FUKUOKA – Tens of thousands of postal savings accounts opened for Korean laborers forcibly brought to Japan during the war have been discovered in Fukuoka, sources at Japan Post’s banking arm revealed Saturday.
Most of the savings were not been returned to the account holders amid the chaotic aftermath of the war, and the Korean laborers were never notified that the accounts still existed.
The account passbooks were found at an entity handling Japan Post Bank Co. savings accounts in the city of Fukuoka. Most of the money in the accounts is believed to be wages paid to laborers shipped from the Korean Peninsula, according to the sources and historians familiar with wartime labor practices.
Yoshihiko Moriya, a former professor of modern history and an expert on wartime labor practices, said many companies of that era did not pay Korean laborers their full wages directly and insisted that a certain amount be deposited in postal savings accounts.
A Japan Post spokesman said the issue is currently being “sorted out.” He said information on some of the passbooks is no longer legible, but refused to be drawn on how many accounts exist, the total amount of savings or when the processing will be completed.
All foreign stakeholders are entitled to withdraw their money, but this may not apply in the case of the South Korean holders of the accounts under the 1965 bilateral treaty that Japan says renounced claims for individual compensation.
The sources said a further 18 million accounts opened in former Japanese colonies, including the Korean Peninsula, and containing ¥2.2 billion in total are being kept in Tokyo, as well as roughly 700,000 accounts opened by former military personnel with combined savings of ¥2.1 billion.
A Japanese citizens’ group investigating how the Korean laborers’ passbooks were gathered in Fukuoka said it has obtained two central government documents from 1951 and 1952 that show the postal system collected savings from businesses through labor standards offices.
The accounts were transferred to Japan Post after the postal system was broken up into various units through its 2007 privatization.