Australia’s Pursuit of the Taiwanese and Korean ‘Japanese’ War Criminals
The Australian government was an enthusiastic participant in the postwar prosecution of Japanese class B and C war criminals. Almost 1000 war criminals faced Australian military courts between 1945 and 1951. Around 100 of those convicted were former Japanese colonial subjects of Korean or Taiwanese origin who had served in the Japanese military during the war. Japan lost its empire immediately after it surrendered to the Allies in 1945 and Korean and Taiwanese ‘Japanese’ subjects had their nationality restored to that of their country of origin. Nonetheless, the Australian government continued to regard war criminals of Korean and Taiwanese origin as Japanese subjects for the duration of their prosecution and imprisonment, since they had been so at the time of their crimes. Some argued that the prosecution and imprisonment of war criminals of Korean and Taiwanese origin was unjust because it failed to recognize the difficult circumstances that colonial subjects serving in the Japanese military were in.
The Australian government maintained its position on the Korean and Taiwanese war criminals until they were released from prison in the late 1950s, despite being under diplomatic pressure from the Japanese, Korean and Nationalist Chinese governments to change its stance on the war criminals at various times in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The government maintained that these war criminals needed to be punished for their crimes, regardless of the circumstances of their nationality. When the government did eventually show leniency to the Koreans and Taiwanese and release them, it was in line with leniency shown to all ‘Japanese’ war criminals and was for diplomatic gain, rather than acknowledgement of the war criminals’ claims of injustice.
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