Declassified Documents Could Trigger Avalanche of Lawsuits

      January 17, 2005 18:25

      The Korean government on Monday declassified five volumes of sensitive documents that are expected to unleash a flood of lawsuits from victims of the Japanese colonial period.

      The documents detail negotiations leading up to the normalization of ties between Korea and Japan in 1965, focusing on Korean demands for reparations.

      An estimated 2 to 3 million victims and family members of victims of the draft, forced relocation to Sakhalin Island and other abuses during the 1910 to 1945 Japanese colonial rule could bring suits for compensation.

      Members of the Association of Pacific War Victims hold pictures of deceased family members during a protest in front of the Japanese embassy in Jongno, Seoul on Monday, after documents related to the 1965 Korea-Japan diplomatic normalization treaty were declassified.

      The declassified documents show that in the course of negotiations, the Korean government demanded a total of US$364 million in compensation for the 1.03 million people conscripted into the workforce and the military during the colonial period.

      They also reveal that Korean negotiators made a number of statements that could be construed as surrendering the rights of individual Koreans to sue the Japanese government.

      An employee at the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security holds a microfilm on Monday of a document related to the 1965 Korea-Japan diplomatic normalization treaty.

      The Association for the Pacific War Victims told a press conference Monday it would sue the Korean government for W300,000 compensation for war victims and seek renegotiation of the Korea-Japan Basic Treaty that was the result of the normalization talks.

      The association said the Korean government claimed at the time 77,603 deaths resulted from conscription into the Japanese military. It plans to gather a group of plaintiffs from among the 69,051 victims it says were not compensated due to the government’s failure to properly publicize their rights.

      It is also preparing to sue the Japanese government, claiming that some 230,000 Korean conscripts into the military and workforce were never compensated and must be given their wages, which are lying in a Y215 million account with the Bank of Japan.

      The government will establish a team to deal with the expected aftermath of the documents' release including appeals for compensation.

      "It has been the government’s position that compensation for losses during the Japanese occupation has already been settled, but we will make a final decision after considering the flow of petitions and public sentiment," an official at the Prime Minister’s Office said.

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