Monday, October 8, 2012

Fresh Insight into Korean Forced Laborers in Japan

A commission under the Prime Minister's Office has drawn up a report on imperial Japan's mobilization of Koreans into forced labor in a coal mine on Hashima Island, a spokesman said Thursday.

Hashima, 18 km from Nagasaki Port, was a prison island with a harsh natural environment and working conditions. According to the report, some pits were more than 1,000 m deep, with seams under the sea bed. The victims' skin was permanently infected as seawater sometimes flooded into the pit and toxic gases rose from the rock wall.

That is why Korean and Chinese laborers instead of Japanese were sent into such mine. One survivor testified the mine shafts were too low to stand up straight and the temperature was over 45 degrees Celsius.

/Yonhap /Yonhap

Hashima was completely isolated. Laborers who attempted to escape were soon caught and tortured. Some survivors even tried to cut off their own limbs as a way to leave the island.

Many of the Korean laborers were then pressed into restoration work after the U.S. dropped a nuclear bomb on Nagasaki in August 1945, where they were exposed to residual radioactivity.

The commission believes as many as 800 Koreans were forced into labor on Hashima in 1944-1945, the final years of the Pacific War. It has identified only 134 victims, 122 of whom died on the island.

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