Chung Sin-young, a victim of forced labor under Japanese imperialism, holds a signboard that reads “The price of my life, 931 won” during a press conference held at Gwangju, Gyeonggi Province, Thursday. (Yonhap)
A civic group on Thursday denounced the Japanese government over a pension payment of less than $1 to victims of forced labor during Japan’s occupation of the Korean Peninsula.
According to the Japanese Forced Mobilization Civic Group, a number of victims of forced labor during the Japanese colonial era received 931 won ($0.74), from the Japanese government as pension. The victims and civic group deplored the payment, saying it is “a malicious ridicule and an insult.”
The group also 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,” said an official the civic group.
“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 official added.
Chung Sin-young, a 92-year-old forced labor victim who attended the press conference, said it was “absurd” behavior.
Chung was taken to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ Nagoya Aircraft Manufacturing Plant in May 1944 at the age of 14. She was subjected to forced labor without payment and was just barely able to return home after the Korea’s liberation.
Chung was among 11 victims of forced labor who sued the Japanese government for pension in March last year, but other 10 plaintiffs have since passed away.
In March last year, Chung and the others demanded the Japanese pension organization to check their records to prove the fact that they were forced to work under the Japanese imperialism. The record will be an evidence to claim rightful compensation from the Japanese government and war crime related companies.
Chung was the only survivor left following this stalled process, when Japan belatedly admitted that the victims had subscribed to the pension, but had ended up with being paid only 931 won on July 6.
This is not the first time that Japan has paid about a dollar as a pension to victims of forced labor. In 2009, the Japanese government paid 99 yen ($0.74) to 80-year-old victim Yang Geum-deok at the time. In 2014, it also paid 199 yen ($1.40) each to four victims who demanded compensation.
Lee Kuk-eon, the permanent representative of the civic group, strongly denounced both the Korean and Japanese governments during the press conference.
“The indecisive attitude of the South Korean government is as problematic as Japan’s inhumane insult toward the victims. Our government is begging for the restoration of the Korea-Japan relationship, by sacrificing victims who have already suffered tremendous pain throughout their whole lives,” he said.
According to the civic group’s statistics, from 1938, when the Japanese imperial government enacted a law for active exploitation of human and material resources from Korea (then known as Joseon), about 7.8 million man-days were subjected to forced labor until the liberation in 1945.