• Kyodo

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Tokyo pressed Seoul in 1978 to accept resident South Korean convicts in Japan by threatening to send them to North Korea unless the demand was met, according to diplomatic documents declassified Thursday.

Seoul had dismissed the request on humanitarian grounds and Japan stepped up pressure on South Korea to allow the convicts entry, saying some would be sent to the North if they wanted, the documents showed.

In the late 1970s, Japan categorized South Koreans with permanent residency who committed crimes and were sentenced to seven years or longer in prison as people to be expelled. At that time, Japan granted permanent residency to first- and second-generation South Korean residents in Japan.

The documents on diplomatic negotiations between Seoul and Tokyo held in the late 1970s showed South Korea refused to meet Japan’s demand, saying South Koreans with permanent residency in Japan had no basis to make a living in South Korea.

In June and July 1978, the South Korean Embassy in Tokyo reported to the Foreign Ministry in Seoul that Japan had asked South Korea to accept 20 convicts with permanent residency in Japan who had earlier been refused entry by Seoul, suggesting it would consider sending some of them to North Korea at their request if South Korea continued its rejection.

The embassy told Seoul it decided to accept one of the 20. In response, the ministry in Seoul said it was unacceptable and ordered renegotiations of the matter with Japan.

Documents with immigration authorities at Japan’s Justice Ministry showed that two people with Korean nationality were expelled in that year for the first time.

The immigration documents also showed that 17 more people were expelled since then until 1988, even though the destination countries could not be found out.

There is a possibility they entered South Korea because it is considered unlikely they would have gone to North Korea.

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