[EDITORIALS]From the past, potential turmoilIn the wake of the government’s disclosure of five sets of documents connected to the 1965 treaty normalizing relations between South Korea and Japan, individuals have vowed to sue for compensation, and are seeking the disclosure of more documents. The possibility of an ad hoc National Assembly committee to address the issue is also being discussed.
Since only five of the 161 document files related to the treaty have been disclosed, it’s too early to see the whole picture. But the material already disclosed tells us that the Korean government is responsible for using funds intended as compensation for individuals victimized under Japanese rule. Nor can the government escape responsibility for failing to address the issues of Korean victims of the atomic bombing of Japan, and Korean females who were forced to have sex with Japanese soldiers. What must be discussed now is how to deal with the fact that the Korean government allocated only 9.7 percent of the compensation funds to victims, while more than 90 percent was spent on developing the economy.
As the documents are disclosed, a flood of litigation over compensation is being unleashed. Had the government had any sense of responsibility, it would have devised a contingency plan in anticipation of these suits. Getting the truth out was not necessarily a matter of great urgency. The government has to consider the circumstances that made it hard for victims to make compensation claims individually at the time. It also needs to come up with measures to address the bombing victims and the former sex slaves who were not included.
Also, the victims need to cooperate with the government so that the problems can be solved through appropriate legal measures. If they take their complaints to the streets in collective action, the meaning of the public disclosure will be lost. Any administrative mishandlings of the matter can be dealt with within the legal system.
We must be careful not to let these disclosures become an unexpected cause for disputes. If we start pointing fingers at those who negotiated this treaty decades ago, there will be no end to turmoil. Historical facts will remain historical facts. Our relationship with Japan should be viewed in the same light. We must be careful not to let this evolve into an unwanted diplomatic war. Both countries must behave wisely and cooperate so that history doesn’t block the future.