Remains of 115 Korean wartime forced laborers to come home



A South Korean civic group said repatriation had begun, for the 115 sets of remains identified as Koreans, who were forced into overseas labour and died in foreign lands during Japan’s colonial rule.

Chung Byung-ho, Head of Steppingstone for Peace, said on Friday in Seoul that representatives of South Korea, consisting of the bereaved families and civic group members, have departed for Hokkaido, Japan, to bring back 115 sets of remains.

He said the remains were gathered by experts, religious people and students from the two countries in all parts of Hokkaido since 1997.

“It is the first time that more than a hundred sets of remains are delivered at once.

“On Thursday, 13 sets of remains found in Sakhalin, Russia, arrived at Incheon International Airport,’’ he said.

Byung-ho said the forced mobilization was carried out when the Korean Peninsula was a Japanese colony from 1910-45.

He said many Koreans were conscripted into the Japanese military or drafted to work in the military industrial sector, being deployed in Japan and other countries against their will.

“Many of them returned home after the 1945 liberation of Korea, following Japan’s defeat in World War II, but others remained.

“Many are believed to have died during the war,’’ he said.

Byung-ho said it was unclear how many people were mobilised for forced labour and died, but some civic groups claimed the number of conscripts was up to a million or more.

He said the representatives were due to come back on Sept. 18, with the remains, and a funeral would follow on the next day at the Seoul Plaza.

Byung-ho said over a thousand people, including Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon, the bereaved families as well as civic groups

“The last 18 years of efforts by civilians finally got results.

“We hope this could contribute to bringing a brighter future to east Asia,’’ he said.

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