I want an apology before I die says South Korean

‘I want an apology before I die,’ says South Korean elder forced into forced labor in Japan

1 of 1 An elderly South Korean woman says she was forced to work at Mitsubishi’s aircraft factory in Nagoya, Japan, since she was young. (illustrative photo) The South Korean government is offering compensation through a national public foundation without forcing Japanese companies to pay for their practices. — Photo: Portal/Kyodo An elderly South Korean woman says she was forced to work at the Mitsubishi Airplane Factory in Nagoya, Japan, since she was young. (illustrative photo) The South Korean government is offering compensation through a national public foundation without forcing Japanese companies to pay for their practices. — Photo: Portal/Kyodo

The South Korean government is trying at all costs to resolve a historic rift between South Korea and Japan. However, ending differences between the two countries and improving SeoulTokyo ties will require reparations and apologies that South Korean victims still expect from corporations and the Japanese government for the violence committed during the country’s 1910 colonization and committed in 1945.

South Korean authorities have drawn up a plan to compensate these victims, but some are refusing to accept it and are demanding a formal apology from Japanese authorities and companies.

Such is the case of Yang Geumdeok, who at the age of 94 still remembers the day her teacher “invited” her to study in Japan. The South Korean left her home country at the age of 14, but not to study. She claims to have been forced to work in an airplane factory.

“Like me, 138 women from my Jeolla prefecture were forced to go to Japan to work at the Mitsubishi plant in Nagoya. I didn’t have the slightest chance to study, I worked almost to death and when I returned home I hadn’t received any salary for my work,” he says.

Eight decades later, the wounds of the past have still not healed. In 2018, South Korea’s Supreme Court forced Mitsubishi to compensate the elderly woman, but the Japanese company refused to pay.

Compensation plan is criticized

A victim compensation plan announced last month by the South Korean government and funded by a national public foundation has been far from unanimous among victims because it doesn’t oblige Japanese companies to pay for what they did.

“I want to get an apology from my attackers before I die,” says Yang Geumdeok.

“What I’ve seen so far is unfair. And why does Mitsubishi, which forced me to work and prevented me from studying, keep forcing me to work? All I want now is a sincere apology.”