Jeong Seong-gil, honorary director of Keimyung University Dongsan Medical Center Museum, shows a photo of Koreans massacred by the Japanese after the 1923 earthquake. ( Yonhap News)
A South Korean historian on Sunday released photos apparently showing Korean victims of a Japanese massacre following a devastating earthquake nine decades ago.
The release comes just a few days after officials in Tokyo decided to remove references to the mass killing from high school textbooks.
Jeong Seong-gil, the honorary director of Keimyung University Dongsan Medical Center Museum, presented to Yonhap News Agency photos dated Sept. 1, 1923, the day that the Great Kanto Earthquake occurred. The disaster is named after the region that includes Tokyo.
After the 7.9-magnitude earthquake devastated Tokyo, Yokohama and other surrounding prefectures, Japan is known to have murdered thousands of Koreans, holding them accountable for the post-quake unrest. There were rumors that Koreans poisoned wells and committed arson and robbery to take advantage of the disaster, fueling anti-Korean sentiment in Japan.
In one photo revealed by Jeong, dozens of corpses are on the ground, with their lower bodies exposed. Next to the remains stand men holding long sticks, which appear to be either bamboo spears or metal skewers.
“Japanese people even pay respect to deceased dogs with gravestones, and they wouldn’t have exposed the bottom portions of their own people,” Jeong said. “It’s such an atrocious act of brutality that they chose only the female bodies to strip bare.”
Jeong said the men holding the sticks appeared to be Japanese vigilantes who committed mass murders.
Another photo shows corpses piled up on top of each other.
Jeong said he’d acquired these photos in Japan a few years ago and he at first decided not to make them public because they were “too gruesome and disgraceful.” But Japanese officials’ decision last month to remove references to the massacre from textbooks changed his mind, Jeong said.
“It’s a shameful and humiliating moment in our history, but we have to protect spirits of some 6,000 Korean victims of the massacre,” Jeong said. “By presenting photos and other pieces of evidence, we must expose brutal acts committed by the Japanese in the past.”
The Japanese media on Jan. 25 reported that education officials in Tokyo decided to replace the sentence, “Many Koreans were massacred in the aftermath of the great earthquake,” with “Tombstones commemorating Korean victims of the Great Kanto Earthquake read, ‘Koreans lost their precious lives.’”
News reports said the officials were concerned that the term “massacre” would create misunderstanding. (Yonhap News)