| "(Japanese) soldiers shot Koreans to death with machine guns after biding them by the tens. The soldiers laid Koreans who was not dead yet on a railroad and poured oil on them to burn them to death."
"A fully pregnant woman was thrown into a river after being tied up with a rope around the belly. Afterwards, the baby was born. The two drifted away, linked with the umbilical cord. It was so horrible."
"Two men hooked the bodies of Koreans in their ankles and dragged them to a police station."
The books in three volumes containing vivid witness accounts of Japan`s massacre of Koreans in Tokyo and its surrounding areas after the Great Kanto Earthquake on Sept. 1, 1923 has been published to mark the 90th anniversary of the disaster. Japanese author Masao Nishizaki said in an interview with the Dong-A Ilbo that the Japanese government had "concealed or downscaled the Japanese military and police`s involvement in the massacre during the time of the Great Kanto Earthquake." He stressed, "There are countless witness accounts that the Japanese military directly murdered Koreans and the (Japanese) police spread groundless rumors (against Koreans)." He warned that if Japan turns a deaf ear to the lessons from the past, the disaster could be repeated.
"When Japanese soldiers killed Koreans at that time, the general masses hurrahed because they thought that the military was defending them, believing groundless rumors that Koreans were murderers and arsonists," the author said. "The incident prompted Japan to plunge into fascism. The current (Japanese) government`s moves to use threats from China and North Korea to turn the Self-Defense Forces into the military are in the same vein. History can repeat itself."
Nishizaki is a former middle school English teacher. He left the job 10 years ago for health issues and devoted himself to a group that excavated the remains of Koreans massacred during the times of the Great Kanto Earthquake. He rummaged through all public libraries in Tokyo and read tens of thousands of books for four years to collect witness accounts of the massacre.
Q: What kind of accounts did you find the most?
A: They are claims that the Japanese police spread the groundless rumors about Koreans adding poison to wells and the (Japanese) masses organized vigilante groups and massacred Koreans. There are many witness accounts about Japanese soldiers directly killing Koreans. They even killed pregnant women, claiming that they hid bombs in the bellies. Korea`s provisional government in Shanghai reported on the December 5, 1923 edition of the Independent, Korea`s first modern newspaper, that 6,661 people were killed in that year. However, the number is not accurate.
Q: How did the Japanese government respond?
A: Afraid of criticisms from the international community, the Japanese government put only cases of civilian murders of Koreans to court, but not those involving the Japanese military. However, most cases ended up in light punishments such as suspended sentences, and the convicted were all pardoned on the occasion of the crown prince`s wedding four months later. As there was no evidence of Koreans` riots, the Japanese government even tried to fabricate evidence.
Q: How did the Japanese react?
A: Most of them had no idea about the massacre and were shocked when they heard about it. It is from that point that I think about the future of Japan. Current high school textbooks are removed of the parts describing the incident. Japan is increasingly forgetting why their country started the past war.
Nishizaki has been staging with relevant civic groups a signature collecting campaign for holding Japan responsible for the massacre of Koreans. So far, about 500 people have signed up. He and the civic groups plan to collect more signatures until the end of this year to file a petition with the speaker of Japan`s upper and lower houses to find the truth about the massacre.