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The survivor: Last Korean war criminal in Japan wants recognition

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By Ju-min Park

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I sincerely hope that every sleeping and waking moment, 95-year-old Lee Hak-rae contemplates why he deserves to be thrown into the dustbin of history.

I hope Lee festers and rots there. Shameless thug. May Lee forever remain persona non grata, along with all the other convicted war criminals that escaped the hangman.

16 ( +30 / -14 )

@itsonlyrocknroll I agree

4 ( +15 / -11 )

This senile old war crimInal has a real cheek asking anyone for anything. Don’t forget to shut the door on the way out pal, and wheel ya self back to skid row.

15 ( +24 / -9 )

Whether they are a convicted Japanese or Korean war criminal, it doesn't matter where their place of birth was. None of these men deserve recognition, let alone a military pension!

Thankfully the last of his kind, and good riddance once he's gone!!

19 ( +25 / -6 )

Seems like he made a poor choice all those years ago to join the enemy. A little like those from the UK who joined ISIS but now want to return to the UK.

Sorry, but you made your bed..Now sleep in it!

11 ( +17 / -6 )

I disagree with how you all say he deserve it. They were soldiers and serve the army. No matter what, they had did their duty, follow orders and sacrifice a lot for the nation.If they didn't follow orders, all they get is a bullet in their head for being disloyal to the army. No matter what, the nation had to take care of them for their service. Is their right. They fought for Japan.

-5 ( +19 / -24 )

"I was lucky to live until 95. I don't want to live longer for myself but I can't stop fighting for my dead comrades," he said.

Yet, with all the others gone, only he would receive a bunch of cash and “recognition”

0 ( +4 / -4 )

He had my sympathy up until "The Lizard."  One of those cases of knowing the other side of the story.  Unless it was not reported I don't see any remorse from him on what he did to those POWs.

25 ( +31 / -6 )

Seems like he made a poor choice all those years ago to join the enemy. 

Now that would make a good story! The "choices" we make in our lives need to be studied in detail in order to reach the right conclusions. This is the stuff of literature as well as life. Without a more detailed account of his heinous deeds and subsequent life story it is difficult to comment on his case, but even though we may assume his brutal treatment of POWs deserved severe punishment, we can also easily conclude that the young Korean man in WW2 was just "a pawn in THEIR game".

1 ( +10 / -9 )

I guess this happened because Koreans in Japan (They were Japanese citizens during and before the war) changed their nationality from Japanese to Koreans. Anyway, the Japanese government is responsible to support their life since their tragedy happened by becoming soldiers of the imperial army.

2 ( +10 / -8 )

Cribb said it was unfair the (sic) Japan gave pensions to their war criminals but not to Koreans who were part of the Japanese army.

I can't believe that sentence. There should have been a full stop after the word 'criminals'.

7 ( +11 / -4 )

Why was Lee convicted as a war criminal in the first place?Sad reality is that many cases of abuse against POWs were committed by Japanese soldiers of Korean descent.

-7 ( +4 / -11 )

Well today I found out that Japan gives a military pension to convicted war criminals.

.............................................................................cool.

21 ( +22 / -1 )

I can't believe that sentence. There should have been a full stop after the word 'criminals'.

Governments can and do always find suitable work for criminals. The bigger the criminals, the fatter their pensions. The less we idolize and idealize our "leaders", the more freedom and democracy we will get. WW2 was by far the most important history lesson in our lifetime, but unfortunately, as time passes and that brutal struggle with fascism recedes into the past, fewer and fewer people are learning from it.

11 ( +12 / -1 )

My original comment was removed, deemed offensive, yet this whole article wants us to feel sympathy for a war criminal? THAT isn’t offensive????

I’ll say it again, I’ll send the poor fella some cash. ¥100 so he can phone someone that cares.

Cos, I for one, do not.

10 ( +16 / -6 )

No sympathy for this pathetic old war criminal, nor any of his Japanese or Korean fellow criminals. I hope every night of their lives were haunted by those they cruelly bashed, starved, tortured and killed.

10 ( +14 / -4 )

He looks benign now at 95, I get there was cohesion when he was young to serve Japan but he throws himself into his job with such zest to be remembered as a beast. Hanging him for his crimes that he fails to acknowledge would have been best for humanity. There is a time and place it was then not now. Like smoke he will fade in the wind. And be remembered for what he was a lizard.

3 ( +8 / -5 )

There but for the grace of God go you, should you have been in his status and position at that time. War turns men into monsters and it's the winners decide who are the criminals. There are always plenty of atrocities on all sides to go around.

4 ( +15 / -11 )

There's another side of the story that needs to be told; those that were conscripted and were not war criminals. There was a recent news coverage on local Okinawa TV about boys in their teens who basically were slaves for the imperial army and the story was told by an elderly Okinawan woman. She remembered them living in a house nearby and could hear the lonely, melancholy singing in Korean. This elderly woman is trying to gather the names of the many Koreans who were enslaved and died on Okinawa so that they could at least get their names engraved on the stone monument at Peace Park. For the Lizard, John Demjanjuk and others out there who went out of their way to be beasts; these are the boys who were tossed into the dustbin of history, not you; your names will live in infamy.

5 ( +10 / -5 )

@dbsaiya

The average conscripted soldier wasn't convicted of war crimes.

This man was.

No sympathy.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

Trial records reviewed by Reuters show prisoners remembered Lee, known as the Lizard, as one of the most brutal guards on the railway.

Sounds like a real piece of work. I guess he is cursed with a long life.

10 ( +11 / -1 )

"his recruitment into the Japanese army from then-occupied Korea in 1942; "

Conscription of Koreans on the Korean Peninsula did not start until December 1944. Anyone prior to that had to join willingly.

5 ( +9 / -4 )

95-year-old Lee Hak-rae, is undoubtedly a frail old man, a convicted war criminal.

Even after 75 years, Lee Hak-rae, the last surviving Korean war criminal, still not shows any regret or guilt, nor a tear of remorse for the brutal war crimes inflected on the countless POW’s.

If a slither of honour existed, Lee Hak-rae, on capture would/should have requested a pistol, and brought his crimes to a conclusion, so his family would not have to suffer the indignity and shame of his existence and crimes.

12 ( +14 / -2 )

Japan pays military pensions to convicted war criminals. Some countries allowing convicted criminals to vote.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

HiroToday  06:52 am JST

I disagree with how you all say he deserve it. They were soldiers and serve the army. No matter what, they had did their duty, follow orders and sacrifice a lot for the nation.If they didn't follow orders, all they get is a bullet in their head for being disloyal to the army. No matter what, the nation had to take care of them for their service. Is their right. They fought for Japan.

Did you bother to read down the articles as far as this?

Austen Fyfe, an Australian POW, said Lee was notorious for his brutality and beat him repeatedly, including with a bamboo stick on the back of the head. Other prisoners said Lee would stalk their makeshift hospital and "beat up the people he thought to be well enough to work".

So, you are proud of the members, Japanese or Korean, of the Japanese army beating up sick POWs? This says a lot about you.

5 ( +9 / -4 )

It's perhaps not fair that this man, and many other Korean war criminals, were scapegoated to protect higher ranking officers.

I don't feel sorry for this man, though. I've heard that only the good die young. He is far from young.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Sorry Hiro,

All convicted War criminals commonly fall back on the defense of superior orders, or the excuse of just following orders, in effect not commit offenses of their own free will.   

Mitchell v. Harmony….

Chief Justice Taney of the United States Supreme Court declared: “It can never be maintained that a military officer can justify himself for doing an unlawful act by producing the order of his superior. The order may palliate, but it cannot justify” the deed.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

The irony of being a conscript prisoner who committed war crimes and a Japanese-American child in Hiroshima on the day the atomic bomb dropped whose innocent parents were interred in America:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2020/history/howard-kakita-hiroshima-atomic-bomb-survivor/?hpid=hp_hp-more-top-stories_hiroshimasurvivor-755pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory-ans&itid=hp_hp-more-top-stories_hiroshimasurvivor-755pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory-ans

0 ( +1 / -1 )

None of these men deserve recognition

Oh they deserve recognition alright...

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Japan pays pension to their war criminals....

Now do you all see why Koreans are still upset at Japan???

Japan says they are sorry but then supports the war criminals and worship them at Yasakuni shrine. Their apology means nothing.

5 ( +12 / -7 )

I don't have any particular feelings for this man, but his time is limited.

I hope he can use what time he has left to reflect on his past, and work for forgiveness and closure.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

When I was in the Army reserve many years ago, one of the soldiers in my unit was half Filipino, half Caucasian. One time he was telling us that when the Japanese were occupying the Philippines, some of the worst soldiers were ethnic Koreans like the man in the article. He said they were very sadistic, even treating little kids with contempt. He related this story as told to him by his grandmother.

I have little sympathy for Lee, he was a brutal war criminal regardless of his ethnicity. That the South Korean government sees these soldiers as somehow 'vicitms' of the Japanese military speaks volumes.

0 ( +8 / -8 )

And also notice that Lee appears to minimize his brutality, particularly his actions while on the Thai-Burma railway. Eyewitnesses directly refute his statements.

It is apparent he has no remorse for what he did, so that makes him no better than any ethnic Japanese that denies or minimizes past atrocities.

0 ( +7 / -7 )

So he was only 18 when he was put in charge of POWs?

Still, he was old enough to know what abuse was, and he didn't have to abuse other human beings. He can live out the rest of his days knowing what he did wrong.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Our man has been complaining for a while...

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/japan/11220761/British-ex-POW-in-Japanese-camp-disgusted-by-guard-demands-for-compensation.html

2 ( +2 / -0 )

He was a teenager. He probably just did what he was told to do.

-4 ( +4 / -8 )

'Compensating Korean war criminals'? Since when do criminals deserve compensation? Only those who were wrongly convicted of being criminals may possibly deserve compensation. Certainly not this guy by the sounds of things.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

So he worked as a guard on the Death Railway but there is not one word claiming he was responsible for a single death? And the way he treated prisoners sounds a lot like he could expect to be treated himself from this Japanese "comrades". His status as an Imperial Japanese "Korean" soldier is made even clearer when Japan pays its native born war criminals but not the rest. So beatings are the basis for deeming him a war criminal? Seriously? That's was why they were going to hang him?

I wonder how many bombs were dropped today from jet aircraft that murdered children in their own homes by people and ordered by people who will never be called "war criminal" at all? God this world is crazy.

0 ( +6 / -6 )

Speechless at the hide of this Korean criminal moaning about Japan not giving him compensation or a pension.

Heres a tip, horrible Lizard - you want money : get a job, or go home and beg your government for it. No one likes you.

-5 ( +4 / -9 )

Have any of you heard of the 'Stanford prison experiment'?

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Bart FargoToday  09:19 am JST

It's perhaps not fair that this man, and many other Korean war criminals, were scapegoated to protect higher ranking officers.

No, higher ups were also charged and convicted.

"Hong Sa-ik (hangul 홍사익;hanja 洪思翊; 4 March 1889 – 26 September 1946)[1] was a lieutenant general in the Imperial Japanese Army, and the top-ranking ethnic Korean in Japan to be charged with war crimes relating to the conduct of the Empire of Japan in World War II."

Korean historical revisionists constantly claim that "all Koreans were forced to fight for Japan". This s simply not true. There were quite a few Korean officers in the Imperial Japanese military as they were all Japanese citizens under the 1910 annexation. The vast majority of Koreans joined the Japanese military willingly as they were not drafted until Dec 1944. Leaving aside Lee's war criminal status, the problem for Lee is that had he remained a Japanese national he would have received benefits from Japan. But the allied powers removed Korea from Japanese control and put into office the Korean Government in Exile, which took over the Republic of Korea (SK). So legally, Japan has no basis to provide benefits to a non-Japanese. However, that the South Korean government refuses to provide benefits to Lee, which, in my view contradicts their inaccurate claim that all Koreans were "forced" to serve. The article states that Lee "lost" his Japanese citizenship die to the 1951 San Francisco Treaty. Which means that Lee holds South Korean nationality. Why then does South Korea refuse to provide him with assistance?

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

Sad real stories after ww2, when this column mention Japanese+Korean war criminal issues. Too much focused the issues about Imperial Japan (incl. Korea) where much other brutal incidents of European colonization in Asia some pages faded out from modern history.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

KurukiToday  10:10 am JST

Japan pays pension to their war criminals....

The status of war criminals was established by the International Tribunal for the Far East by the allied WWII victor nations. That status has no legal standing within Japan, where any soldier of any rank, if they served in the military, would be eligible for benefits.

Now do you all see why Koreans are still upset at Japan???

No. Koreans are upset at anything involving Japan. So much that they couldn't care less about a South Korean national like Lee.

Japan says they are sorry but then supports the war criminals and worship them at Yasakuni shrine. Their apology means nothing.

WWII War Criminals are not "war criminals" under Japanese law. Over 2,000,000 souls are enshrined at Yasukuni, only 14 of them are Class-A War Criminals. Nobody goes to Yasukuni to "worship" them. Korean ability to stand by their Treaties and Agreements is what means nothing. Every effort Japan has made ti resolve issues between the two nations has been destroyed by South Korea, Which continues to whitewash it's history with historical revisionism.

-5 ( +6 / -11 )

Lee said Koreans were on the lowest rung of the Japanese military hierarchy and merely took orders.

Just like the excuses given by German guards at Auschwitz!

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Not a very sympathetic case.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

The writer of this article knew very well what type of reaction would be generated.

Yes, Lee is to be reviled for his actions...doesn't hold a candle to Unit 731- [ Thousands of men, women, children and infants interned at prisoner of war camps were subjected to vivisection, often without anesthesia and usually ending with the death of the victim.[23][24] Vivisections were performed on prisoners after infecting them with various diseases. Researchers performed invasive surgery on prisoners, removing organs to study the effects of disease on the human body.[25]

Prisoners had limbs amputated in order to study blood loss. Those limbs that were removed were sometimes re-attached to the opposite sides of the body. Some prisoners had their stomachs surgically removed and the esophagus reattached to the intestines. Parts of organs, such as the brain, lungs, and liver, were removed from some prisoners.[24] Imperial Japanese Army surgeon Ken Yuasa suggests that the practice of vivisection on human subjects was widespread even outside Unit 731,[26] estimating that at least 1,000 Japanese personnel were involved in the practice in mainland China.[27] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unit_731#Vivisection

And there are a lot of other people in Japan who are currently causing hardship and even suicide via their actions and policies.

These are simple and clear facts.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

They were soldiers and serve the army. No matter what, they had did their duty,

no POW to the IJA were treated one of the worst of WW2, beatings starvation. Japanese POW were treated far better in comparison. they were savages, by a savage regime , from a savage ideology, they deserved every punishment they got after the war

3 ( +5 / -2 )

@Ossan

You can repeat ad eaternam your blind sophisms, sharing with us your glorious Google findings. You can adore Japan all you want and for the reasons you need, but simply denying historical facts that do not match your narrative is childish. JP deserves better class of foreigners than deniers, they already have LDP for that.

In this period of history whether it was in Eu or in Asia, many people were enrolled by force, coercion, hunger. social pressure, repaying their family's "faults", propaganda, ect. Saying you can't be forced to join a colonial army is pure revisionism and is simply not true. Usually people saying that are the first to collaborate, when problems come.

He is a war criminal, wrong side of history, i agree he "deserves nothing". This also shows what you get fighting for or supporting JP without the right blood in your veins. Treaty or not.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

wtfjapanToday 12:09 pm JST

They were soldiers and serve the army. No matter what, they had did their duty,

no POW to the IJA were treated one of the worst of WW2, beatings starvation. Japanese POW were treated far better in comparison. they were savages, by a savage regime , from a savage ideology, they deserved every punishment they got after the war

Most all IJA soldiers were rejected on the front line to become POWs.

The US Marines shouting "Take no prisoners!!" was meant literally and many were killed even after surrendering or were not even given a chance to surrender.

The books like the Fog of War and/or Journals of Lindbergh illustrates vividly on how IJA solders were treated on the front line.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

What about japan's Army that kill Thousands of Chinese in Nanking.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Louis de la TorreToday 12:39 pm JST

What about japan's Army that kill Thousands of Chinese in Nanking.

Too much controversy over that story to make people's head spin.

Basically it's much smaller than what CCP claims since their claim had been ballooning from the 80's onward.

The original claim by ROC was around 150,000 with no evidence to prove it. Now CCP is claim it was around 300,000-450,000. Nanking did not hold that many people when IJA marched up to the city since most civilians evacuated the city in face of emit battle at the city.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

Louis de la TorreToday  12:39 pm JST

What about japan's Army that kill Thousands of Chinese in Nanking.

This, and several other similar comments here, are completely off-topic. Perhaps when the moderator has finished his post-lunch siesta they will in all fairness be removed.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

I find it strange that people want to pass judgment over this guy at this time and place, when he stood in front of a tribunal at the right time and place in the past. That's not what this whole article is about.

I find it educational to read how the Japanese government treats their allies. It's worth remembering and keep in mind for the future. It also seems that the Japanese government is not that different today with its deep rooted xenophobia displayed so well in banning the residents to return to Japan.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

War criminals who want to be treated fairly.

Where's the justice?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

It speaks volumes that some here want to minimize what this man did, and divert attention away with irrelevant topics like Nanking and unit 731 simply because of his ethnicity, instead of condemning him for his brutal actions, period. Some people truly have no shame. As pointed out he was in a period of time when the "he was conscripted so not his fault" did not even apply. These same people would never have minimized the actions of this particular individual had he in fact been ethnically Japanese.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Not sure what to think about this. These conscripted people were at the lowest in the caste, and wanted to be accepted so to show their loyality they did what they did. Ive seen this effect on gaijin in Japan; never accepted so they do whatever it takes, whatever meaningless life or job, just to be accepted. Must of been the same back then. Seems there were many Korean mercs for Japan at that time, but they were never fully assimilated. There was even a Russian unit stood up, due to bizarre events in Manchuria, and I think they were all later executed. I once worked with a Japanese guy, whos parents had been trapped in China. He could not speak Japanese and had made it back here. The other Japanese treated him badly, but he went "hard" at his job. I think Japan is mostly to blame for the atrocities these people committed and are responsible for his pension.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I find it educational to read how the Japanese government treats their allies. It's worth remembering and keep in mind for the future. It also seems that the Japanese government is not that different today with its deep rooted xenophobia displayed so well in banning the residents to return to Japan.

Very true. Nothing has really changed. These people were still gaijin, and treated as out caste. Still want to be part of the "collective" and naturalize.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@Ossan,

An "experience" with a Japanese or some memory is not the same as residing and working in Japan. We were all once at that newbie phase, but we gain more knowledge by doing the time. I suggest you do the same, otherwise your post lack any credibilty.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

When I was a young boy I met through my late mother a few old solders, one of them was a Japanese POW and he was on the Thai-Burma railway, and he survived, my mother said to me NEVER ask him about it, and I could not understand why I shouldn't, but one day he told me a small glimpse of his time as a POW, it made my toe curl, Frank was on a lot of tablets and various other medication then, but I am sure non of them back in the late 70"s never included mental health care for his issues, looking back on you tube and his recollections, it was brutal full stop. and this guy say/claims "pushed them slightly near the shoulder" hahahaha! oh dear, thats so funny, but not for the victims he pushed, do I have any sympathy for him? NO! may be he should write a book about his memoirs, and when it becomes a best seller, give the money to the POW who you brutally treated, and how about a deep apology?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

"Listen to me. Why are they treating us differently?"

Because they are racist, and denial of the past is in their blood. Heck, some of the posters on here who just WISH they would be accepted by Japan are more than eager to take up the right-wing's cause on this and similar issues.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

An awful man. An awful past. Shameful.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

At least bury him with his comrades. He earned Japanese citizenship. I strongly condemn his actions, but I'm not about to stand in judgement of someone who was put in a situation I cannot comprehend. I pray he finds redemption through Jesus.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

In 1999, Japan’s Supreme Court rejected compensation claims by Lee and other Korean war criminals.

On what grounds?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I'm surprised that a convicted war criminal that escaped hanging has anything to complain about. What a shame he wasn't hanged.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

The report and discussion about Mr. Lee help us to better understand a period of history that is difficult to understand, or even acknowledge. As the article states, 12,000 POWs died while illegally forced to construct the railway made famous by the movie, Bridge Over the River Kwai. That statistic, while itself shocking, is only one of many about the war that is shocking. In context, it becomes easier to understand why the US felt justified in using nuclear weapons to end the war.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

His country was occupied and many of his country men were forced into slave labor and military service. He was treated inhumanely from day one. Sure he was remembered for criminal acts in the military but knowing the Japanese army he was forced into following orders that were criminal. Put yourself in those circumstances

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Reading enough of these comments to get the general gist of the two dominant sides here, I think we must all remember that is the LOSER who has WAR CRIMINALS but only very rarely the winner. Do we really want to believe that neither the British nor the Americans nor the Anzacs nor anyone else among the 'Allies' also committed the most heinous of war crimes? For a simple example, summarily shooting POWs on Iwo Jima was routine. Carpet bombing of cities was chiefly a British innovation which Americans did not find morally repugnant but took part in enthusiastically. The utter unnecessariness of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is on the walls of the A-Bomb Museum in Heiwa Koen, Hiroshima-shi, where American documents of the time make it very clear that the main aim of the bombing was not 'war' per se, but was a live weapon's test of both the Uranium bomb and the Plutonium bomb to show the world who was now Boss. Go there. See. Wasurenaide...

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Trial records reviewed by Reuters show prisoners remembered Lee, known as the Lizard, as one of the most brutal guards on the railway.

Its a shame he has lived this long - he clearly didn't deserve it.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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