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Korean Conscript Laborers in Japan Face Imminent Eviction

Korean Conscript Laborers in Japan Face Imminent Eviction

Posted September. 15, 2004 21:59,   


“Please help Korean expatriates, who had been forced to live in the Utoro area as conscripted laborers, to save their homes.”

In a conference room of Kangwon National University in Chunchon-city, Kangwon Province where the Korean Housing and Environment Society was hosting an international symposium at noon on September 15, four Korean expatriates and three members from a sponsor organization, dressed in Hanbok, a Korean traditional costume, staged a protest.

Conscripted laborers who had been assigned to an air base construction site during the period of Japanese colonial rule over Korea demanded that they be allowed to stay in their homes in 51 Utoro, Isetan, Uji City, located in Kyoto Prefecture, Japan. There are only 300 Korean nationals with 65 households remaining in the Korean enclave of Utoro, where a 1,600-member Korean community used to reside.

Their story started when the former owner of the residential area, a subsidiary of the Nissan Motor Company, sold the property to a real estate company in 1987. This company filed a lawsuit against the Korean expatriates, won the case, and ordered the Utoro dwellers to evacuate, which meant they could be forced out of their homes at any time.

Hwang Sun-rye, 72, spoke out, saying, “The Utoro area is a place that cannot be replaced with any other because we were the ones who reclaimed the wasteland of Utoro and changed it into a residential area. Please help us to stay there.”

Koreans living in Utoro are asking for help from international human rights organizations, saying, “We haven’t received any compensation for the forced labor of our relatives. So, it is absurd that they’re forcing us to leave without any compensation.”

Chang-Soon Choi cschoi@donga.com