Tens of thousands of postal savings accounts of Koreans who were forced to work in Japan during World War II have been found in a Japanese bank.
The accounts are in the possession of a body handling savings of Japan Post Bank in Fukuoka in southwestern Japan and appear to contain the unpaid wages for Korean laborers, the Mainichi Shimbun reported Sunday.
The evidence that Japanese businesses failed to pay Korean laborers who were forced to work for imperial Japan during World War II is expected to intensify efforts by the victims to seek compensation.
But the Japanese government and businesses are unlikely to abandon their position that they adequately compensated the victims with a lump sum payment to Korea under a 1965 treaty that normalized bilateral relations.
Japanese government documents dating back to October 1945 show that imperial Japan forced around 667,000 Koreans to labor in factories and mines scattered throughout Japan and Sakhalin in Russia's far east following the Sino-Japanese War in 1937.
To prevent workers from escaping, imperial Japan did not pay them their full wages but kept a portion in postal accounts in Japan. But most of the savings were not returned to the account holders after the war and the laborers were never notified.
An official at the Japan Post Bank said it was still "sorting out" the accounts due to difficulties identifying some of the holders and refused to say just how many of them exist and how much money they contain.
Japan Post Bank was created in 2006 following the privatization of the Japanese postal system. The Mainichi reported that an additional 18 million accounts containing around 2.2 billion yen as well as about 700,000 saving accounts of military personnel roughly worth about 2.1 billion yen are in the possession of another entity in Tokyo managing postal savings and insurance contracts.
Shoji Yamada at Japan's Rikkyo University told the Mainichi that Japanese banks that held money owed to Korean laborers are "responsible" for paying them at modern currency values.