Forced Laborers Seek Due Compensation
Japan's recent decision to provide a pittance as compensation to Koreans who served as forced laborers for the Japanese military during the Second World War has infuriated the victims.
The move has led many Koreans to revisit the unresolved issue of post-colonial compensation, especially ahead of the 100th year of Japan's 1910 annexation of Korea.
Leading newspapers in Japan reported Wednesday that the country's Social Insurance Agency (SIA) sent 99 yen ($1.08) as part of a welfare pension refund to seven Korean women who were forced to work during Japan's occupation of Korea from 1910 through 1945.
The payment is a result of a lawsuit filed against the Japanese government in 1998 by the women to claim the value of a welfare pension fund that they paid while working at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries between October 1944 and August 1945.
The plaintiffs have boycotted the payment and are seeking the SIA's re-examination of their complaints for due compensation.
To protest the inadequate compensation, 81-year-old plaintiff Kim Sung-joo lead a rally in front of the Japanese Embassy in central Seoul, Thursday, with other victims and supporters from civic groups.
"I was deceived into forced labor without payment. They told me that I would be compensated upon returning to Korea, but I haven't heard from the authorities over the past 64 years," Kim said.
The protesters strongly denounced the payment, particularly for not reflecting the inflationary value of the amount they had initially paid.
The SIA said that it sent the payment of 99 yen to bank accounts held by each of the seven plaintiffs after the local government of Aichi Prefecture, where a Mitsubishi Heavy Industry factory was located, calculated the payment.
The amount of the payment was calculated according to the nation's Employees' Pension Insurance Act, according Japanese reports.
The protest is generating controversy over how to collect compensation for the hundreds of thousands of other Koreans who were coerced into labor for Japan during the Second World War.
Since 2005, around 227,984 complaints have been filed by forced labor victims with the Truth Commission on Forced Mobilization under Japanese Imperialism, a state agency in Seoul that investigates colonial damages. It was founded in 2004 under the previous Roh Moo-hyun administration.
The Commission has asked Tokyo to provide a full list of Korean victims eligible for welfare pension refunds, but the Japanese government has not been responsive to the request.
During its 1910-45 colonization of the Korean Peninsula, Tokyo forced hundreds of thousands of Koreans to work in coal mines and military facilities in and around the country to support its war efforts. Some were forced to serve in brothels for Japanese soldiers during the final years of the occupation.
Since Korea's independence from Japan, Koreans have continued to raise the issue of compensation for the damages of the 30-year occupation, while Japan has contended that the 1965 Korea-Japan Treaty cleared all compensation claims for the colonization.
Many Koreans are hoping that the Japanese government will show more sincerity toward issues regarding compensation.