Japan payment of less than $1 to Korean WWII victims for forced labor draws outrage

  • A civic group in South Korea has denounced the less- than- one- dollar pension payment from the Japanese government to victims of forced labor during its occupation of the peninsula.
  • The Japanese Forced Mobilization Civic Group called the payment “a malicious ridicule and an insult” at a press conference on Thursday.
  • A 92-year-old forced labor victim by the name of Chung Sin-young also spoke at the conference, calling Japan’s behavior “absurd.”
  • While presenting the deposit information in her passbook, Chung said, “They gave me 931 won, which cannot even cover the cost of children’s snacks. They forced children into labor without providing proper meals, and they still have not apologized.”
  • She continued, “There isn’t much time left for us grandmothers. We urge you to hurry and apologize.”

The Japanese government has doled out a pension payment to victims of forced labor during the country’s occupation of Korea, but at less than $1 per individual, the move has only prompted further outrage from those affected.  

The Japanese Forced Mobilization Civic Group denounced the pension payment on Thursday, claiming a number of victims of forced labor received only 931 won (approximately $0.74). The civic group said the payment was “a malicious ridicule and an insult” and urged the Japanese government to “apologize for the 931 won payment and disclose all unpaid wages and pension records of victims of forced labor.”

“The Japanese government has insulted the victims who are now in their 90s by paying ridiculously small amounts of money,” an official for the group was quoted as saying by The Korea Herald. “The pension should have been paid at the time of liberation, when the victims returned to Korea. The Japanese government had hidden the existence of the pension that the victims deserve, and defamed them repeatedly.”

The less- than- one- dollar pension payments are roughly equivalent to what the Japanese government would have paid out at the time of liberation over 70 years ago and does not take into consideration the increased currency value. The civic group claims that Japan attributed the amount to a lack of regulation requiring value adjustment. 

During a press conference held by the civic group, a 92-year-old forced labor victim by the name of Chung Sin-young called Japan’s behavior “absurd.” 

Chung was 14 at the time she was taken to the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ Nagoya Aircraft Manufacturing Plant in May of 1944 and forced to work without any compensation. She barely made it back home once Korea was liberated from Japan’s colonialism. 

Chung was one of 11 victims with similar experiences who sued the Japanese government for pension in March 2021. The plaintiffs had demanded the Japanese pension organization look into records for evidence of their forced labor. The evidence would enable the plaintiffs to claim compensation from the Japanese government or companies with a history of involvement in these war crimes. 

The 10 other victims have died over the past year and a half since filing the suit, leaving Chung as the only one to receive the payment on July 6. 

While presenting the deposit information in her passbook, Chung said, “They gave me 931 won, which cannot even cover the cost of children’s snacks. They forced children into labor without providing proper meals, and they still have not apologized.”

She continued, “There isn’t much time left for us grandmothers. We urge you to hurry and apologize.” 

This isn’t the first time that the Japanese government has issued this sort of payment as a pension.

Yang Geum-deok was 80 years old when she received 99 yen (approximately $0.74) from the Japanese government in 2009, sparking public outrage. Four other victims who sought out compensation received 199 yen (approximately $1.40) in 2014. 

From 1938 to its fall in 1945, imperial Japan imposed a rule that would call for the exploitation of resources, both human and material, from the Korean peninsula. Approximately 7.8 million man-days were procured from forced labor, according to reports from the Japanese Forced Mobilization Civic Group. 

Featured Image via KBS News

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