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HOME  > Past issues  > 2024 May 29 - June 4  > Gov’t admits to existence of lists of Korean victims of 1945 Ukishima-maru incident
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2024 May 29 - June 4 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Gov’t admits to existence of lists of Korean victims of 1945 Ukishima-maru incident

June 1, 2024
The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, unlike its previous claims, admitted that it holds the list of Koreans who were on board the Ukishima-maru, a Japanese Navy cargo ship carrying Koreans, including those taken to Japan as laborers, which sank soon after the end of WWII in August 1945. This came out on May 31 in response to Japanese Communist Party lawmaker Kokuta Keiji.

At a meeting of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee on the day, Kokuta said that after filing an information disclosure request, he recently obtained three boarding lists for the ship from the ministry. When asked by Kokuta if the ministry has more lists, State Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare Miyazaki Masahisa said, “So far, we confirmed the existence of about 70 lists.”

Two of the three lists, which the JCP lawmaker obtained, were created by Imperial Japanese Navy units in Aomori Prefecture on August 19 and August 24, 1945, respectively. The two lists contained 2,762 names of Korean passengers. Another list was compiled by a Nippon Express branch in Aomori on August 22, 1945. The list titled, “List of Koreans boarding the Ukishima-Maru”, contained 144 names. However, information on the three lists needed to specify individuals, such as name, date of birth, and when he/she was taken to Japan, were all blacked out.

Kokuta referred to the 1992 lawsuit which was filed by the bereaved families to call on the Japanese government to investigate the tragic incident, offer an apology, and compensate for damages.

Kokuta pointed out, “In the 1992 lawsuit, in response to the plaintiffs’ request to disclose boarding lists and other materials related to the victims, the government said that such documents had not been found. Why?” Miyazaki replied, “Documents that the plaintiffs called for being disclosed contain the names of persons ‘planning to board’ the ship. They are not the lists of people who were ‘actually’ on board.”

Kokuta cited a previous case in which the government in response to the South Korean government request provided lists of Koreans taken to Japan as war-time forced laborers. He asked about the possibility of submitting to Seoul the same lists as provided to Kokuta if requested. Foreign Minister Kamikawa Yoko gave no clear response.

Kokuta said, “The least the Japanese government should do is to publish the lists of Koreans who boarded the Ukishima-maru as demanded by the bereaved families in order for them to mourn the victims.”

On August 24, 1945, the Ukishima-maru cargo ship carrying 3,735 Koreans, including those who were being taken to Japan as forced laborers, was sunk off the coast of Maizuru on its way to Busan, the nearest major port to Japan on the Korean Peninsula. In this tragedy, 549 Korean laborers and their family members were killed.
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