ソウル不当判決 日韓合意に反する賠償命令だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 13, 2013
Seoul court ruling on damages defies 1965 Japan-ROK accord
ソウル不当判決 日韓合意に反する賠償命令だ(7月12日付・読売社説)

A South Korean court has handed down a ruling that could worsen relations with Japan. It was an unjust decision.

In an appellate case sent back from the Supreme Court, which involved four South Koreans seeking compensation for damages from Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp., a descendant of the companies they had been forced to work for during wartime, the Seoul High Court ordered payment of 100 million won (about 8.8 million yen) to each of the plaintiffs.

This is the first time that a South Korean court has ordered a Japanese firm to pay damages to former forced laborers.

The ruling is totally unacceptable because it obviously violates the agreement on property claims and economic cooperation that was reached when the two countries concluded a treaty to normalize relations in 1965. The accord clearly stated that the issue of property claims was “resolved completely and finally.”

In its 1976 white paper on funds deriving from property claims, South Korea’s Economic Planning Board listed construction of a steelmaking plant, dams and highways as concrete examples of how $500 million in grants and other funds the country received from Japan in the name of economic cooperation had been used. The white paper clearly stated that “its usefulness cannot be belittled.”

Erroneous judgment

Nevertheless, South Korea’s Supreme Court said in a May 2012 ruling that “claims by individuals have not yet expired.” The current ruling is based on that erroneous judgment.

Some of the plaintiffs filed a similar suit in Japan but their loss was finalized by a Supreme Court decision.

The Seoul High Court’s decision this time demonstrates disregard for the final decision in this country. It is natural that Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said, “We cannot accept a decision that doesn’t comport with Japan’s position.”

There are five other similar lawsuits filed against Japanese firms. The latest decision will inevitably have an influence on future court rulings. It is feared that more South Koreans who were once forced laborers will file class action suits, causing new problems between the two countries.

In the first place, the South Korean government itself is obliged to pay compensation for damages suffered by South Koreans during Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula. The $300 million Japan paid in grants to South Korea contained “the funds to resolve the compensation over forcible recruitment.”

Because the South Korean government did not sufficiently pay out this compensation money, dissatisfaction has been smoldering among many South Koreans who were excluded from compensation for individuals.

Moreover, the South Korean government has failed to give sufficient explanations to its own people.

Fostering ill will

As Seoul has intensified antagonism against Tokyo in recent years, over topics such as sovereignty over the Takeshima islets and perceptions of history, unfounded demands against Japan have been flaring up again.

A sudden shift by the South Korean judiciary from its conventional stance is not completely unrelated to the rise of anti-Japan sentiment in the country.

The normalization of bilateral relations opened the way to tremendous progress for South Korea. The financial resolution of damages from the past was determined diplomatically and is fundamentally a matter to be dealt with domestically in that country. It is unreasonable that South Korea persistently continues to point its accusing finger at Japan.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 12, 2013)
(2013年7月12日01時26分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2013-07-15 07:11 | 英字新聞

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