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Jeong Seong-Gil, honorary director of Dongsan Medical Center Museum, Keimyuong University.

Jeong Seong-Gil, honorary director of Dongsan Medical Center Museum, Keimyuong University, South Korea. 


A South Korean historian has been plying the media with photos that he says show Korean victims of a Japanese massacre following a devastating earthquake nine decades ago.

Professor Jeong Seong-gil said he’d acquired the photos in Japan a few years ago, but chose not to make them public because they were “too gruesome and disgraceful.”

Ethnic Koreans were persecuted following the quake

Ethnic Koreans were persecuted following the quake

Whether that was what compelled Jeong or not, the photos were not suddenly unearthed as a surprise piece of evidence; they have actually been widely circulated for decades.

Most Korean media outlets running the story used the words “appear to be” in their coverage describing the photos, without taking a clear position on their authenticity.

And, while the Japanese government has, in typical fashion, downplayed the incident and the numbers involved, they have long acknowledged the tragic aftermath that occurred on September 1st, 1923 at the hands of its citizenry.

After the 7.9-magnitude earthquake wrecked Tokyo, Yokohama and other surrounding prefectures, Japanese vigilantes were reported to have murdered thousands of Koreans, whom they blamed for post-quake unrest.

Local Japanese citizens alleged that Koreans (part of a huge labor force brought to Japan during the occupation of Korea) poisoned wells and committed arson and robbery to take advantage of the disaster.

Reported vicitims of Japanese massacre following the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake

Alleged victims of Japanese massacre following the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake

According to Jeong, his release of the photos comes in response to an announcement by Japanese media late last month that education officials in Tokyo moved to replace the sentence in textbooks that read, “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.'”

Officials felt the term “massacre” would create “misunderstanding.”

Jeong said the move by Japan to alter textbooks forced his hand:

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. By presenting photos and other pieces of evidence, we must expose brutal acts committed by the Japanese in the past.

Korean Massacre victims 2

Piles of victims following the deadly quake

Noted Korean expat blog ROK Drop wrote: “I do not think is a “smoking gun” because there is no way to know if the bodies are in fact Koreans. They could just be dead civilians pulled from homes and piled up for survivors to look for their dead family members. That however doesn’t explain why their bottoms are exposed as they are laid out on display.”


TV Coverage by China’s English Version of CCTV:


Additional Reading on the earthquake aftermath: Wikipedia

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