Prime Minister Shinzo Abe receives a letter of South Korean President Moon Jae-in from his special envoy Moon Hee-sang (left) on May 18th at Tokyo
In a meeting on May 17, Moon Hee-sang—special envoy of South Korean President Moon Jae-in to Japan’s House Representative—told secretary general Toshihiro Nikai of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP): “While we continue to confront the history issue, it is important to maintain a future-oriented focus.”
It seems that Korea is still willing to play the history card, in line with the domestic political situation.
Speaking in a separate meeting on the same day, this time with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, special envoy Moon talked about the “final and irreversible” resolution outlined in the Japan-South Korea Comfort Women Issue Agreement: “The feeling is that the majority of Korean People find it unacceptable.”
Indeed, in a phone conversation with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on May 11, President Moon himself used an almost identical expression: “The majority of Korean People find it unacceptable on an emotional level.”
For South Korea, “confronting the history issue” involves making demands of Japan and causing a ruckus, but remaining unconcerned when they themselves break an international agreement. Of course, we should no longer be surprised by this.
Nevertheless, an article in Sankei Shimbun newspaper’s May 11 morning edition indicated that the next target after the comfort women issue, is the “Issue of Laborers Conscripted during the Japanese Reign of the Korean Peninsula.”
Following this, we received a request from a 45-year-old male reader from Yokohama to write a thorough report on an Asahi Shimbun newspaper article from July 13, 1959, and the contents of the Diet’s question time on October 1, 2010, with LDP House Representative Sanae Takachi (current Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications).
In fact, Sankei newspapers have reported on this at least three times before, but I would like to give a brief overview here.
The Asahi newspaper article, based on a press release from the Foreign Ministry, ran with the headlines “Majority Freely Decide to Remain – Foreign Ministry and Korean Residents Announcement,” and “245 People Conscripted During Wartime.” The article states:
“The Korean government and so forth are committing slander stating that Since the majority of Korean residents were brought to Japan as forced labor by the Japanese Government during the war, now they are being sent back because they are no longer needed.”
“There are 610,000 Korean residents in Japan, however, of these, no more than 245 individuals were brought to Japan as conscripted work force.”
Moreover, although the Ministry of Foreign Affairs initially said, “Such old records no longer exist,” Mr. Takachi searched for the original reference materials, which were the basis of the article, and subsequently raised the issue during Diet question time.
The materials, which were the result of “investigating the circumstances of every single entry” of the 610,000 registered Korean residents at the time, clearly state the following:
“The misunderstanding and slanderous remarks being propagated in some circles, such as the notion that the Koreans who came to Japan during wartime and the majority of those Koreans living in Japan at the present time were brought over as forced labor, are not in line with the facts.”
“[Amongst Korean residents] the number of individuals that were conscripted as laborers by government decree is very small. These individuals were paid wages prescribed at the time.”
The Korean Citizens’ Group, which is currently planning to erect statues of conscripted laborers in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, the Japanese Consulate in Busan, and Gwanju Station, is not necessarily referring to the former conscripted laborers residing in Japan.
However, the issue of Korean conscripted laborers is not unrelated to the myth of forced laborers, the notion that Korean residents in Japan are the descendants of forced laborers.
It is the Korean side which continues to cultivate the factually false, victim image, saying that Koreans were forcefully brought to Japan as unpaid slave labor—a history issue that needs to be confronted. That is why Japan needs to relentlessly continue to promote the facts as supported by the actual records.
Rui Abiru is an editorial writer and political section editing committee member of the Sankei Shimbun
(Click here to read the original article in Japanese)