As Japan-Korea Relations Warm, Families Are Looking For Closure Following The Wartime Mine Tragedy

Four elderly Korean men bowed their heads toward Japan’s Seto Inland Sea on a frosty February morning as the surf lapped close to their shoes.

In a mass grave filled with thousands of Korean bodies scattered across Japan as a permanent reminder of the colonial past that had long soured relations between the neighbourhood, they were showing respect to family members who had been buried in a coal mine 80 years earlier.

However, the families of the men who were enlisted to support Japan’s war effort in the so-called Chosei mine during its 1910–1945 occupation of the Korean peninsula see fresh diplomatic initiatives to enhance relations as the last hope for a just settlement.

Yang is one of the local residents and relatives pleading with the authorities to unearth the bodies and return the victims to their homes, and she was present at the low-key ceremony in the town of Ube on February 4.

According to South Korean government estimates, the remains of up to 10,000 Koreans who died in forced labour, digging mines or building dams are still in Japan. Japan claims to have discovered the remains of 2,799 Korean wartime labourers.

For more than a decade, efforts to repatriate them have failed, but since taking office last year, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol has sought to resolve historic issues with Japan while focusing on shared, modern-day threats such as nuclear-armed North Korea and China.

Those overtures, which resulted in the first talks between the country’s leaders in years in September, have given the elderly relatives of the Chosei miners hope that their loved ones’ remains will be returned home.

Son Bong-soo, 65, the youngest relative in the group and a grandson of one of the victims, said, “We’re running out of time.” “No one will care when we’re gone,”

The initiative fizzled out several years later amid deteriorating relations, but Japan announced a push to return the remains of Korean war laborer’s in 2005.

The South Korean interior ministry, which deals with disputes related to colonial-era forced labour, stated, “We expect to have a fruitful discussion with Japan over the repatriation of the remains as now South Korea and Japan both have a powerful will to resolve the forced labour issues.”

The ministry claimed that specific cases, like the Chosei miners, had not been discussed.

Japan’s foreign ministry stated that it had been in contact with South Korea about wartime labour issues but could not provide specifics.

Also Read | Google Doodle Celebrates Malayalam Cinema’s First Female Actor PK Rosy

Related Articles

Back to top button