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2009/12/23 17:04 KST
Japan offers 99 yen to former forced laborers

TOKYO, Dec. 23 (Yonhap) -- Japan has paid 99 yen (US$1.08) as part of a welfare pension refund to seven South Korean women who were forced to work during the country's colonial occupation of the Korean Peninsula, a leading Japanese newspaper said Wednesday.

   Tokyo recently sent the funds to each of the seven women, who filed suit against the Japanese government in 1998 to claim the value of a welfare pension fund that they paid into while working at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries between October 1944 and August 1945, according to the Asahi Shimbun.

   The report noted that the women criticized the move for not reflecting the inflationary value of the amount they had originally paid.

   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. A number of teenage girls were also forced to serve as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers in the later years of the period.

   According to Japan's Social Insurance Agency (SIA), those who take out a welfare pension fund are entitled to receive the amount of money they put into it after ending an insurance policy before its stipulated date of expiration.

   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 family of one of the plaintiffs, which originally numbered eight, were deemed ineligible as she died during the war and thus did not satisfy the required minimum term for the surrender value.

   The delayed payment stemmed from the fact that records for wages paid to workers at the same factory during that time have disappeared, the newspaper added.

   The plaintiffs expressed their bitterness over the amount.

   "The Japanese government made a fool of us," one plaintiff was quoted as saying.

   "I was fully deceived into forced labor and have waited a long time to get compensation. But I resent this outcome," said 78-year-old plaintiff Yang Geum-deok.

   Experts accuse the Japanese government of not accounting for the inflation in its payment to the women despite the fact that it acknowledges having mobilized them for forced labor.

   "The surrender value of the welfare pension payment should have been given when the war-time laborers left Japan after the war. The Japanese government has left the matter unsettled for decades and paid the amount in its past value," Aiko Utsumi, a visiting professor at Waseda University, said. "It's natural that the women who received the payments cannot accept them. The government and society must deal with the issue sincerely."

   "A hundred years have passed since Japan's annexation of Korea in 1910. Now is the time to solve unsettled postwar issues, including savings deposited by forced Korean laborers during the war period, once and for all."