Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Compensation for Convicted War Criminals

"A group of lawmakers plans to submit a bill to the Diet mandating government financial compensation for Korean and Taiwanese former Class B and Class C war criminals and their surviving families.

"The move, led by Kenta Izumi, a Minshuto (Democratic Party of Japan) Lower House member, could come as early as the current Diet session.

"At issue are those who worked as guards of POWs for the Imperial Japanese military during World War II. The non-Japanese were later denied the same pensions and other compensation paid to Japanese war criminals and their family members.

"At the Allied Forces war trials, 321 Koreans and Taiwanese were convicted as "Japanese" of war crimes. The group included 23 Koreans and 26 Taiwanese who were executed.

"The lawmakers' group will propose the government pay 3 million yen in compensation to each former Class-B and C war criminal, in "a humanitarian spirit."

"Because people from Japan's former colonies were stripped of Japanese citizenship after the war, the government excluded them all from military pensions and other assistance paid to former Japanese soldiers.

"Izumi said he was greatly moved by the story of Lee Hyok Nae, a Korean who worked at a POW camp run by Japan in Thailand and was later convicted.

"Lee, 83, is now chairman of Doshin-kai, a group representing former Korean war criminals that since 1955 has urged Japan to act on the issue.

"Hearing Lee's story, Izumi realized the Diet has never heard the views of these non-Japanese, the lawmaker said. He hopes the bill will receive cross-party support.

"Lee was taken from his home on the Korean Peninsula, which from 1910 to 1945 was under Japanese colonial rule, at the age of 17 in 1942. After the war, he was sentenced to death for abusing POWs.

"His sentence was later reduced, and he was released 11 years after Japan's defeat. He could not return to Korea because all those who worked for the Japanese military were viewed as collaborators.

""There's nothing more absurd--we were convicted as Japanese and then excluded from compensation because we became non-Japanese,'' Lee said. He said some Korean war criminals chose to kill themselves in disgrace.

"In 1991, Lee, five other Koreans, and the bereaved families of other former war criminals filed a lawsuit seeking state redress and apology. The Supreme Court rejected that suit in 1999.

"However, the court acknowledged they had made "serious and grave sacrifices and (suffered) damage'' and said compensation should be discussed in the Diet.

"Only two of the plaintiffs who were war criminals are alive today.

"Lee is grateful the Diet may finally consider redress. In April, Lee filed a civil suit at the Tokyo District Court to demand the government fully disclose diplomatic documents leading up to the 1965 normalization of diplomatic ties between Japan and South Korea.

"Although Japan said the issue was settled by the 1965 treaty, South Korean diplomatic records recently released show that during the negotiations Tokyo promised to separately examine the war criminal issue."

By Akira Nakano, Asahi Shimbun (5/19/2008), Link to article (last visited 5/21/2008)

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