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92-year-old S. Korean still fighting for post-war compensation from Japanese gov't

Lee Hak-rae is pictured in this file photo taken in Tokyo's Itabashi Ward on June 16, 2016. (Mainichi)

On June 14, a gathering was held in the Diet to show support for Lee Hak-rae -- a 92-year-old South Korean man who has been labeled as a "foreign ex-Class B/C war criminal" from World War II.

    However, on that particular day, the Diet was more preoccupied with the government's controversial "anti-conspiracy bill" -- and was not able to focus properly on Lee's case. Only two Diet members -- about eight fewer than usual for a gathering of this nature -- were present to talk about Lee.

    Having worked as a civilian military employee during World War II, Lee's freedom was restricted until 1956 following an Allied Forces' trial. He was later freed in 1956, but the Japanese government prevented him from receiving any compensation on the grounds that, "He is not Japanese."

    Subsequently, he filed a lawsuit together with his comrades, but he lost the lawsuit in 1996. The ruling handed down by the Tokyo District Court urged that the issue be resolved through the government's legislative policy.

    For many years afterward, there was little movement, but with support for Lee coming in from a suprapartisan legislators' group during the recent regular Diet session, Lee remained hopeful.

    However, in the end time ran out, and not even a bill was submitted. Nevertheless, Lee said, "We're making headway," and he is determined to keep fighting. "I can't die until the honor of my comrades, who sadly passed away, and their bereaved families is redeemed," he says. It has been an extremely long campaign for the 92-year-old Lee, that stretches back over 60 years.

    If the ruling coalition was capable of forcing an "anti-conspiracy" bill through the Diet -- leaving many questions unanswered and a widely shared sense of anxiety unaddressed -- then surely it is capable of creating legislation that can provide post-war compensation to people like Lee.

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