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Koreans’ Claim Dismissed, while Taiwanese Win Case

Posted October. 26, 2005 07:33,   


The Japanese court on October 25 dismissed an indemnity claim submitted by 117 Korean Hansen’s disease patients who were forcibly quarantined in Sorok Island, Goheung County, South Jeolla Province, during the Japanese colonial rule.

In contrast, at a different court department on the same day, in a suit raised by Taiwanese Hansen’s disease patients for the same reason, the plaintiffs won the case with the ruling that the Japanese government should pay compensation.

The Third Civil Affairs Department of the Tokyo District Court, the court dealing with Sorok Island, ruled against the plaintiff, stating, “As Sorok Island’s rehabilitation center is not included in the list of facilities that are subject to Japan’s Hansen’s disease compensation law, the Japanese government has no obligation to provide compensation.” Meanwhile, the 38th Civil Affairs Department, responsible for the Taiwanese case, gave a contradictory ruling, stating, “The Japanese government’s action of refusing to provide compensation based on a narrow interpretation of the law is against the law.”

The court meant that the Hansen’s disease compensation law, enacted in 2001, defines those subject to compensation as “patients who stayed at the National Hansen’s Disease Care Center and other facilities designated by the Minister of Welfare and Labor,” but Sorok Island is not included.

Subsequently, there is criticism that such a ruling could have been prevented if the Korean government had used diplomatic powers and made the Sorok Island issue a bone of contention in 2001 when Japan’s National Diet drew up the Hansen’s disease compensation law.

Park Young-lib, the Koreans’ lawyer, revealed intentions to appeal, saying, “The court department has overlooked historic fact and justice.”

The Japanese government has provided eight million to 14 million yen per person under the Hansen’s disease compensation law which was enacted in 2001 when the Kumamoto District Court ruled that forced quarantine under the Hansen’s disease prevention law (scrapped in 1996) was unconstitutional. However, it has refused to compensate for victims of facilities outside Japan including Sorok Island, stating that these patients were not covered under the compensation law.

Won-Jae Park parkwj@donga.com