Forced Labor Victims Get Pittance from Japan

      December 24, 2009 11:29

      Former forced laborer Yang Geum-deok talks about her ordeal.

      The Japanese government has paid seven Korean women who were forced to work for Japan during World War II a pittance of 99 yen or approximately W1,300 in pension contributions some 65 years after their ordeal ended. Eight former forced laborers or their descendants filed suit against the Japanese government in 1998 to claim the value of pension funds they had paid premiums for.

      One of the women has since died. The eight were among 138 Korean women who were recruited in Gwangju and other nearby areas in South Jeolla Province and forced to work at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in 1944, when they were in their mid-teens.

      They sued the Japanese government in 1998 and the Social Insurance Agency, the Japanese agency in charge, stalled for 11 years saying it was searching old files for the work records. The agency finally confirmed this September that the plaintiffs are entitled to a pension.

      They applied for payment, and as a result the agency put 99 yen each into the bank accounts of the representatives of seven women, based on an 11-month subscription to the pension fund. It said the eighth was ineligible because she did not work the requisite minimum term since she died in an earthquake in 1944.

      The agency calculated the surrender value only, which applies in cases where a person terminates or gives up a pension fund before it reaches maturity.

      Tokyo apparently decided the payments based on the pay records and pension subscription period of Japanese workers at the plant at that time because there were no pay records for the seven women.

      The plaintiffs are outraged, "I'm just mortified and dumbfounded to find that after waiting for 65 years I've ended up with only 99 yen," said one of plaintiffs, Yang Geum-deok.

      Lee Kook-eon, the leader of a civic support group for the women, said the decision "adds insult to injury" and is "unacceptable." "The Japanese government should seek package settlement by finding the records of unpaid wages for all forced labor victims at the time," he said, "and the Korean government must also act to find a solution for the victims."

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