to the court ruling ordered by the Supreme Court of Republic of Korea on the
former Korean workers who were forced to work for a Japanese company, not only
the government of Japan
and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party but also people from various strata of
the society call it ‘unfair’, complaining loudly about the decision. Some people
ruin, again, dignity of Korean people. What kind of plight were these former
forced-laborers subjugated to before and during the World War II? The issue
remains challenging today.
MUST LOOK AT HISTORY AND HUMAN RIGHTS SINCERELY
decision of the Supreme Court of Republic of Korea (ROK) says the right to
demand restitution of the former laborers who were forced to work in the
Japanese company constitutes ‘the right to seek redress from the firm for which
they worked as they were treated inhumanely and illegally as the company had
direct links with the unlawful colonial rule and war of aggression’. It
continues to say that the said right is not contained in the Japan-ROK
Agreement on the rights for compensation concluded in 1965 and that both of the
diplomatic protection right of the government of ROK and the individual right
of Korean forced-laborers to demand compensation have not yet vanished.
the court ruling, Prime Minister Abe Shinzo insists that ‘the issue of the
right to demand compensation has been solved completely and finally by the 1965
Agreement’ and that ‘the ruling cannot be possible in light of the
international law’, telling that he would cope with the issue sternly.
does not end here. Premier Abe alternates his expressions, replacing a term
forced-laborers with ‘workers from the Korean
Peninsula’, flatly denying the forced
labor practices which prevailed during the colonial rule of Korea. Premier
Abe sees recruitment of workers was made legally.
Minister Kono Taro is worse. He criticizes the decision as ‘confrontation
against the international community’ and ‘a violent act’. The Japanese
government lacks correct understanding on the agreement and the international
law, using twisted interpretations.
views in the past
recent ruling says ‘the right to demand compensation is not included in the
Agreement’. The Japanese government used to tell that ‘it is the diplomatic
protection right that the Agreement renounces and the right of individuals to
demand restitution has not vanished’ (in 1991 and 1992, by Yanai Shunji, Director,
Treaty Bureau, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan).
far as the wartime Chinese laborers are concerned, the Supreme Court of Japan ordered
in 2007 that the appeal right has been lost but that the right of individual
victims to demand compensation has not practically vanished. The interpretation
means that relevant Japanese firms can pay compensations arbitrarily and
voluntarily from a legal point of view and that the loss of the appeal right
does not constitute a legal obstacle.
the circumstances in the cases involved by Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal,
Nishimatsu Construction, Mitsubishi Materials and others the Japanese firms
admitted the fact to take responsibilities, made apologies and set up a fund as
a proof to help the victims. If the right for compensation has vanished
completely, expenditure of the relevant business entities is regarded by
shareholders as compensatory damages.
to the text of the recent ruling, ‘the plaintiffs applied for the recruitment under
which the conditions say applicants can learn skills in the two-year training’.
But no wages were paid, they were forced to work in the terribly hard and
dangerous conditions, food was scarcely given, laborers were not permitted to
go out and were physically punished on the ground they had attempted to escape.
They were subject to the extremely atrocious circumstances. That means forced
labor, or slavery, infringement of the human rights which constitutes violation
of the international law.
International Labor Organization (ILO) advised the Japanese government in 2009
to take appropriate measures to cope with the demands of old-aged, former
forced-laborers. Noone can erase the history. The Japanese government must be
aware of its responsibilities and take actions to lead to a sincere settlement.