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Suit filed over Korean soldiers enshrined at Yasukuni Shrine.

TOKYO, June 29 Kyodo

South Koreans who served in the Imperial Japanese Army and bereaved families of such South Koreans jointly filed a suit Friday against the state demanding compensation and requesting that the remains of South Korean soldiers enshrined at a controversial Shinto shrine be returned to them.

A total of 252 plaintiffs -- 90 former soldiers and other military personnel as well as 162 members of the bereaved families -- are seeking a combined 2.46 billion yen in compensation in the suit filed with the Tokyo District Court over soldiers consecrated at Yasukuni Shrine, which is dedicated to war dead, including war criminals.

This is the first suit seeking the relocation of those enshrined at the Tokyo shrine.

''The state has enshrined those who died in the war in Yasukuni Shrine, which is a violation of a constitutional provision banning the state from engaging any religious activities,'' the suit says.

The suit also says enshrining someone against their beliefs in life also constitutes an infringement of the Constitution.

Some families of former soldiers who died in action never received official death notices, and they are demanding an investigation into how their loved ones died and the return of their remains.

The compensation sought covers payments of unpaid salary for those who served in the army and consolation money.

''It is glaring contradiction that those victims who were forcibly mobilized and then lost their lives are enshrined as spirits together with those perpetrators,'' said a lawyer representing the plaintiffs.

At a news conference, Lee Yong Chan, 66, whose father was drafted and then killed in action in China, said it is tantamount to violence and humiliation that his father is enshrined at Yasukuni.

''While I have never seen my father's face, I believe he does not wish to be enshrined there,'' said Lee, who now lives in the United States.

Kim Haeng Jin, 80, who was sent to the South Pacific as a soldier, said he was conspicuously discriminated against for being Korean, and was sometimes ordered to clean toilet seats by licking them.

''Nonetheless, I fought, sincerely hoping Japan would win. It does not make sense to offer no annuity and compensation'' to those people like him, he said.

Yasukuni Shrine, in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward, is dedicated to the spirits of those who died in the wars Japan engaged since the mid-19th century. The shrine was used by the government as a vehicle to promote nationalism during World War II and also houses war criminals including Tojo Hideki, who was the army general and prime minister in the closing years of the last war.

Korea was annexed by Japan in 1910 and remained its colony until Aug. 15, 1945.
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Publication:Asian Political News
Date:Jul 2, 2001
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