Ukishima Maru victims lost redress in ’50

Japan decided in 1950 not to compensate the Korean victims in a 1945 ship explosion that killed 524 Koreans on their way home, a Foreign Ministry document obtained by a Korean group showed Saturday.

The document, prepared as internal material by a now-defunct agency in charge of repatriation, described the Ukishima Maru’s explosion and sinking as “an inevitable accident,” and said the Koreans were able to board the ship “owing to the former Imperial Japanese Navy’s overwhelming goodwill.”

“Any moves to seek compensation by accusing the navy cannot be accepted at all,” said the document, a copy of which was obtained by a group of Koreans working to explore the truth about the explosion and sinking under information disclosure rules.

“The document said the Koreans boarded the ship for fear of the Allies’ occupation. It is not true,” said Hong Sang Jin, leader of the group.

The navy transport ship sank after an explosion Aug. 24, 1945, as it was entering Kyoto Prefecture’s Maizuru port on its way to Korea.

The accident killed 524 Koreans, who had been forced to work at military facilities in Aomori, and their families.

In August 2001, the Kyoto District Court ordered the government to pay 45 million yen in compensation to 15 South Korean survivors who had filed suit, along with 65 relatives of those who died, seeking an apology and a total of 3 billion yen in compensation.

The Osaka High Court overturned the district court’s ruling in May this year and dismissed their claims. The plaintiffs have appealed to the Supreme Court.