Over 5,000 Koreans subjected to forced labor at home under colonial Japan

SEOUL, Aug. 6 (Yonhap) -- More than 5,000 Koreans, mostly from what is now North Korea, were mobilized for forced labor at home during Japan's colonial rule of the peninsula in the early 1900s, government data showed Wednesday.

A total of 5,567 Koreans were confirmed to have been forcibly mobilized by the Japanese colonial government to work at 202 local units of Japanese firms or other domestic companies during the 1910-45 colonial control, according to the data by a committee under the Prime Minister's Office.

The committee collected reports of locally-employed labor victims for three years starting in 2005 and confirmed 5,567 of the reported victims after studying official records.

The local victims are in addition to hundreds of thousands of Koreans forced into slave labor in Japan during the colonial rule.

The latest number accounts for only 0.23 percent of 6.5 million Koreans who the Japanese government estimated had been forced into slave labor on their home soil, a committee official said.

Sixty of the Japanese companies which employed forced Korean laborers at their Korean units are still in operation, including Mitsubishi, Mitsui and Sumimoto affiliates as well as Nippon Steel and Aso Mining, the family conglomerate involving current Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso, according to the committee.

Four local firms -- CJ Korea Express, Hanjin Heavy Industries, Kyungbang and KEPCO -- were also confirmed to have been among the domestic employers of forced laborers, although they now exist under different corporate names, the committee also noted.

Most of the Korean victims were based in what are now North Korean provinces, with victims from five North Korean regions, including South and North Hamgyeong provinces, accounting for 73.8 percent of the recently confirmed labor victims, according to the committee.

Japanese firms operated many mining and fertilizer firms in the North Korean region that contained rich mineral reserves during the colonial rule, which led to many Koreans in the region becoming victims, the committee noted.

The bulk of the confirmed victims were employed in the mining industry while others were mobilized mainly in the construction, military manufacturing, factory or railroad sectors, according to the committee.

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