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Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2007

Koreans sue Yasukuni to get names delisted


Staff writer

A lawsuit was filed Monday against Yasukuni Shrine by 11 South Koreans seeking to have their names or the names of their relatives struck from the list of war dead, saying their inclusion is "an insult" that causes intolerable pain.

News photo
Relatives of Koreans listed as war dead by Yasukuni Shrine march to the Tokyo District Court on Monday. KYODO PHOTO

It is the first suit filed by South Koreans against the contentious Tokyo shrine instead of against the central government for inappropriate consecration. Three of the plaintiffs also sued the government.

The plaintiffs are each demanding 1 yen in compensation and a public apology from Yasukuni, a private Shinto organization that promoted nationalism during the war. Their lawyers said the redress sought was minimized because the focus of their suit is to have the names of Koreans removed from the shrine.

"Japan invaded and occupied Korea, killed many families, and now they have enshrined some of our people without notice," plaintiff Lee Hee Ja, 64, told reporters.

Lee's father was conscripted by the Imperial Japanese Army during the 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula and was killed in 1945 in China. He was enshrined at Yasukuni in 1959 without relatives being notified.

"I am not asking anyone to bring my father back. . . . I just want his name removed," she said.

Kim Hee Jong, 81, filed a complaint against Yasukuni Shrine last July after finding out he was listed among the war dead. Although the shrine acknowledged Kim is still alive, his name has remained on the list.

"I thought my name was completely removed, but they haven't done that. I visited the shrine this morning and felt rage," Kim said. "I cried."

Yasukuni enshrines the names of approximately 2.46 million people who died in the war. It also honors 14 Class-A war criminals who died after the war, a cause of diplomatic tension with China and South Korea.

About 21,000 Koreans are on the war-dead list.

Last May, the Tokyo District Court rejected a demand by 414 plaintiffs -- former Korean soldiers and relatives of the deceased -- to have the government remove their names from the Yasukuni list and to pay damages.

The court's position was that wartime claims for redress were settled under a 1965 treaty between Japan and South Korea and that it was "within the range of ordinary administrative research and response work" for the government to provide a list of war dead to the shrine.

Plaintiffs appealed to the Tokyo High Court and that litigation is ongoing.

Eight of the 11 plaintiffs in Monday's suit were involved in the case, including Park Im Sum, 74, whose father was enshrined at Yasukuni in 1959. "I still have my grudges (against Japan)," Park said, adding that her father will be "held captive" at the shrine as long as his name is on the roll.

The suit will focus on whether the judges conclude the government inappropriately engaged in religious activity when providing names of the war dead to the shrine, breaching Article 20 of the Constitution, which bans the state from engaging in religious activities.

The plaintiffs will also argue that enshrining those who do not practice Shinto violates Article 13, which guarantees that an individual's right to life among others shall be respected.



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The Japan Times

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