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September 26, 2017

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Japan bill may compensate war criminals from Korea, Taiwan

TOKYO -- Japan's opposition submitted a bill Thursday demanding state compensation for Koreans and Taiwanese convicted of committing war crimes while working for the Japanese military, an official said.

Some 148 Koreans and 173 Taiwanese, or their family members, would be eligible for special benefits of three million yen (US$28,600) under the legislation proposed by the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ).

"Those (people) from Korea and Taiwan have been neglected in legal loopholes," DPJ member Kenta Izumi told a press conference. "We must not neglect people who went though hard times with us in a turbulent history."

During World War II, the Japanese military sent, often forcibly, some 3,000 people from the Korean Peninsula and Taiwan to war fronts. Japan colonized Korea from 1910 and Taiwan from 1895 until it surrendered to the Allies in 1945.

They served as prison camp officers and some were later convicted in the U.S.-led Tokyo war crimes tribunals for abusing war prisoners.

"They worked for the Japanese military and were punished as Japanese nationals," Aiko Utsumi, professor of history at Keisen University, told the press conference.

"But as soon as they came out of the prison, they were deprived of Japanese nationality and treated as foreigners, ineligible for state compensation."

Lee Hak Rae, an 81-year-old South Korean who was one of the former prison officers, was given the death penalty in the Tokyo tribunal and served in a prison for 11 years. He had his punishment reduced before being discharged.

"I was given a death sentence first, so I know how chagrined my compatriots who were hanged must have felt," he said.

"When you are a Japanese, you feel you die for the country regardless of whether it is good or bad," Lee told AFP. "We didn't have that. We worked for Japan but lost the nationality when we were out of prison."

"The way Japan has treated us is so unjust."

Lee said he had accepted the accusation of abusing POWs and has visited Australia to make personal apologies to victims, but he believes Japan's government should also recognize its wrong-doing.

"Everything is rooted in Japan's colonization," he said.

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