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Record Released Suggesting a Large-scale Massacre of Koreans by Japan in Sakhalin
By Won Hui-bok
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A draft of a government report by the Soviet Union in the 1940s implying that Japan massacred Koreans in Sakhalin on a large scale was made public.

On August 14, in time for the 67th anniversary of independence, the National Archives of Korea (President Song Gwi Geun) released records on Koreans in Sakhalin collected from Russia and Japan.

According to a draft report by the Soviet government in 1946--one of the documents released--10,229 Koreans lived in Esutoru located in the northwestern area of Sakhalin before the Second World War. However, after the war only 5,332 Koreans remained, showing that the population of Koreans decreased 50%.

A record of forced labor in Sakhalin released by the National Archives of Korea on August 14 in time for the 67th anniversary of independence. Koreans are working at a lumber camp in Sakhalin. National Archives of Korea

An official from the archives explained, "Koreans could have returned to Korea, moved or become naturalized citizens. Since these factors can also explain the decrease in population, we cannot conclude that the Japanese military killed all 5,000 or so Koreans.

However, it is clear that the Soviet government identified the massacre by the Japanese soldiers as a cause of the population decrease." Until now, the number of Koreans in Sakhalin killed by Japan was known to be less than a hundred.

The National Archives of Korea also announced that another document they collected, the report of Russia's Central Party in 1946, recorded that the number of people that the Japanese government mobilized by force in Sakhalin was 22,817.

Korean women forced to work in Sakhalin are picking out foreign elements at a coal mine. National Archives of Korea

This is a much bigger number than the thousands that the Japanese government currently claims. Korea estimates the number of people mobilized by force in Sakhalin to be about 70,000~80,000.

Among other records that were released, there was a top secret document of the Soviet Union from 1948 ordering, "Move the Koreans in the Kuril region to Sakhalin and control them together," and a press guideline stating, "Do not mention the issue of Koreans in Sakhalin returning to Korea."

The evidence of a large-scale massacre and a register of the Koreans that were mobilized by force, which the archives have released, are expected to encourage the compensation for Japan's forced labor.

The number of applications requesting compensation for forced mobilization in Sakhalin submitted to the Commission on Verification and Support for the Victims of Forced Mobilization under Japanese Colonialism in Korea is 2,225. Among them only 1,292 have been approved for support.

A record on the massacre of Koreans by Japanese soldiers in Esutoru, the northwestern area of South Sakhalin. National Archives of Korea

The National Archives also released videos of forced labor: people mining coal and cutting down trees in the coal mine and lumber camp in Sakhalin.

Professor Han Hyein of Konkuk University said, "The records will provide practical support in restoring the history of Koreans in Sakhalin, and in the current compensation of forced mobilization in Sakhalin.

These records will be displayed under the title, "Records of Bitter Grief, Found in Frozen Soil," at the Seoul History Museum until August 19. There will also be a related seminar.

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