Japan’s compensation stance is hotly disputed
The Korean government yesterday disputed a Japanese government argument that its 1965 compensatory deal with Korea also addressed ethnic Koreans who were forced into labor during Japan’s colonial rule between 1910 and 1945 even if they weren’t Korean citizens at the time of the deal.
Under the 1965 Treaty of Basic Relations, Korea received $800 million in grants and loans from Japan as compensation for Japan’s 35-year colonization of Korea. More than a million Koreans are believed to have been forced into hard labor and into the military during this period.
Japan has long maintained that the deal covers all government and individual reparations and it has refused to pay compensation to individual Koreans.
Japan’s claim last March was made in response to a lawsuit filed by 11 ethnic Koreans who were forced by Japan into labor on Sakhalin Island in Russia in the 1940s. In the lawsuit, the ethnic Koreans, who obtained Korean citizenship in the 1990s, demanded compensations of 28 million yen ($309,000) for getting stripped of their wages.
In a brief, obtained by the Yonhap News Agency, the Japanese government said the 1965 deal also covers individuals who obtained Korean citizenship after 1990.
“The signatory nation reserves the right to interpret the pact, and the Japanese government determines what entails a ‘Korean citizen,’” the brief said.
The Foreign Ministry here said yesterday that through attorneys representing the ethnic Koreans, it filed a rebuttal, arguing that the 1965 pact covers individuals who were Korean citizens at the time and that the Japanese interpretation of the Sakhalin workers “was inappropriate.”
In a press briefing, ministry spokesman Kim Young-sun said that “we believe that Japan still has legal responsibilities for ethnic Koreans in Sakhalin regardless of the 1965 pact.”
The attorneys for the ethnic Koreans said that based on Japan’s logic, the Korean government would then have to handle compensation and that Korea would be burdened with responsibilities that it didn’t anticipate when the 1965 deal was signed.
“Under international law on treaties, Korea then could make an argument for nullifying the 1965 deal,” the attorneys said. “We wonder if Japan ever considered this possibility.”
Last week, a declassified Japanese foreign ministry document from 1965 showed that Japan believed the 1965 pact only addressed government-level compensation and not individual claims. But when pressed for clarification, the ministry insisted that there won’t be any individual reparations because the deal covers all compensation issues.
By Yoo Jee-ho [firstname.lastname@example.org]