Japan's PM haunted by family's wartime past
His hair turned-white, his aged eyes clouded-over, Roh Won-baek recalls the years during World War Two when he toiled in a coal mine owned by Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso's family.
"Many died and got injured while working. I'm here alive and talking, but that's just because I was lucky enough to survive the close calls," said Roh, who was among more than 10,000 Koreans forced to work in the Aso family mine from 1939-1945, reports Reuters.
Aso, who became Japan's prime minister in September, was only a child during World War Two when his family's mining company used Korean forced laborers rounded up by the Japanese army.
Nevertheless, despite the circumstances and the passage of time, many Koreans are galled by Aso's past.
This is especially so at a time when relations between the two countries have been uneasy due to a territorial dispute over a desolate set of islands that hark back to Japan's 1910-1945 occupation of the Korean peninsula, and a furor over textbooks that Koreans say gloss over Japan's militaristic past.
"Aso's family history might be hard to swallow for some, and could be brought up if other irritants in South Korea-Japan relations come to the surface," said Park Hong-young, a political science professor at Chungbuk University. Japan's actions in Korea, including its use of forced labor, making women work as prostitutes at frontline brothels for its troops, and property confiscations during its occupation of the Korean peninsula still weigh on Korea's relations with Japan more than 60 years after the war.