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Koreans plan to sue Yasukuni

February 14th, 2007 . by Matt

Koreans are planning to sue Yasukuni Shrine for having the names of Korean soldiers that died for the Japanese empire in their ‘book of souls’.

Families of Korean war victims plan to file a suit against Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine, which is dedicated to Japan’s war dead, to remove the names of Koreans who are enshrined there.

The Shinto shrine in Tokyo lists the names of 2,466,532 people, including 21,181 Koreans and 27,863 Taiwanese, who are honored for dying for the Japanese emperor during World War II.

The Korean government has officially requested Japanese officials to remove the names of the Koreans forced to cooperate with Japan’s war effort in 2001, but the shrine refused.

The Institute for Research in Collaborationists Activities said Wednesday that four Koreans, including Lee Hee-ja, a 64-year-old whose father died after being mobilized for the war and was buried at Yasukuni, will submit the suit to the Tokyo District Court on Feb. 26. The plaintiffs will demand that Yasukuni remove the names of 10 Koreans, including Lee’s father, from the shrine.

The Koreans also plan to demand the shrine pay 5 million yen in compensation per plaintiff and issue a public apology through local media outlets.

It is the first time for Korean civilians to take legal action against the Tokyo shrine.

“It is unacceptable that the Yasukuni Shrine lists the names of Koreans along with Class A war criminals,’’ said the institute in a statement.

The Koreans also plan to travel overseas, including Los Angeles and Chicago, later this year and hold seminars and cultural events to promote their cause.

The Yasukuni Shrine has been a source of controversy as its “book of souls’’ include 1,068 people convicted in international court of war crimes during World War II, including 12 Class A war criminals. The most notable among the names is Gen. Hideki Tojo, a wartime prime minister who was hanged after Japan’s surrender in 1945.

A few comments –

1. Korean government complaints to the Japanese government about Yasukuni shrine is useless, as Yasukuni is a private religious institution and is therefore protected by the guarantee of religious freedom in the Japanese constitution (written by the US).

2. There is a big question mark about how many of these Koreans would have been ‘forced’ to fight. Conscription in Korea only started in late 1944, and most of the conscripts would have been in training at the time of Japans defeat. It seems most likely that the vast majority Korean soldiers enshrined there were volunteers, not conscripts fighting against their will.

3. It is just a book of names. No one has to accept that the spirits of the enshrined are really there if they don’t want to.

4. The Korean soldiers were definitely aware that their ‘souls’ would go to Yasukuni if they died in the service of the empire. “Lets meet at Yasukuni” was a common phrase among soldiers.

The only thing is can think of that is even tenuously similar to this case is the posthumous baptism of Jews and others by Mormons.

This must be a publicity stunt because any decent lawyer would know this case does not stand a chance of winning.

HT to Jodi at the Asiapages.

53 Responses to “Koreans plan to sue Yasukuni”

  1. comment number 1 by: ponta

    it’s not as straight cut and easy as that. Care to read Abila’s comment on the level of participation allowed by Koreans which nothing parallel can be seen in Africa?

    I agree, at least the statement Koreans were forced miss the whole picture.
    When Korea was annexed, Iljinhoe supported it. Iljinhoe is the largest political party at the time, consisitng of a million of Korean member according to the leader of the association, 140000 members according to Japanese record at the time when the population was 13000000.
    (呉善花 韓国併合への道)
    And it seems Korean King also called Japan for help.Pacifist
    In 1943, more than 300000 young Korean men volountarily applied for Japanese military.
    Which African person lead the troop whose subordinates were white soldiers? Koreans had Japanese as their subordinates.
    And as Foreign dispatches says,

    Not only did Koreans collaborate with the Japanese on a basis of equality unimaginable between Africans and their European overlords, but, as Eckert makes crystal clear, Korean businessmen profited to an extreme degree from Japan’s late 1930s aggressions in Manchukuo and China. Koreans were much more beneficiaries and accomplices of Japanese imperial aggression than they were the victims they prefer to see themselves as being, with Korean magnates waxing fat off Japanese imperial subsidies, tariff preferences, bank loans and orders for military equipment.
    Indeed, Korean industrialists even set up of their own accord a Choson Aircraft Company to manufacture planes for kamikaze attacks. Korean and Japanese cooperation in the pursuit of war production (and profits) was extremely tight

    There are other evidences that are against the claim Korean was just help victims.
    I don’t claim that Koreans wholeheartedly accepted the situation; probably there were a lot of Korean people who were ambivalent.
    But I claim that it is inaccurate and false to say they were just forced.

    BTW Nigerian history textbook mentions African involvement and corporation with slavery.

  2. comment number 2 by: shadkt


    In most colonisation made by imperial powers there is no war exactly because the colonised power cannot defend itself. Or would you say that almost all of africa could be said not to have been forcefully occupied because there were no fight from the very begining?

    The situation in Korea and Africa is totally different IMO. There may not have been war but neither was there any complacency from the African side. As I understand it, Korean powers of that time agreed to the unification. Now, they might have been put to the choice forcefully, but they had the choice of going to war and they did not. Korea should bear that part of the burden, don’t you think.
    I find it ridiculous that Koreans agreeing to the unification, participating in the Imperial politics, participating in the war itself, but soon as Imperial Japan loses, they claim they are not part of it and are just victims. What a laugh.
    If they were a proud and prosperous country as they claim they were before Japan came, then they should have fought.

  3. comment number 3 by: tomato

    If they were a proud and prosperous country as they claim they were before Japan came, then they should have fought.

    The kingdom of Chosun was a failed state. The ruling class were corrupt, food production low, famine and disease rampant, life expectancy short, the currency system was failing…and it was a half-independent dependency of the Qing Empire. Sounds somewhat familiar to N Korea?

    It seems that S Koreans are brainwashed about how Japan was during the Edo period (before modernization), but Japan was in fact much better off with rich merchants and a lively economy, established currency system (Japan even traded futures and had currency exchange systems), flourishing pop culture, …it’s actually no wonder why it was Japan that was able to modernize but not other nations in Asia.

    BTW, I think Africans did fiercely fight against invading imperialist powers.