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Gov't to establish gene bank for families of forced laborers

All Headlines 14:33 April 03, 2016

SEOUL, April 3 (Yonhap) -- The government said Sunday it is pushing to set up a gene bank for the bereaved families of Koreans who were forced to work for Japan under its 1910-45 colonial rule.

The Ministry of the Interior said it is planning to launch the gene database project next year and has sent the plan to the Ministry of Strategy and Finance for a budget review.

The genetic data would help the verification of the victims who were buried without a proper funeral arrangement or a grave.

The genetic test process is estimated to cost some 200,000 won (US$173) to 300,000 won per person. The interior ministry has asked 300 million be allocated for the project next year.

The bereaved families have been voicing the need for the gene database, citing Japan's recent genetic testing for remains of people who lost their lives during the war in Okinawa, Japan.

The issue of forced labor is becoming increasingly urgent as most surviving victims are well over 80 years old and may die before they receive compensation or an apology from the Japanese firms that used them.

It is unclear how many people were mobilized for forced labor and died. Some civic groups claim the number of conscripts goes up to a million or more.

"There are some 30,000 burial mounds in Sakhalin, Russia, presumed to be those of Koreans, but they cannot return home as there is no DNA (data) to refer to," said a representative of the bereaved families. "Prompt action is needed as Sakhalin is planning to redevelop the graveyard in the state capital's central area."

The budget review outcome is expected to be released in September.

scaaet@yna.co.kr
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