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2010/01/07 11:02 KST
Japan to hand over payroll records on forced Korean laborers

By Shin Hae-in
SEOUL, Jan. 7 (Yonhap) -- Japan has agreed to hand over to South Korea records of over 200,000 Korean civilians who never got paid after forcedly working for private Japanese firms during World War II, a Japanese vernacular daily said Thursday.

   The Japanese government agreed, after years of refusal, to send the records dating back more than six decades when some 5.4 million Koreans were conscripted to work in the Japanese army, as well as factories and mines in mainland Japan and its colonial territories.

   The upcoming document, to be sent to the Korean government by March, contains records of about 200 million yen, or US$2.2 million, of overdue wages belonging to more than 200,000 living and deceased Korean laborers, according to the Asahi Shimbun's Thursday edition.

   It is the first time for Japan to release records on Koreans who worked at private Japanese firms. In 2007, the Japanese government sent Seoul payment records on Koreans who had worked for the Japanese army.

   To tackle labor shortages as a result of over-drafting of its men for the military during World War II, Japan organized official recruitment of Koreans to work in its mainland beginning in 1939, when Korea was under its colonial rule.

   As the labor shortage increased, by 1942, the Japanese authorities extended the provisions of its mobilization law to include involuntary conscription of Korean workers for factories and mines on the Korean Peninsula and Manchukuo.

   In 1945, hundreds of thousands of conscripted Korean laborers in Japan abandoned their jobs and returned to Korea.

   Defining the remaining 600,000 Koreans -- many of whom were long-time residents or had been born in Japan -- as foreigners, Japanese authorities began to limit their citizenship rights, causing diplomatic tension with Seoul.

   South Korea normalized diplomatic ties with Japan through a 1965 accord with the signing of a treaty on basic relations and supplementary agreements involving property claims, fishing rights, the legal rights of Koreans in Japan and economic cooperation.

   The accord, however, has been a stumbling block for South Koreans seeking compensation from the Japanese government for its colonial rule of the peninsula.

   Japan claims it is under no obligation to pay the forced Korean laborers as it has paid $500 million to Seoul back in 1965 and satisfied all compensation claims. Most of the money was put towards the development of South Korean steel companies.

   Seoul has often maintained an ambiguous position on the issue and began in 2008 to compensate forced Korean laborers and their families out of its own pocket.

   About 7,182 are currently being paid government compensation, with the number expected to increase with the new records to be sent by Japan.