[EDITORIALS]Ukishima: Too Little, Too LateA Japanese court ruled that the Japanese government is partly responsible for an explosion on the Japanese naval vessel Ukishima Maru, which was transporting thousands of drafted Koreans back to Korea in 1945, immediately after Korea was liberated. This ruling is meaningful since the Japanese court announced a partial victory for the plaintiffs, and addressed the Japanese government's responsibility for the failure to transport forced laborers home safely 56 years after the incident. Yet the amount of compensation is far lower than what the Korean survivors and the families of the dead demanded. The court also rejected a request for an official apology.
The Kyoto District Court ordered the Japanese government to pay 3 million yen ($24,400) in compensation for the psychological suffering to each of 15 Koreans, since Tokyo failed to transport the forced laborers home safely. The Japanese government has argued that the compensation to Korea on government level had been settled through the 1964 normalization of diplomatic relations between Seoul and Japan. The Japanese courts, accordingly, have not addressed the question of Japan's responsibility for damages caused by the war. Considering such practices, the recent ruling has brought significant progress. Although the ruling is only an outcome of the first trial and a higher court had reversed the lower court's ruling in the past, we believe that it will be an important reference for cases that have been tabled or for future cases.
As the plaintiffs argued, what we take a serious view of is not compensation but a clear and thorough investigation on the incident. The recent ruling is a far cry from meeting our expectations. There is a wide difference between the arguments by the plaintiffs and the Japanese government regarding the cause of the incident and the number of victims. Koreans argued that the Japanese crews destroyed the ship themselves in fear of possible revenge, while the Japanese government argued that the ship struck a mine installed by the United States. Koreans have argued that there were 5,000 dead while Japan insisted on 524. The Japanese court seemed to be convinced by Tokyo's argument without proper attempts to investigate the case thoroughly.