The Shinto Shrine Issue in Korean Christianity under Japanese Colonialism
Kim, Sung-Gun, Journal of Church and State
The main theme of this essay focuses upon the different responses given by the churches to the Shinto shrine issue in Korea under Japanese colonialism. As the editors of The International Review of Missions recorded in the special issues for April 1940 and July 1940, one of the gravest questions confronting Christian churches during the war (1931-1945) was that of observance at State Shinto shrines in the Japanese Empire, especially in Korea. State Shinto or nationalistic Shinto ideology was used to facilitate the so-called peaceful offensive of Japanese military expansion.
The international and domestic situation in Japan after the outbreak of the Manchurian Incident demanded an intensification of the policy of "Japanization" in Korea.l The establishment of the puppet state of Manchukuo in 1932 by Japan's expansionist authorities placed Korea in a significantly new position in the areas of communication, economy, and defense of the Japanese Empire. In more concrete terms, Japan needed not only the material resources and the strategic position of the Korean peninsula but also the "native manpower" for conscription. Thus, the need for the loyalty and devotion of the Korean people to the empire became, from the Japanese viewpoint, more urgent than ever before.
It was important to the Japanese that they should have authority, not merely power. As a means of making Koreans loyal subjects, the Japanese administration attempted, at any cost, to bring about the cultural assimilation of Korea by urging the population to revere the emperor and to offer obeisance at Shinto shrines. Since the annexation of Korea in 1910, the expressed policy of the Japanese government had been to make all members of the subjected peoples into standardized Japanese subjects, both legally and psychologically. But the policy of cultural assimilation failed, mainly because of the widespread and institutionalized practice of racial discrimination. Forced worship at the Shinto shrines or daily bows in an eastern direction-to Tokyo (Tongbang yobae) annoyed rather than converted Koreans.
Historically, a very important measure for strengthening the position of State Shinto or Shinto nationalism in Japan was the promulgation of the Imperial Rescript on Education (Kyoiku Chokugo) on 30 October 1890.2 The fundamental principle of morality adopted in this reform was the Confucian-Shinto concept of reverence towards the proper authorities. But at the time of the Imperial Rescript, religious teaching in the schools was prohibited as a result of the early Meiji government's granting freedom of religion in the Constitution.3 Under such circumstances the "nonreligious" status for the official cult of State Shinto was enforced. Particularly, beginning in 1900, government officials emphatically insisted that the state ceremonies were not religious in nature. Beginning in 1932, the governor-general of Korea required that all school personnel-principals, teachers, and studentsshould attend ceremonies at Shinto shrines. The Japanese authorities maintained that these ceremonies were primarily patriotic celebrations or national rites: shrine worship was not a religious act, but a political expression of patriotism. Some of the foreign missionaries accepted this contentious explanation and met the Japanese requirement; others looked upon the shrine ceremonies as religious worship, and they saw it as a matter of conscience. In point of fact, there was a division of opinion and action among the various Christian churches on the matter of Shinto shrine attendance, which occurred to some extent along denominational lines. From the beginning, the Presbyterians concluded that the issue was clearly religious: between Christian monotheism and Shinto polytheism.4 The Methodist and Catholic missions, unlike the Presbyterians, yielded to Japanese pressure regarding observances at Shinto shrines.
KOREAN CHRISTIANITY AND THE SHINTO SHRINE ISSUE …
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Publication information: Article title: The Shinto Shrine Issue in Korean Christianity under Japanese Colonialism. Contributors: Kim, Sung-Gun - Author. Journal title: Journal of Church and State. Volume: 39. Issue: 3 Publication date: Summer 1997. Page number: 503+. © 1999 J.M. Dawson Studies in Church and State. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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