Japan insists conscripted labor issue solved in ’65

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Japan insists conscripted labor issue solved in ’65

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국무총리실 산하 일제강점하강제동원피해진상규명위원회가 2005년 2~6월 강제동원 피해 신고를 받았다. 신고 접수 첫날인 그해 2월 1일 서울 종로구에 위치한 진상규명위를 찾은 한 유가족이 일본군으로 징병됐다가 전사한 부친의 사진을 들어 보이고 있다. [중앙포토]

In response to a Supreme Court of Korea ruling allowing past wages and damages to Koreans conscripted to work in Japan during colonial rule, Tokyo said yesterday the issue of conscripted laborers and compensation was resolved decades ago.

Tokyo’s official position, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said yesterday at a press conference, is that the issue of conscripted laborers had been “completely resolved in an agreement between Korea and Japan in 1965.”

Nearly 70 years after their conscription, former Korean forced laborers have gotten closer than ever before to receiving compensation after the highest court ruled in favor of a group of eight who want compensation from Japanese companies that drafted them as forced laborers in Japan.

While most of the estimated 780,000 former Korean conscripted workers during the Japanese colonial rule from 1910 to 1945 are dead, the Supreme Court ruling on Thursday provided solace for their families.

“My deceased father rarely spoke of what happened in Japan,” said Park Jae-hun, 66, the son of a conscript worker for a Japanese company, with a tremor in his voice in a phone interview yesterday.

“He suffered from heart and lung conditions for all his life,” he said, “but did not show it to his family.”

His father, the late Park Chang-hwan, was taken by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to work for the company in 1944, and a year later was in Hiroshima when the atomic bomb fell on the city on Aug. 6, 1945. He was hit by a steel fragment which ripped away the flesh from his chin.

A month later, he smuggled himself out of Japan by boat to Korea.

After continuing to suffer from skin troubles and other illnesses, Park filed a suit with five other co-conscripts in the Korean courts in 2000. Those were six of eight former conscripts awarded past wages and damages by the Supreme Court on Thursday.

Park died in 2001 at the age of 77 without compensation from Mitsubishi. His son said after the Supreme Court ruling, “My father will now be able to rest in peace.”

Park’s five co-plaintiffs have also died, the final one last March at the age of 89.

The court said that if the former conscripted laborer was dead, his family would still be able to receive a limited amount of compensation.

The Ministry of Public Administration and Security said there are 226,583 people registered as victims by its committee to support former conscripts.

Kim Jae-cheon, head of an association for the families of former conscripted laborers to Japan, said at a meeting yesterday, “The battle is from now. The Supreme Court made a ruling but the Japanese government and Japanese companies will resist. Our government has to pressure the Japanese government.”

He also said Tokyo needs to release the list of its conscripted Korean laborers.

Such a list is likely to be kept in the Japanese government’s archives, he said, and it should include wages, pensions and other information.

The list will help calculate appropriate compensation for the former laborers. The Korean court’s ruling was met with skepticism by some Japanese media.

By Lee Dong-hyun, Sarah Kim [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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