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Japanese Massacre Survivor Remembers

Posted October. 26, 2006 06:58,   


In 1918, after being on the winning side in World War I, Japan occupied the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean, which had been under the German rule. During WW2, Japan, which triggered the Pacific War, moved its forces in large scale to the Marshall Islands in case of strikes from the U.S. As many as 36,000 Koreans were forced to move to the islands. On the Mili Atoll in the southeastern end of the Marshall Islands were 800 Korean army civilian employees. Some 170 of them were shot to death indiscriminately for conspiring toward an uprising. Survivors made the shocking testimony that at that time Japanese soldiers ate human flesh of Koreans. What did really happen 60 years ago in the Marshall Islands? Lee In-shin (83), who was drafted to the Mili Atoll and survived miraculously, reconstructed the story about massacre of Koreans and the atrocities of Japanese authorities based on what he wrote in 1995.

Stopped Food Supply-

In the early 1942, Japanese authorities took young Koreans randomly to the war in agricultural villages. Lee was forced to get on a ship in Busan Port on March 23, 1942. On April 6, he arrived the Mili Atoll 13 days later, exhausted from ship sickness. Yet, he and other Koreans were made to labor in the tropical hot weather.

They constructed mainly airplane runways. The Marshall Islands were an outpost to bomb the U.S. When the forced laborers were slow, they were beaten by Japanese supervisors.

In February 1943, when a Japanese cargo ship full of food was about to moor, it was bombed by U.S. fighters and sunk. The supply of food was suspended.

When maintaining the forces became impossible, the Japanese military command in Mili Atoll decided to send their soldiers to 40 nearby islands and get food self-sufficiently.

Tragedy on the Marshall Islands-

Japanese and Koreans eked out eating soup with bean leaves. And in early 1945, a Korean who was working for the army disappeared.

Efforts of groups of other Koreans to find the missing person failed. Later, those who went for fishing to a nearby deserted island saw an unspeakable scene. They found the disappeared Korean with slices of flesh in the thigh cut out.

What shocked them more was the whale meat Japanese gave to them a few days earlier. At that time, they felt satisfied because it had been long since they had eaten meat last time, but they quivered thinking they might have eaten human flesh. It was not quite possible the Japanese without any tool caught a whale and gave the meat to Koreans.

Several days later, another Korean went missing and was found with similar thigh flesh slices cut out. Koreans were overwhelmed with fear. Eventually, they decided to escape from the island. U.S. warships were around the island, so they thought they could escape if they killed the Japanese.

On the night of March 18, 1945, Koreans carried out their plan and killed 7 Japanese. When they were about to flee, machine guns were fired at them. A Korean informed the army in one-hour-away Lukonor Island about the plan and a 50-strong Japanese patrol came to the island and mercilessly fired bullets into Koreans. The Japanese bayoneted fallen Koreans. Those who took the lead in uprising killed themselves by blowing up dynamite.

According to Park Jong-won (who died in early 2000), a survivor, only 15 including the two injured managed to avoid death.

Sixty Years of Nightmare-

Twenty days after the mass killing, Kim Jae-ok (82), who went to the island to clean up the bodies, said “There were corpses floating in the sea when I got close to the island.” “I also vividly remember the island was crowded with flies, the size of thumbnails,” said Kim.

“In 1995, I went back to the Mili Atoll, and I could not find any signs of the massacre. Yet I could not get over the tragic memories so I wrote the memorandum,” said Lee.

zeitung@donga.com egija@donga.com