SEOUL – Documents on the drafting of Korean laborers during Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula turned up at the South Korean Embassy in Tokyo as the staff prepared to move to its new compound, Yonhap News Agency said Sunday.
Quoting South Korean government sources, Yonhap said the documents were apparently prepared by the South Korean government in the 1950s and contained information that has not been previously disclosed on the use of forced labor by Japanese colonial authorities.
The South Korean government demolished its embassy premises in Minato Ward in 2010 and completed its new embassy building in July.
According to Yonhap, the documents, including lists of names, were found “around June this year.”
The South Korean Embassy was operating out of temporary quarters in Shinjuku after it vacated the old embassy. Yonhap said the materials, numbering dozens of volumes, included names and other information on the people who were forced to work.
South Korean authorities are cross-checking the materials with existing documentation on how forced labor was practiced in Korea under Japanese colonial rule, Yonhap said.
The results are expected to be made public in the near future, it said.
Japan forcibly annexed the Korean Peninsula in 1910 and ruled until it was defeated in World War II in 1945.
The issue of forced labor is one of several knotty political issues that have strained diplomatic ties between Japan and South Korea. Those who said they were forced to work for Japanese companies during the annexation period have sued to win compensation from the companies, but nearly all of the cases are rejected in court.
Both the Japanese and the South Korean governments acknowledge that the issue of compensation for forced labor was settled under bilateral agreements concluded when the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1965.
In a spate of decisions this summer, however, South Korean courts have ruled that the individual rights of South Koreans to seek compensation have not expired.
The South Korean government began compiling documentary evidence on the issue of forced labor during the colonial period around 2005.