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Japan lawyer cited for Sakhalin Koreans case

Feb. 27, 2011 - 18:18 By 천성우
A Japanese lawyer has been honored with a human rights award by South Korean National Assembly lawmakers in recognition of his legal struggle for ethnic Koreans on Sakhalin Island.

Kenichi Takagi, 67, received the fifth National Assembly human rights prize from the Human Rights Forum of South Korean lawmakers at a round table meeting on Sakhalin issues with Japanese lawmakers in Tokyo, Japan, on Friday.

Takagi, a Tokyo University graduate, undertook the case for Sakhalin Koreans in 1973. He filed a suit against the Japanese government in September, 2007, asking for payment of overdue wages to them. 
Hwang Woo-yeo (second from right), head of a human rights forum of South Korean lawmakers, presents the National Assembly human rights award to Keni­chi Takagi, Japan, Friday. (Yonhap News)

“The nominal value of wages in arrears is 180 million yen, but its current value reaches 20 billion yen,” he said, “I hope that the wages, if paid by the Japanese government, would be used to support the hard lives of Sakhalin Koreans and their children.”

Sakhalin Koreans are Russian citizens of Korean descent on Sakhalin Island, who trace their roots to immigrants from Korea during the late 1930s and early 1940s, the latter half of the Japanese colonial period. At the time, the southern half of the island was under the control of the Japanese Empire, which recruited and forced Korean laborers to the island to fill labor shortages during World War II.