• Kyodo


A team of Japanese and South Korean government officials on Monday began working to identify the remains of Koreans forced to work in Japan who later died here.

Three officials from the welfare and foreign ministries and two South Korean officials visited a charnel house in Tagawa, Fukuoka Prefecture, to examine four sets of remains.

They later talked with officials from the city, which manages the facility, in an attempt to identify the remains and learn how the four died.

In Fukuoka Prefecture alone, at least 225 Korean forced laborers who worked at private companies died between 1941 and 1953, according to data compiled by the prefectural government in March 1958.

Cremation records and other documents indicate that the four sets of remains are those of Korean men who died between 1964 and 1973, the officials said.

After viewing the remains, one of the South Korean delegates said, “No words can describe what I feel. . . . We were a long time in coming, but eventually we want to return (the remains) to their families.”

“More sets of remains are believed to exist, but we cannot conduct research because of the lack of documents from those days,” said Tagawa Mayor Nobukatsu Ito.

The government has collected information on some 1,669 sets of remains of Korean forced laborers and the team plans to widen its investigation.

South Korea and Japan began discussions on repatriating the remains after South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun asked Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to consider the issue in 2004.

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