More than 2,700 sets of remains in Japan were identified as Koreans who were forced into labor during the Japanese colonial rule, a South Korean commission said Wednesday.
It is the first time that the number of remains of Korean laborers confirmed by South Korea and Japan has been made public.
The sides found 2,745 remains from 340 sites since 2005 when they launched a joint investigation, according to the commission affiliated with the prime minister’s office.
It said the number of remains could increase if the joint Investigation continues.
As of October, 153 remains have been identified and 95 bereaved families have expressed their intention to repatriate them, the commission said.
From 2008 to 2010, the commission repatriated 423 sets of remains of South Korean soldiers and military officials in Tokyo but the repatriation of labor workers has been inactive.
“The repatriation should be conducted as soon as possible as the bereaved families are already very old,” Kim Jong-dae, a representative of the bereaved families said.
“Despite the families’ will, the Japanese government has been passive in cooperating with the repatriation,” an official from the commission said.
The forced mobilization was carried out when the Korean Peninsula was a Japanese colony from 1910-45. Many Koreans were conscripted into the Japanese military or drafted to work in the military industrial sector, being deployed in Japan and other countries against their will.
Many of them returned home after the 1945 liberation of Korea, following Japan’s defeat in World War II, but others remained. Many are believed to have died during the war.
It is unclear how many people were mobilized for forced labor and died. Some civic groups claim the number of conscripts goes up to a million or more.