half the amount of land used last year, and still generate the same income as last year of 4,800 yen. In order not to reduce the amount of income by cutting back on cultivated land, cultivation cannot be done arbitrarily. Therefore, the farmers are taught accelerated cultivation under the guidance of the staff, and depending on their techniques, they are taught that they can increase their income. In fact, a paper greenhouse has been built on part of the farmland for early cultivation of cucumbers and eggplants, and some of the cucumbers have already been shipped out on April 10th.

A day at the farmers’ dōjō: (1) Morning assembly in front of the Ōkura Worship Hall, (2) Vows before meals, (3) Transporting fertilizers, (4) Cattle duty, (5) Cucumbers grown quickly in a paper greenhouse, (6) Sowing cotton between rows of barley in the field = at the Yuseong Farmers’ dōjō in Chungnam [Photo by Harada].



京城日報 1943年5月3日 (月曜特輯)