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Remains Returned by Japan Mislabeled

Posted January. 16, 2007 03:01,   


Dong-A Ilbo recently conducted an investigation on 704 South Korean remains out of 1,135 enshrined at Yutenji, and found out that at least seven belong to somebody else. Among the seven people whose ashes are recorded to be at the Japanese temple, two are living in Korea and five died in Korea after the war.

As inaccurate records are found, the 1,193 remains returned to Korea from Yutenji on 10 occasions from 1970 to 2005 are likely to have been the wrong ones.

The dead are alive-

Park Jang-seo is recorded as dead in the remains book at Yutenji when the ship Ukishima Maru (ship) sank on August 24, 1945. He died, however, on December 22, 1954, at home in his hometown, Chungyang-gun, South Chungcheong Province. According to the record, Park Jae-bong and Sin Dong-woo died in March and April in 1945, yet they died in July 1985 and July 2000, respectively, after they returned to Korea.

Hwang ho-sook and Kim Jong-rim, who were drafted to Japanese army, are dead on record although their exact dates of death are not written down. Yet, they passed away in December 2002 and in March 1984, respectively, in Korea.

After hearing that his urn is at the temple in Japan, Kim Sang-bong expressed anger, saying “I feel angry for having been drafted into the army. Worse yet, I am recorded dead on the paper. This hurts me twice.”

Untrustworthy Records of the Japanese Government-

The incident is attributable to systemic problem. No verification system is in place to identify the remains returned from Yutenji.

The current process is that when Japan sends the list of remains stored in Japan to Korea, the government finds the families of the victims and gets the remains back if the families want.

Experts point out that it is not likely that Japan, in chaos after the end of the war, systematically managed the ashes of Korean people handed over by the American army. Also, some of the ashes were put together to cremate and divided afterwards.

Even when it is hard to identify which ashes belong to whom, the government never conducted DNA tests on remains and victims’ families. It did not call for the DNA test by the Japanese authorities.

An official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the major ministry in charge of the handover until 2004, explained, “When a large number were returned in 1970 of 240 remains and 900 in 1974, there was not even DNA verification.”

On the criticism that it did not request the test even in 1990s, he said “Basically, the ministry got the remains back on the premise that the records of the Japanese government are right. Only a small number of remains were returned in the 1990s, and condolence money and apologies were regarded as more important at that time.”

The Japanese government has carried out DNA identification test on the remains of their own people returned from former Soviet Union countries since the late 1990s, yet it left out the process on Korean remains.

Kim Gwang-ryol, professor of Japanese Studies at Kwangwoon University, said “The Japanese government’s policy is to quickly deal with the issue no matter what. The complacent attitude of the Korean government led to the incorrect records of Korean victims’ remains.”

Thorough Verification Needed-

After they have known about mistaken remains, victims’ families and civic groups are on the move to officially call for DNA test on remains that have been handed over as well as those remain at Yutenji.

A civil organization that calls for getting to the bottom of forced labor under the Japanese colonial rule intends to request DNA tests to the government on remains already returned to Korea, as well as those to be handed over. Kim In-sung, joint executive officer of the organization said “We expressed our intention orally to the Truth Commission on Forced Mobilization under the Japanese Imperialism Republic of Korea.”

Meanwhile, Park Seong-kyu, Secretary General of the Truth Commission, said “We are considering that every returning remains be subjected to DNA identification test with the agreement of the families.”