Study shows extent of forced labor

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Study shows extent of forced labor

The Truth Commission on Forced Mobilization Under Japanese Imperialism said yesterday that nearly 6,000 Koreans were abducted and forced into labor on the South Sea Islands between 1939 and 1941.

The research, done under the prime minister’s office, is the first of its kind in Korea. There has been no official response from the Japanese about the study as yet.

The South Sea Islands, including Micronesia, were under Japanese control from 1914 through 1945, and were the sites of fierce battles between Japan and the United States during the Pacific War.

The fact-finding commission started research on this matter in 2006. It confirmed that the number of Korean residents on the islands increased dramatically after Japan began to take Koreans for forced labor.

In 1938, there were only 704 Koreans on the islands, accounting for 1 percent of the total population. That number shot up to 5,800 by 1941.

The commission said it’s likely that more Koreans were sent to forced labor in the South Sea Islands from 1942 until the Pacific War ended in August 1945, but it cannot give the exact number of forced workers because there has been no research done on this period.

The Japanese government originally conscripted Korean laborers to build an airfield and grow sugar cane. When the Pacific War broke out, the commission estimated that at least 60 percent of the conscripted Koreans died from hunger, bombing and being used as human shields. Many Korean laborers were used as suicide bombers forced to run into U.S. soldiers or tanks, the commission found.

“There are still many holes in our research,” said Kim Myeong-hwan, the commission’s official in charge of the research team. “The top priority for the government now is to find records to unearth the situation at that time.”


By Kim Mi-ju [mijukim@joongang.co.kr]

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