Forced Korean labor victims eye suit against Japanese firms

A group of Koreans who were forced to work for Japanese firms during the colonial period said Tuesday it is pursuing what could be the largest class-action suit of its kind to seek damages from their former employers.

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Millions of Koreans are known to have been coerced into labor during Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula between 1910 and 1945. Many of the survivors testify to having worked excruciatingly long hours and carried out dangerous tasks without being properly fed.

Japanese firms have denied responsibility, arguing that a 1965 normalization treaty between South Korea and Japan settled damages caused by forced labor.

A landmark ruling by the South Korean Supreme Court in 2012, however, has invalidated these claims and allowed individuals to seek compensation from their former employers. Several damages suits have been filed since, with the largest class so far being that of 252 family members.

An even larger class-action suit may be in store, as the Asia Victims of the Pacific War Family of the Deceased Association of the Korea (sic) said it is planning to gather more than 1,000 plaintiffs for the same cause. On the other side of the courtroom would be more than 100 Japanese companies, including Mitsubishi, Mitsui, Aso and Nissan.

The group said it has received more than 1,400 applications from former forced laborers and their family members to become plaintiffs.

“We are in the process of selecting those who are legally eligible,” the group said at a press conference in downtown Seoul.

If successful in its endeavors, the group will have organized the largest South Korean motion against Japanese employers during the colonial era.

There is a catch, though, and it is that the Supreme Court ruling is only valid until May 23 this year. Article 766 of the South Korean civil law states that damages can only be sought for three years since the identification of the perpetrators and the victims or 10 years since the illegal acts were carried out.

Facing a tight deadline, the group called on South Korean courts to make an exception to this rule.

“It’s ineffective to have millions of victims file damages suits individually,” a representative of the group said. “The courts should allow us to represent all those in similar situations in this class-action suit.” (Source: Yonhap)

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Japan demands U.S. publisher McGraw-Hill to alter the description of Comfort Women

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The United States strongly supports academic freedom, the State Department said Sunday February 8th, as history scholars criticize Japan for pressuring an American textbook publisher to change the description of Tokyo’s sexual enslavement of Asian women during World War II.

A group of American history scholars have issued a protest statement denouncing Japan’s demand for U.S. publisher McGraw-Hill to alter the description of the sexual slavery issue in one of its textbooks, saying no government should have the right to “censor history.”

Japan’s move is seen as an attempt to whitewash the atrocity. Critics have also said the Japanese move raises questions about academic freedom in the country.

“We continue to emphasize the importance of approaching historical legacy issues in a manner that promotes healing and reconciliation for all parties,” a State Department representative said. “As a matter of principle we stand in strong support of academic freedom as a foundation of democratic society.”

Historians estimate that up to 200,000 women, mainly from Korea, which was a Japanese colony from 1910 to 1945, were forced to work in front-line brothels for Japanese soldiers during World War II. But Japan has long attempted to whitewash the atrocity.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also told a parliamentary meeting earlier this month that he was surprised to learn how the McGraw-Hill book describes the sexual slavery issue and pledged government efforts to continue to push for changes.

The sexual slavery issue has been the biggest thorn in frayed relations between Japan and South Korea, with Seoul demanding Japan take steps to address the grievances of elderly Korean victims of the atrocity and Japan refusing to do so.  (Source: Yonhap)

Cheongwadae 청와대 – Korea’s Presidential Residence

Cheongwadae, named for the blue tiles that cover the roof, Seoul’s Blue House serves as the presidential home, in this aspect, it works similarly like the White House in Washington, DC.

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Cheongwadae, literally means “pavilion of blue tiles” and is the executive office and official residence of the South Korean head of state, the President Park Geun-hye. President’s Park Geun-hye’s father, Park Chung-hee, also used Cheongwadae as both his office and official residendence. The main office bulding was opened in April 1991.

Set in an old Joseon Dynasty royal garden, the Blue House was build following the Korean traditional architectural style combining it with modern elements. The emblematic rooftop gathers more than 150,000 porcelain tiles giving the whole structure a very delicate touch of refined taste and style.

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For it’s spectacular architecture, location and landscape, Cheongwadae is one of the most representative places of modern Korea. In fact, some studies says that it Cheongwadae was built in an auspicious location based on an inscription found in an stone wall saying “The most blessed place on earth”. When we walk along it’s beautiful gardens, one is delighted by the view of it’s carefully pruned trees and the mountains that surrounds it.

On a tour through the grounds of the Blue House, you’ll get to visit some of the gardens, as well as the main building where the President of the Republic of Korea lives and conducts business and the State Guest House, all while learning about the tumultuous history of the country.

One of the interesting facts is the location of Cheongwadae. Cheongwadae is located next to the Gyeongbokgung, which was the main royal palace of the Joseon Dynasty. Back then, Gyeongbokgung served as the home of Kings of the Joseon Dynasty, the Kings’ households, as well as the government of Joseon.

Cheongwadae, like a Joseon palace, is serving as home and office of Korea’s President Park Geun-hye. Just like a Joseon king, Park Geun-hye serves the country with devotion and love to it’s people, trying to make Korea and it’s people one of the most admirable and respected nations in the world.