Go to contents

Government Abandons “Individual Claims Against Japan”

Posted January. 17, 2005 22:29,   


Five documents (over 1,200 pages) of the 1965 Korea-Japan Agreement were exhibited to the public for the first time yesterday; the documents include information on compensation procedures for victims during Japanese rule and the negotiations on the right of claims against Japan.

According to the sixth and seventh rounds of negotiations between Seoul and Tokyo, the Seoul government demanded a total of 364 million dollars of compensation money from the Japanese government, representing 1,032,648 Korean victims; the compensation money designated 200 dollars for a live individual, 1,650 dollars for a casualty, and 2,000 for a wounded individual.

A noticeable point revealed through the public exhibition was the fact that the Seoul government neglected the Japanese government’s suggestion on its position on compensating Korean victims individually. Instead, the government opted to wrap up the negotiations by taking a political approach as it decided to receive collective compensation from Japan. However, the government did not make proper compensation to each victim after the agreement was signed.

Upon learning of the situation, the bereaved families of victims during Japanese colonial rule and a group of civil organizations urged the government to open the total documents regarding additional compensation to the public. A slew of lawsuits is expected.

During 1975 to 1977, the government paid bereaved families of 8,552 victims 300,000 won each, which amounted to 2.5656 billion won. Back then, 300,000 won was worth 600 dollars, so it was less than half of the compensation (1,650 dollars) the government asked from the Japanese government for each casualty.

In addition, for the first time, the Japanese government’s position regarding colonial compensation to Korea was open to the public. During the sixth negotiation round held at the council room at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan on May 14, 1965, a Japanese high official insisted, “We provide capital to South Korea aiming to boost economic cooperation between two nations. It should not be understood as a unilateral fund provision out of a duty.”

As a posterior policy, the government has decided to organize a “Countermeasure Group for Posterior Issues Regarding the Public Exhibition of the Korea-Japan Agreement” under the control of the Office of the Prime Minister. Chief planning coordinator Jo Young-taek at the Office for Government Policy Coordination, and vice foreign minister Choi Young-jin have taken the head seats of the group, and eight relevant officials will also work to come up with overall countermeasures regarding the civil appeals on damage compensation expected to sprout afterwards.

An official from the Office for Government Policy Coordination said at the press conference, “The government has taken the position of making all the documents related to the Korea-Japan Agreement open to the public as swiftly as possible as long as they do not conflict with any diplomatic matters.” He also added, “As I heard, the Foreign Ministry has aimed at opening those documents to the public before Independence Day (August 15th).”

Concerning the issue of compensation, he said, “We will start freshly putting precedents aside regarding the compensation issue. And now, it is too early to judge if there will be additional compensation or not. We will try to collect various appeals and voices from extensive groups of citizens and will consider not hurting any national sentiment dealing with this issue,” he added.

yongari@donga.com taewon_ha@donga.com