[EDITORIALS]Occupation victims owedThe repercussions from the public release of the secret diplomatic documents on the Korea-Japan Treaty of 1965 are great. The rumors that the two countries engaged in closed door negotiations turned out to be true. Victims of imperial Japan now have a rationale to ask for additional compensation.
There will be enormous consequences from the release. The Korean government estimates that a minimum of 500 billion won ($480 million) and a maximum 30 trillion won of government money will need to be used for additional compensation.
The release of the documents at this time was possible because of the government’s strong resolution that history should be fully revealed and innocent victims should be compensated, even if it causes an enormous burden for the government.
The documents are shocking. At the time of the treaty, the Korean government asked Japan for $364 million for compensation for more than one million Korean victims. Instead of giving up the victims’ individual rights to ask for compensation, the Korean government received lump sum payments of $800 million from Japan, of which $300 million was free aid, $200 million was compensation and $300 million was loans. The Korean government only gave 10 percent of it to victims and the rest for development projects.
The documents also demonstrate that Korea, unlike Indonesia and Myanmar, used the money from Japan relatively transparently. For example, the money helped build Posco and the Gyeongbu expressway.
Some civic groups have already started demanding the government open new negotiations with Japan and have burned the Japanese flag. It is true that Japan is not free from moral responsibilities. But the Korean government is ultimately liable. The second issue is that the treaty needs to be re-evaluated. But it will be difficult to use today’s standards to evaluate the situation of 1965 when Korea was begging for money from Japan for economic development. We should postpone the re-evaluation and take into consideration that Korea was economically boosted by the money from Japan.
What is most critical now is how to satisfy the victims’ demand for additional compensation. The government should prepare funds and a criteria for compensation. That is the way to redress the wrongful past and alleviate the negative repercussions from the release of the documents.