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HOME  > Past issues  > 2010 June 30 - July 6  > All remains of wartime Korean forced laborers must be returned Akahata editorial
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2010 June 30 - July 6 [POLITICS]

All remains of wartime Korean forced laborers must be returned
Akahata editorial

June 6, 2010
There has been increasing criticism against the Japanese government’s delay in returning the remains of deceased Korean civilians who were forcibly brought to Japan for forced labor during World War II.

The bones of 219 deceased Koreans who were mobilized as Japanese military personnel by the Japanese government during the war were handed over to their bereaved families in South Korea on May 19. However, the investigation of the bones of Koreans who died as forced laborers in Japan during the war shows no signs of progress. The government does not even know how and where Korean laborers’ remains are kept. For the Japanese government, the need now is to make clear the reasons behind the delay in taking action and to do its utmost to immediately return the deceased Koreans’ remains to their families.

Responsibility of companies involved in forced labor

During WWII, Korean people were conscripted into the Japanese Imperial Army and were mobilized for forced labor by the Japanese government. The number of those who were engaged in forced labor is estimated to be more than one million. They worked at private companies as forced laborers and many of them died in Japan. The Japanese government must hold the responsibility for handing the remains back to the bereaved families.

The South Korean government decided to extend the period of providing financial assistance to bereaved families of wartime forced laborers in Japan to 2012. In order to receive the assistance, Korean families are required to obtain the remains or information about the remains from the Japanese government.

Although the Japanese government expressed its remorse for its colonial rule over Korea, it is unwilling to take the appropriate political action needed to resolve this issue. In particular, the government is reluctant to blame corporations for using forced laborers at that time.

Several thousand firms are said to have been connected with the use of forced labor. However, the government requested 120 or so firms to cooperate with investigative efforts in the 2005 survey regarding the remains of forced laborers. It is impossible to complete the investigation based only on cooperation from religious organizations and local municipalities alone. Information from corporations involved in the use of forced labor is indispensable. The government should do everything it can to reveal the names of corporations operating at the time and demand information about where the remains of the Korean workers are.

To identify the names of corporations operating at the time, it is particularly important that the Health, Labor, and Welfare Ministry publish a list of the workers covered by pension funds, which is in the ministry’s custody. The corporations to which Korean workers had been sent had to submit to the government lists giving their names and wages paid. By making the wartime pension fund list public, the names of corporations can be determined. Only if the government provides all related information regarding the forced laborers, including the pension fund list, can there be any progress in the return of the Korean workers’ remains.

Test of honesty

This year marks the centennial of the annexation of Korea to Japan which Japan imposed on Korea with military force. The treaty on the annexation of Korea, which Japan compelled Korea to sign before taking full militarily control over the Korean Peninsula, was illegal and unjustifiable. If the government insists on justifying the annexation of Korea, no progress will be possible in obtaining the return of remains which Japan promised to South Korea. The first thing the government must do is admit to the illegality of its colonization of Korea.

To not limit its remorse for the colonial rule to mere words and to actually put it into action, the government should commit itself to the task of returning the remains of wartime Korean workers still in Japan.
-Akahata, June 6, 2010
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