Aug. 7 (UPI) -- South Korean families of forced laborers exiled to Russia's Sakhalin island have petitioned the United Nations for assistance in locating missing victims of Japan's wartime mobilization.
A South Korean group representing forced laborers taken to Japan's section of Sakhalin during World War II submitted the petition on Tuesday to the U.N.'s Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, Yonhap reported.
The activists want answers regarding the whereabouts of 25 Koreans who were taken to Sakhalin during the war, never returned home and who remain unaccounted for, according to the report.
Following Japan's surrender to the United States on Aug. 15, 1945, many Koreans were left behind on the island, which Russia seized, in addition to the disputed Kuril Islands, in the last days of World War II.
In their petition, South Korean activists, including surviving family members, said the 25 Koreans on their list have been "confirmed forced wartime laborers" at the time of their disappearance. They asked the governments of Russia, Japan and South Korea to bring a resolution, according to Yonhap.
According to South Korean accounts, tens of thousands of Koreans were taken to Sakhalin to work in coal mines, factories and in the timber industry.
Japan often neglected to tell Korean families whether victims had died after the war, and the Cold War barred communication between the Soviet Union and South Korea.
One of the petitioners, Shin Yun-soon, 75, said her mother was 10 months pregnant with her when her father, Shin Gyeong-cheol, was taken to Sakhalin in September 1943. Her mother was 16 at the time, her father, 24, according to Shin.
South Korea's trade dispute with Japan has triggered protests that are reminding the South Korean public of the nation's painful past under 20th century colonialism.
On Wednesday, South Korean President Moon Jae-in evoked an earlier historical period, when Japan staged a military invasion of Korea during the Imjin War of 1592-98, Newsis reported.
Moon said Japan at the time "coveted" Korean know-how and abducted skilled artisans, including potters, according to the report.
Japan recently removed South Korea from a "white list" of preferred trading partners.