S. Korea to release records showing Japan’s mobilization of Korean girls and women into forced labor

Posted on : 2020-08-14 17:31 KST Modified on : 2020-08-14 17:31 KST
Lists of students and nurses identify individual who were drafted to work for the Japanese military
The May 2nd edition of the Maeil Shinbo in 1941 describing the mobilization of young Korean girls and women into forced labor
The May 2nd edition of the Maeil Shinbo in 1941 describing the mobilization of young Korean girls and women into forced labor

On the 75th anniversary of Korea’s liberation by US forces from Japanese the colonial occupation, the National Archives of Korea, the National Library of Korea, and the Northeast Asian History Foundation have released records from the colonial occupation related to the poorly known issue of the labor conscription of women and children. The archives also contained newspaper articles and other documents that were published in support of their conscription.

Documents made public by the National Archives on Aug. 13 include school registers showing how students ranging in age from elementary school to university were conscripted for hard labor in South Korea and lists of nurses showing how women were drafted for similar purposes. A middle school register includes a list of students who were conscripted into forced labor. After graduation, their names also appeared on lists of soldiers and civilian workers for the army who were dispatched to the front lines.

“This is a concrete example demonstrating how Japan’s colonial administration regarded students as a source of military and civilian manpower. Research has been conducted on the mobilization of students and nurses, but rarely have such lists come to light that include their actual names and the details of their mobilization,” the National Archives said. These records are available for viewing, by appointment, at the National Library.

The Feb. 5 edition of the Maeil Shinbo in 1939 recruiting Korean nurses to work in the Japanese military
The Feb. 5 edition of the Maeil Shinbo in 1939 recruiting Korean nurses to work in the Japanese military

The National Library said on Thursday that it had carefully selected documents related to the mobilization of women and children for an exhibition. The library inherited a collection of 300,000 books, newspapers, and magazines from the library of the Japanese Government-General of Korea.

The released documents show that the Japanese Empire drafted Korean children under the euphemistic name of “industrial warriors” and that there was also newspaper coverage of middle school students being pressed into work in mines and factories.

In regard to women, records suggest that the Japanese Empire sent nurses to the front lines of its wars of aggression, describing them in propagandistic terms as “angels garbed in white.” The Japanese Empire set up nursing programs at hospitals in Seoul (known as Gyeongseong at the time) and Chongjin, North Hamgyong Province, as part of that program. The Japanese used the Maeil Shinbo and other newspapers to ask women mobilized as nurses to have the same attitude as kamikazes in the Japanese army.

“Related organizations have been actively working together on this project since last year. The documents they’ve released only represent the first stage of the project. Going forward, we’re going to work with academics to expand the foundation of research on compulsory mobilization,” said Lee So-yeon, director of the National Archives.

Lee explained that these organizations are “working together on research and projects such as setting up a database to analyze records about compulsory mobilization during the colonial period that have previously been stored separately.”

In a related development, an online archive for comfort women records was launched on Apr. 14, the comfort women memorial day. Archive 814 is a website that systematically collects and organizes records about the comfort women that have been held in a variety of countries.

Aug. 14 was officially designated as a commemorative day by the South Korean government in 2018, marking the day in 1991 when the late Kim Hak-sun first testified about her experiences as a comfort woman.

Archive 814, available at www.archive814.or.kr, was set up by a comfort women research institute under South Korea’s Ministry of Gender Equality and Family. A total of 526 digital records can be viewed at the archive, including 171 Japanese government documents, 18 trial records, 17 records from the comfort women movement, 34 records from international organizations and the international community, 283 resolutions from South Korea and other countries and Japanese government position statements, and three media documents.

By Song Gyung-hwa and Park Da-hae, staff reporters

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