• Japan's Meiji Industrial Revolution
  • Sites of Distorted Facts and Concealed Truth

Japan's Meiji Industrial Revolution

Sites of Distorted Facts and Concealed Truth

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In response to the Japanese government's move to add Hashima to ‘The Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution in Kyushu and Yamaguchi’ as a World Heritage Site, the Commission on Verification and Support for the Victims of Forced Mobilization under Japanese Colonialism in Korea began an investigation into the conditions of the damage done to Koreans at the Hashima Coal Mine.

Hashima is a location that attracts attention as 'the place where Japan's first concrete apartments were built' and 'the coal mines that supported the modernization of Japan'. However, inside the coal mines of Hashima is a history in which many Koreans were forcibly mobilized and abused. As far back as the 1980s, the Nagasaki Association to Protect Human Rights of Koreans, a civic organization based in the city, discovered and released the cremation records of Koreans that revealed the damages that forced mobilization had caused them. Among the damages caused by forced mobilization, death can be said to be the most tragic. This investigation was conducted on the Korean death records in Hashima to reveal the background behind the deaths of forcibly mobilized Koreans and the actual conditions of forced mobilization to the island.

The Hashima Coal Mine, with a poor working environment since the beginnings of its development, was infamously known as “Prison Island.” The Hashima Coal Mine, an undersea coal mine, had decidedly poor mining conditions compared to mines on land and was prone to gas explosions. The number of Koreans mobilized to Hashima increased rapidly year by year starting with the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937, reaching its highest level just before Japan's defeat in the war. Most of the Korean workers were placed in dangerous sites inside the mines.

This investigation report collected data from the cremation records of the dead at Hashima to analyze the circumstances under which the Koreans there had died. The Korean death toll increased sharply from 1942 to 1944, the reasons for which were identified as the increased scale of forced mobilization, the increased ratio of Koreans unfamiliar with coal mining who began work, forced long work hours, and poor placement of digging sites.

An analysis of the causes of death shows that Koreans who died of disease suffered from malnutrition, unsanitary living environments and poor working conditions, while those who died from injuries and unnatural causes appear to have died in coal mine disasters, but the possibility of death by cruel treatment cannot be excluded. It can therefore be said that the primary cause of death for forcibly mobilized Koreans to Hashima is "forced mobilization", while "poor working environment" is the second largest cause.

This investigation report also includes testimonies from the survivors on the hellish working environment at Hashima. Its introduction here is based on its importance as an investigation report for understanding the labor conditions at Mitsubishi Mining's Hashima Coal Mine.


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