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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Forced labor victim passes away at 93

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Yang Young-soo. [YONHAP]
Yang Young-soo. [YONHAP]

Yang Young-soo, who was a victim of forced labor during the Japanese occupation, passed away on Thursday at the age of 93.

Yang was waiting for the final court ruling on her case against Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

According to a civic group on the mobilization of forced labor, Yang, who was born in 1929, worked at the Japanese company’s plant in Nagoya, Japan, just two months after graduating from elementary in Gwangju in 1944.

Yang testified that her Japanese teacher told her that she would be able to make an earning while studying for free if she left for Japan.

She said she was naïve at the time to believe that if she “cooperated” with Japan, the Japanese police would stop chasing after her father, who at the time was a fugitive.

However, Yang said her life in Japan was like living in prison.

She said she worked for eight hours a day, painting airplane parts. Yang said she was exposed to harsh living conditions including a lack of heat.

She was given only once a month to take a bath. But the waters were ones that were used by the Japanese.

After returning home after Korea became independent, she remained silent due to society’s prejudice and misunderstanding of her as a “comfort woman.”

She only spoke out when she joined others in a lawsuit against Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in February 2014.

The court had ordered the Japanese company to pay the plaintiff 100 million won each, which was upheld at the appeal court. The final decision is yet to be made at the Supreme Court.

Yang is survived by a daughter.

Her funeral is set up at the Daegu Christian Hospital she is to be buried on Saturday.

The forced labor mobilization civic group estimates 218,000 people to have been the victim of forced labor while 1,200 or so currently survive.

BY LEE HO-JEONG, LEE SU-MIN [lee.hojeong@joongang.co.kr]