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Civic bodies hold workshop on remains of Korean victims of Japan's forced labor in Okinawa

16:23 February 14, 2019

GINOWAN, Japan, Feb. 14 (Yonhap) -- Members of South Korean and Japanese civic groups began Thursday a three-day workshop in the southern Japanese island prefecture of Okinawa as part of efforts to exhume remains belonging to Korean people forcibly brought to Japan to work for its military during World War II.

The groups -- the Stepping Stone for Peace from South Korea and two Japanese civic groups supporting the repatriation of the remains to their homeland -- held the joint workshop while going around the island's areas where remains are believed to have been buried.

Scholars and students from the two countries, Okinawa residents and Taiwanese citizens and scholars also took part in the workshop. Among the participants were representatives of the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, known as Chongryon.

Japan ruled the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945, a time during which historians say millions of Koreans were mobilized into forced labor.

According to South Korean and Japanese civic bodies, 10,000 sets of remains of Koreans are believed to be still buried in Okinawa, one of the major battlefields in the war, after they were forcibly brought to Japan.

During the workshop, the participants are set to visit the site of what used to be a prison camp run by the U.S. army in the area of Ginoza on the island to exhume remains of Korean victims along with people from Okinawa's civic groups.

They will travel to the town of Motobu where they plan to meet with Japanese residents who survived the Battle of Okinawa in the spring of 1945, when U.S. forces landed on the island, and to gather information on the Korean victims in their memory and possible clues to the locations of their remains.

In March 2016, Japan enacted a law aimed at implementing a project to collect the remains of Japanese war dead. The project called for conducting DNA tests on remains believed to be those of Japanese soldiers killed in the war, but soldiers from Korea are not subject to it.

Japan has taken a lukewarm stance that it will collect and conduct DNA tests on buried remains of Korean people only after the South Korean government makes an official request for them. The South Korean government has yet to make an official request to have the remains repatriated and the buried ones collected.

Seoul and Tokyo have put holding talks to address the issue of the repatriation on the back burner as diplomatic relations between the two neighbors have become increasingly frosty since the Moon Jae-in government came to office in 2017.

"The workshop, where people from South Korea, Japan and Taiwan got together to discuss the issue of sending home the Korean victims' remains, carries significant meaning for its resolution," Park Jin-sook, secretary general of the South Korean civic group, said.

This provided photo shows a cinotaph, for Korean people who were killed after being forcibly taken to Japan to work for its military during World War II, in the village of Yomitan in the southern Japanese island prefecture of Okinawa. (Yonhap)



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