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Koreans in the trials of Japanese War Crimes suspects

Wilson, S.ORCID: 0000-0002-8341-3120 (2017) Koreans in the trials of Japanese War Crimes suspects. In: von Lingen, K., (ed.) Debating Collaboration and Complicity in War Crimes Trials in Asia, 1945-1956. Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 19-40.

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As colonial Japanese subjects, about 240,000 Korean men took part on the Japanese side during the Second World War. Of that number, 3,016 had been recruited to work as civilian guards in prisoner-of-war and internment camps outside the Japanese home islands. The Allied war crimes trials of 1945–1951 specifically targeted camp personnel, and the great majority of the Koreans convicted as ‘Japanese’ war criminals were former guards. The standard scholarly view in recent years has been that Korean Guards and other junior military personnel suffered disproportionately heavy retribution in the war crimes trials. Examination of the documentary evidence on the apprehension, investigation, prosecution, sentencing and release of suspected and convicted war criminals, however, shows conclusively that claims that Koreans were over-represented among war criminals, or that they suffered the heaviest penalties, are wrong. The records relating to Koreans indicate that prosecution, and subsequent deliberations over sentencing and clemency, took strong account of the implications of having a subordinate place in the Japanese military. Far from being the group upon whom the greatest punishment was visited, Koreans were singled out only when their distinctive individual initiative as brutal guards drew attention to them.

Item Type: Book Chapter
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Arts
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
Copyright: © The Author(s) 2017
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