Report: Korean man died uncompensated after serving in Japan’s wartime military

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April 7 (UPI) — An ethnic Korean man who served in the Imperial Japanese army during World War II died without receiving any form of compensation, according to a Japanese press report.

The Asahi Shimbun reported Wednesday Lee Hak-rae, 96, was the last of the Korean war veterans of Japan’s war in the Pacific. Lee sought but never received government compensation available to former soldiers, including war criminals, the report said.

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Lee was recruited into the Japanese military at age 17, in 1942, and worked on the Thai-Burma railway. One of his tasks was to monitor allied prisoners of war at the construction site.

The imprisoned workforce was short on medical supplies. After the war, Lee was charged with abusing prisoners at a Japanese work site, where he said the dearth of medicine contributed to ill health and death.

Lee was sentenced to death and designated a war criminal. The sentence was later commuted and he was released in 1956.

The former soldier was unable to return to his hometown in Korea’s South Jeolla Province because of fears he would be persecuted on the peninsula for joining the Japanese military. Japan colonized Korea from 1910 to 1945.

Lee remained in Japan but changes to the law excluded him from receiving military pensions.

The war veteran lost his Japanese nationality after the signing of the San Francisco Peace Treaty in 1951. The government, according to the Asahi, never addressed Lee’s loss of nationality and the inequitable treatment he received.

Japan’s policies during wartime upended the lives of millions of Koreans who endured a brutal occupation. Many impoverished Korean women were coerced to serve in wartime brothels, where they said they were sexually assaulted, beaten, while watching others succumb to death and disease.

South Korean news service News 1 reported Wednesday a former “comfort woman” is requesting Seoul build a history museum about the experiences of women like herself.

Lee Yong-soo said in her meeting with Minister of Gender Equality Chung Young-ai the Japanese government “burns all documents” related to the issue of comfort women, and suggested South Korea needs to keep its own records, according to the report.