In the first case of its kind, a group of South Koreans filed a lawsuit against the state on Friday demanding the spirits of their family members currently enshrined at Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine be separated from other war dead.

The group, 90 former soldiers and civilian workers of the Imperial Japanese Army and 162 bereaved family members, also demanded 2.46 billion yen in compensation in a suit filed with the Tokyo District Court.

Yasukuni Shrine, widely seen as a bastion of wartime government-sponsored Shintoism and a symbol of Japanese militarism, is often the center of controversy. It is a memorial to the estimated 2.4 million Japanese personnel and officials who have died in wars since 1853.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs said it was contradictory to enshrine victims and aggressors together as war heroes, adding they hoped to clarify Japan’s wartime responsibility through the suit. Koreans were conscripted en masse by Japan, which had colonized the Korean Peninsula.

The suit maintains the state’s decision to enshrine war dead at Yasukuni is unconstitutional because it goes against the separation of the church and state and infringes upon human rights by ignoring the victims’ will.

The group also demanded research be conducted into the situations surrounding the deaths of their family members and the return of their remains, since some families never received a death notice.

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