[EDITORIALS]One treaty doesn’t fit allA dispute has risen between Korea and Japan over the legal responsibility of the Japanese government for its alleged crimes against humanity.
The Korean government, which recently made public 35,354 pages of documents on the negotiations between the two governments from October 1951 to June 1965, said Friday that the Japanese government must take legal responsibility for its atrocities, such as the mobilization of “comfort women,” who were used as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers before and during World War II. Compensation for such crimes, the Korean government claims, was not settled by the 1965 treaty that normalized bilateral ties between the two countries.
Responding to the Korean government’s remarks on the same day, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi rebuked the claim that his government is obligated to take legal responsibility. The Japanese government’s position is that compensation for any action that Japan took against Korea, including the issue of the “comfort women,” was fully settled by the 1965 treaty. However, the treaty was signed within the framework stipulated by Article 4 of the San Francisco Peace Treaty that Japan signed to end the war. The article provides for claims, including debts, against Japanese property, and for its disposition. This means that atrocities such as the use of Korean “comfort women” and slave laborers in the Sakhalin region, as well as the issue of Korean victims of the atomic bombing, were not included in the 1965 treaty. Therefore the Korean government can legitimately demand additional legal responsibility from the Japanese government for these cases.
There is international consensus on the issue. The Korean government should consistently demand whenever there is a bilateral meeting or international discussions on human rights that Japan take legal responsibility for its past atrocities.
Of course, Korea and Japan should not be at odds over the past when they must be cooperating. However, as long as the past remains a stumbling block in their relations, Korea and Japan will find it difficult to make progress as partners. The primary responsibility for eliminating this stumbling block lies with Japan, which was the wrongdoer. If Japan aspires to an international political power that befits its economic prowess, it should not interpret history with such self-centered logic when history has left proof in the form of victims.