It’s the government’s turn nowThe Supreme Court has upheld the ruling that Japanese companies are responsible for compensating Korean citizens who were conscripted by imperial Japan for labor during the colonial days. The highest court overturned the decisions by the Seoul High Court and Busan High Court, which ruled against the plaintiffs consisting of nine conscripted laborers who filed lawsuits against Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Nippon Steel Corporation.
In a historically meaningful ruling, the Supreme Court has opened the door for those who were forced to work in a foreign land during the Pacific War to receive remuneration for their labor.
In the groundbreaking decision, the Supreme Court concretely refuted the Supreme Court of Japan’s judgment, which had turned down similar lawsuits by conscripted Korean laborers. We take a special note of the court pinpointing the falsehood of Japan’s argument that imperial Japan’s decrees on national mobilization and conscription should be considered circumstances of colonial rule.
The court, however, pronounced that Japan’s view collides with our Constitution that regards Japan’s colonial rule as a form of forced occupation. Another point which should be highly appreciated is the court’s judgment that the 1965 Treaty on Basic Relations between the two countries does not cover individual victims’ rights to claim compensation on an individual basis.
In similar suits filed in Japan, victims’ charges were dismissed on the grounds that a “compulsory mobilization itself is not against the law.” U.S. courts also rejected those cases as they are “politically sensitive issues.”
Now our government should demonstrate a strong will to address the issue. So far, it has been under criticism for neglecting the heartbreaking issue on the grounds that it is an individual matter. In the case of “comfort women” - the sex slaves of the Japanese Army during World War II - our government proposed a bilateral consultation only after our Constitutional Court ruled against the government’s lackluster efforts to resolve the issue.
The government needs to persistently urge its counterpart to change its policies with the issue of conscripted Korean laborers. We hope Japan will accept a consultation according to the clause which demands disputes over how to interpret the 1965 treaty be settled through a diplomatic channel. Japan must not forget that genuine reconciliation and cooperation begins with sincere self-reflection of its past.