It's been 75 years since the brutal events that still loom over the life of elderly Lee Hak-rae.
He's the last of a group of Koreans who played a complex role in World War Two, and he's still fighting for recognition.
Lee was known by a different name then: Kakurai Hiromura.
In 1942, when Korea was occupied by Japan, Lee was recruited at 17 into Tokyo's wartime army.
Later, he was branded a World War Two criminal.
But when the postwar occupation of Japan ended, Lee and others Koreans that fought for Tokyo were rejected.
Both by Japan - and in Korea, where Lee feared he would be branded a traitor.
"Korean or Taiwanese war criminals are not recognized and treated equally as Japanese, even though we are the same war criminals as they are. That's what we want to talk about the most. But Japanese people pretend not to know," says Lee.
Lee oversaw some 500 Allied prisoners of war building a railroad between Thailand and what was then Burma, "The Death Railway" made infamous in the movie "The Bridge on the River Kwai."
Trial records reviewed by Reuters show prisoners remembered Lee, known as the Lizard, as one of the most brutal guards on the railway.
Lee denies charges of brutality, and says Koreans were on the lowest rung of Japan's army, and that they merely took orders.
He was sentenced to death along with other war criminals at age 23, but Lee's sentence was commuted - and he walked free on parole in Tokyo in 1956.
Nearly a quarter of a million Koreans fought on the Japanese side.
But they were not recognized in Japan as military veterans.
Japanese war criminals became eligible for pensions - up to $41,000 U.S. dollars a year - but not those of Korean ethnicity.
In 1999, Japan's Supreme Court rejected compensation claims by Lee and other Korean war criminals.
That's something historian Robert Cribb at Australian National University calls unfair.
"The Koreans who've been convicted of war crimes had a terrible time after the war because they were regarded as collaborators by other Koreans. But they weren't recognized by the Japanese government as veterans. So they were in a kind of black hole in the middle," said Cribb.
In 2006, South Korea recognized them as victims of Japanese imperialism but offered no compensation for those living in Japan.
Lee keeps campaigning. He appeared before Tokyo's parliament in June to urge help for Korean war criminals and their families.
"I was lucky to live until 95. I don't want to live longer for myself but I can't stop fighting for my dead comrades," said Lee.