North Korean group demands ‘apology & compensation’ from Japan over WWII-era atrocities

A group from North Korea has called on Japan to stop trying to “evade” responsibility for drafting Koreans into forced labor and prostitution during World War II. The issue has been the source of bad blood for decades.

North Korea’s Association of Korean Victims of Forcible Drafting and Their Bereaved Families urged Japan to “apologize” for having rounded up Koreans to work at factories and army-run brothels during WWII.

“We will never forget Japan’s atrocities even after generations and we will get back a thousand times the blood we shed,” the group said, calling on Tokyo to “compensate” the victims and stop “attempting to evade responsibility by directing global attention elsewhere.” North Korean associations have made similar demands in the past. 

The whole of the Korean Peninsula was under Japanese rule from 1910 to 1945, and the country’s colonial past continues to raise tensions and spark diplomatic rows with Pyongyang and Seoul.

In January, a South Korean court ordered Japan to pay damages to 12 former ‘comfort women’ – a term used to describe women who had been drafted into wartime prostitution by the Japanese military. Japan’s Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Takeo Akiba blasted the ruling as “utterly unacceptable.”

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Japan believes that the issue of ‘comfort women’ and other colonial-era grievances were definitively settled by a 1965 treaty with South Korea, under which Tokyo provided financial aid to Seoul. In 2015, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said that the country’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had expressed “most-sincere apologies and remorse” to all of the victims. 

On Tuesday, South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a protest over the Japanese government’s approval of textbooks that reinforce Japan’s territorial claim on the Liancourt Rocks, small islets in the Sea of Japan claimed by both countries. South Korea’s Yonhap news agency has reported that new school textbooks omit or downplay the issue of ‘comfort women’ and forced labor as well. 

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