Life Arises from Hiroshima: Legacy of slavery still haunts Japan

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Life Arises after Hiroshima
Korean memorial in Hiroshima photo by Daniel Buttry

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Note from Dr. Wayne Baker: As the world remembers the bombing of Hiroshima, please share this series by international peace trainer and author Daniel Buttry. Here’s the fourth part of Dan’s series …

20,000 of the Korean slave laborers in Hiroshima died in the atomic bombing, leaving 10,000 Korean survivors in the area—many of whom faced long struggles with radiation poisoning.

Japanese racism toward Koreans has a long and bitter history. In World War II the Japanese invaded the Korean Peninsula and enslaved many Koreans including the “comfort women” used as sexual slaves for the Japanese Army.

Following the bombing of Hiroshima, the Korean dead were left unburied for the birds to devour. That sight was one of the images that haunted the artists Iri and Toshi Maruki.

When the Korean survivors wanted to build a memorial for their dead in Hiroshima, Japanese officials did not allow it within the Peace Park. Rather the monument was erected in 1970 beside a bridge across a river from the park.

If you enlarge today’s photo, which I took of the memorial plaque, you will notice no mention of slavery in the text. Even at the time of this memorial’s construction, the subject of war-time slave labor was extremely controversial within Japan. Today, after many decades of legal challenges, tribunals are offering some measure of justice to remaining victims of war-time slavery—but the issue remains unresolved for many families. This Wikipedia entry gives a brief overview.

When I visited the Peace Park in 1989 the tourist map showed that location in Hiroshima with no indication that anything was there worth noting, even though many less significant points of interest were on the map. Korean friends had encouraged me to visit the memorial.

In 1999 after consultation with various Korean groups, the Mayor of Hiroshima finally had the monument moved inside the Peace Park.

In a Peace Park to call us beyond the horrors of nuclear war racism still crept in.

Has anyone ever pointed out blind spots in your own moral positions?

How do we discover such blind spots?

What do you do when you are shown your inconsistencies or the “beam” in your own eye?


START A CONVERSATION … You are free to share, repost or print out these columns to start a discussion with friends or in your small group. You may also want to share this new column about worldwide responses to the 70th anniversary.

Care to read more?

Cover Blessed Are the Peacemakers by Daniel ButtryThe Rev. Dr. Daniel L. Buttry is one of the world’s leading peacemakers. You can read more about his work and three of his most popular books here. In addition, Buttry edits his own online magazine, where you fill find more than 100 inspiring profiles of men and women daring to make peace around the world.

This week, as part of his special series on Hiroshima, he has published a special multi-media column that includes six Hiroshima-related music videos.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Series Navigation<< Life Arises from Hiroshima: Iri and Toshi Maruki painted with trembling handsLife Arises from Hiroshima: My Story >>