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Korean Recalls Misery of Japanese Mine

Posted April. 22, 2006 03:14,   


Kim was born in Pohang City, North Gyeongsang Province in 1922. In July 1941, he was taken by the Japanese police for no reason and forced to work at a mine in Josei.

It was at about 9:30 a.m. in February 3, 1942 when the mine came completely under water. At that time, Kim was on his way to his quarters after a 16-hour mining that started at 5 p.m. the day before.

“All of sudden, someone near the pit mouth shouted, ‘It’s flooding!’ I looked back and saw black smoke and a column of water coming up from the vent which was above sea level.”

The water rushed into the mine, placing enormous pressure on the narrow and waist-high passages in the mine. The passages collapsed, and water instantly flooded the entire mine.

Those in charge of the mine decided to block up the entrance to the mine on the reason that the water could spill over into the neighboring village and flood it. As a result, no worker, who had been working in the mine on that day, survived.

According to the Japanese authorities, the accident cost 183 lives in all, including 133 Korean forced laborers. Kim, however, does not agree with them. He says that at any given day, more than 200 worked in the mine, so more than 200 people must have been killed in the accident.

The mine owners did not bother to recover the bodies of the victims because of alleged safety concerns and shut down the mine.

No End to the Nightmare –

Three days after the flood, Kim took the advantage of the post-accident surveillance hole and escaped the mine. Before the flooding, the Josei mine surrounded the quarters of the laborers with many watchtowers to closely monitor the workers. Any villager who captured an escapee was rewarded with a sack of rice. Many of the escapees taken back to the mine were cruelly beaten to death.

Besides, many more Korean forced laborers were either killed by falling stones in the mine or died from infectious diseases. Once Kim contracted cholera and passed out. Though a Japanese doctor ordered Kim to be cremated, a friend of Kim’s managed to save Kim.

After running away from the mine, Kim took refuge with a Korean family in Hyogo Prefecture. In 1945, Japanese officials found Kim in his hiding place and took him to the army. But Korea gained its independence, and Kim returned to Korea in October 1945. Kim suffers disability in his right arm as a result of a beating he was given while at the Josei mine, and lost his hearing during the Korean War.

Kim leads a hard life with his wife. Since he started learning how to write a few years ago, he has been writing down what he experienced.

“I don’t expect the Japanese to sincerely apologize. To relieve my emotional burden, I want to leave a few notes behind me.”