The Japanese government has finally agreed to hand over work records this March of Koreans who never got paid for civilian labor during World War II, a committee investigating the matter said Thursday. The records include the wages Japanese firms should have paid the Korean laborers.
The companies withheld part of the wages or forced workers to deposit all of their pay in bank accounts. After World War II, the U.S. military government ordered Japanese businesses to deposit the unpaid wages in accounts opened by Japan's Justice Ministry and other agencies, raising hopes among forced laborers that they would finally get paid.
But Japan says the slate was wiped clean when it paid Korea US$300 million in grants and $200 million in loans under the Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and Korea signed in 1965. Instead, the Korean government promised to foot the bill for the unpaid wages and has been urging Tokyo to hand over the records.
With the inauguration of a new progressive government, Tokyo decided finally to release the records. Around 30 percent of the victims in the records are apparently North Koreans, which could mean that Pyongyang will demand payment from Tokyo. Japan and North Korea have signed no compensation agreement for wartime abuses.
Once the records are handed over, some 100,000 victims are expected to get their back pay. Since 2005, the government has been documenting cases of citizens who were forced into labor during World War II. By June 2008, some 220,000 cases had been documented, but payment was delayed because around 108,000 claims were not supported by sufficient evidence. The Japanese records are expected to fill the gaps in documentation.
The investigative committee plans to check the details and pay the victims at a rate of W2,000 for 1 yen (US$1=W1,135).
The committee has been paying back wages since 2007 to 110,000 Koreans who were press-ganged into the Japanese military or forced into military-related work during World War II, but the new records are for civilian labor.