[EDITORIALS]Steer away from self-tormentMore diplomatic documents on the South Korea-Japan normalization treaty were declassified yesterday, for a second time since the first revelations in January. With yesterday’s declassification, the entire negotiation process between the two countries over 13 years and eight months was made public. The newly revealed details are meaningful because they include contents that may reshape existing thought on the negotiations.
Evaluations have been mixed about the 1965 treaty. Some have spoken highly about the accord, saying the $800 million (820 billion won) compensation from Japan paved the way to build our economy. Others said South Korea lost the opportunity to settle issues associated with colonial rule because the government, at the time, was too narrowly obsessed with a small gain. Both arguments have points. However, we are concerned about the trend in parts of our society to emphasize only negative aspects, without proper grounds. For instance, there has been suspicion that Korea thought of yielding the territorial right over the Dokdo islets to Japan to receive more compensation. The declassified documents show that such claims were untrue.
From the beginning of negotiations, Japan persistently said the Dokdo issue should be discussed by the international community, but Korea flatly rejected that claim. South Korean officials showed an uncompromising attitude toward the Dokdo issue, even if the normalization talks were to fall apart because of this.
Claims that negotiations were hastily concluded to accept money for economic development are also unconvincing. Japan first proposed $50 million but Korea began a difficult fights for years to raise the amount to $800 million.
Experts who participated in the declassification are saying it is hard to say the negotiations were humiliating. “At that time, the government did its best to defend the nation’s interest,” a professor said.
The normalization talks, of course, have shortcomings. The treaty did not allow individual victims to seek compensation and did not mention the comfort women issue. We must recognize responsibility for such issues and come up with more thorough measures. What we should be cautious of is a move to disparage the negotiation as an unpatriotic act of selling off the country on pretext of such shortcomings. That is nothing more than self-deception.