Histry of
Korean BC Class
War Criminals
TIME CHART(1941-1998)

Please click yellow words to view photographs.

After the Pearl Harbor attack and the invasion of Malay Peninsula, Japan entered the war against the United States.

The Japanese imperial colonial government
hired war prison guards throughout Korea.

Although they were "hired", in many cases they were coerced. For example, because the government stopped food rationing, a number of Korean youths had to become a prison guard to survive. At about the same time, the Japanese decided to start drafting. Some Koreans thought it would be better to become prison guards than soldiers.

3223 Korean young men were assigned to
the Imperial Japanese Army Pusan Training Division.

They were trained not as prison guard but as regular soldier. They learned neither the languages of the probable prisoners such as English or Dutch nor existence of the international treaties regarding prisoners of war. Instead, they went through military training and indoctrination. They were taught to blindly obey the command of the superiors as if it was the command of the Japanese emperor himself and to die as a soldier rather than to survive as a prisoner. The training was so rigorous and unexpected that some of them became mentally sick.

These Koreans were assigned to work at prison camps in Thailand, Malay and Java.

The Japanese forces were constructing railways, major roads and airfields throughout South East Asia most notoriously the Taimen Railway, which was called "Death Railway". Although exploitation of prisoners as labor force was prohibited, the Japanese forced the prisoners to work at these construction sites. Due to lack of food and medicine,
a lot of prisoners died. The Korean prison guards were the ones to force the prisoners to work.

August 15,1945
Japan lost the war and Korea was liberated.

In many places in South East Asia, the Allies arrested war crime suspects and established BC class war crimes tribunals. The Korean guards, who were at the bottom of the Japanese imperial forces and did not have any authority, did not even imagine to be arrested as war criminal. However, they were the ones who dealt with the prisoners. Their faces were remembered and they were the object of revenge. They were arrested after a simple identification process by former prisoners and then prosecuted.

In various BC Class war crimes tribunals,148 former Korean guards were proven guilty and 23 of them got executed.

There was no appropriate witness. Nor was there interpreter. The prosecutors did not consider the fact that they were born and raised in the colony rather than in the soverign nation. Perhaps, this is because the prosecutors themselves had benefited from their own colonies. As a result,
23 of the Korean guards got either hanged or shot and 125 of them received prison terms in various prisons in South East Asia.

The war criminals got transferred to Sugamo Prison in Tokyo (which was back then run by the American Forces in Japan).

April 28, 1952
Due to the San Francisco Treaty, Japan became an independent country.

Sugamo Prison was placed under the jurisdiction of the Japanese government. The Korean BC criminals lost their Japanese nationality. Since they were no longer Japanese, they demanded immediate release from the prison. Three months later, the supreme court rejected their appeal for the reason that they were Japanese when they were prosecuted.

In the 1950's, a lot of Korean BC class war criminals were paroled or released. When they got out, they were given military uniforms and little travel expense (the sum of which was so small that they could travel only to the border of Tokyo prefecture). They had no family or friends to rely on. They lived in extreme poverty and, as a result of hardship, two such Koreans took their own lives. They realized that they would not be able to survive. The ex-Korean BC class war criminals and surviving family members established "Society of Korean War Criminals" which was later renamed as "Society of Koreans". Collectively, they demanded Japanese Prime Minister Ichiro Hatoyama that the Japanese government provide livelihood assistance.

For the first time, they demanded not livelihood assistance but individual compensation including the one for the survived family members.

Since then, for forty years, every time a new cabinet formed, they have demanded individual compensation.

The last of the Korean BC war criminals got released.

The length of their prison terms contrasted that of the Japanese A class war criminals. The Japanese A class war criminals, who were the decision makers in the war, had already been released in the 1940's and many of them went back into the Japanese political scene. Shinsuke Kishi, who became prime minister, was one of them. To prime minister Kishi, the Society of Koreans sent an appeal for individual compensation in a later year.

The Japan-Korea Normalization treaty was signed.

After this treaty, the Japanese government claimed that "the compensation issue was already settled" and stopped seriously considering the appeal for individual compensation. In sum, the ex-Korean BC class war criminals were proven guilty as "Japanese" but cannot get compensation because they are "Koreans".

The ex-Korean BC class war criminals filed a lawsuit against the Japanese government at Tokyo Prefectural Court.

Now the plaintiffs are in their 70s and 80s. Some of the ex-Korean BC class war criminals have already deceased. They thought they could not wait any longer and decided to bring their case to the court. Right before the trial started, "the support group of the BC Class war criminals who were held responsible in place of Japanese" was founded.

September 9,1996
The verdict was scheduled to be issued at the Tokyo Prefectural Court.

Judge Maszou Nagano of the 33rd civil case section rejected the appeal of the ex-Korean BC Class War Criminals.

September 19,1996
The ex-Korean BC Class War Criminals appealed to the high court.

February 24,1997
The court sessions at the high court have started.

The applicants (plaintiffs) and attorneys (lawyers) will speak in the courtroom and point out the wrongs of the preliminary verdict.

February 2,1998
Mr. Mun Tae-bok Died.

Chairperson of the Society of Koreans (Doshinkai), head of the plaintiffs in the trial against the Japanese government.
He has led the movement and trial efforts for such a long time. He died right before the final hearing. He was 74 years-old.

February 25,1998
The final hearing at the high court.

July 13,1998
Judgement is expected to be issued.

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