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[Editorial] Disclosure of Details of Korea-Japan Agreement and Responsibility of the Two Governments

[Editorial] Disclosure of Details of Korea-Japan Agreement and Responsibility of the Two Governments

Posted January. 17, 2005 22:25,   


Disclosing documents regarding the pact Korea signed with Japan about four decades ago is like opening Pandora’s Box. Only five out of 57 books on the agreement are disclosed presently to the public, yet they have such explosive potential power that it is hard to predict how much stir their disclosure will create. In regard to this, there are mixed reactions ranging from questions over the appropriateness of the pact to voices that the Korean and Japanese governments should be held responsible.

Let us cut to the chase: the disclosure of the documents should mark the beginning of efforts to shed light on the truth of the pact between Korea and Japan. For that to happen, the government should make public remaining documents as soon as possible, and for its part, the Japanese counterpart should also release related papers. That will serve, though belated, as a shortcut to the resolution of the tragic history between the two countries.

Although erroneous parts of the agreement have been confirmed now, it is hard to argue for an annulment of past diplomatic activities between the two and another negotiation. Still, Korea can complement the problems of the pact in that it was forced to sign in a hasty and humiliating manner due to its then unequal standing. Comfort women issue is one of the glaring examples of Japan’s war crimes that the two countries neglected even to mention while establishing the agreement.

In local terms, the government should resolve issues of compensating those who fell victim to the Japanese rule. It should clarify why it paid a mere 2.5 billion won or so to bereaved families of about 8,000 dead people when it had received $500 million from Japan in compensation for more than 1 million victims. In so doing, it also should present persuasive ways to rectify the problem. What should also never be neglected is publicizing the reason it let Japan free from any liability by absurdly agreeing “Korea cannot claim anything hereafter” in the paper, even when considering the fact that a penny mattered to Korea at that time with its efforts for economic development.

Japan cannot be exempted from its responsibility, either. The Japanese government has long been standing up against Korea’s claim for compensation by arguing “Korea’s right to claim has expired.” Yet, it has been found that Japan stressed it would “cooperate with Korea economically” and “not compensate.” If it seriously repents its past war crimes, it should not cling to the problematic pact, but follow the steps of Germany, which still punishes Nazi supporters even 50 years after the end of the Second World War and compensates foreigners who were forced into labor.