Seoul Demanded $364 Million for Japan's Victims

      January 17, 2005 22:40

      In negotiations for a normalization treaty with Japan four decades ago, South Korea originally demanded US$364 million in compensation for Koreans forced by into labor and military service during the Japanese occupation.

      According to newly declassified documents relating to the Korea-Japan Basic Treaty in 1965, the Korean government demanded compensation not only for deaths but also for survivors. That disclosure is expected to spur a string of compensation lawsuits from individual victims.

      Seoul demanded compensation at a rate of $200 per survivor, $1,650 per death and $2,000 per injured person. As for Koreans forced into labor, Seoul said there were 930,081 survivors, 77,603 dead and 25,000 wounded.

      Individual victims are expected to file for compensation because the government, in compensating victims of forced labor between 1975 and 1977, only paid W300,000 per death.

      Meanwhile, according to a classified Foreign Ministry document dated March 11, 1964, Seoul considered a separate secret pact with Japan pledging not to raise claims over North Korea following unification, while Japan in return promised not to negotiate with North Korea over claims involving the North Korean region before unification. "However, it is doubtful if Japan will accept," the document added.

      During the normalization talks, Seoul attempted to exercise rights over North Korea because its constitution regards the North as part of Korea.

      Had Seoul at the time negotiated North Korea's share, it would have had potentially grave consequences for current inter-Korean and Pyongyang-Tokyo relations. North Korea plans to win $10 billion in compensation from Japan.

      On including reparations for North Korea, the South Korean delegation concluded, “There seems to be no alternative but not to stipulate [them], but for both governments to explain the matter to their people in an appropriate manner."

      (Kwon Kyung-bok, kkb@chosun.com)
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