Japan Says Sakhalin Koreans' Right to Compensation Expired

The Japanese government has claimed that ethnic Koreans who repatriated from Russia's Sakhalin Island and won Korean citizenship decades later should be considered as having forfeited their legal right to claim any post-World War II compensation.

Seoul's Ministry of Foreign Affairs rejected Japan's claim and called on Tokyo to reverse its stance.

"The government believes Japan's responsibility for compensation of Korean laborers from Sakhalin continues to exist, regardless of the 1965 compensation pact," ministry spokesperson Kim Young-sun said. "We will also keep a close eye on the ongoing lawsuits on wages deposited into Japan's postal service and welfare pension fund."

Yonhap News Agency reported that the Japanese government made the claim last year in a lawsuit, brought by a group of 11 ethnic Koreans, in which it asserted that compensation was already fully made based on the 1965 treaty signed by both nations.

The 11 were among hundreds of Korean workers who were deported to the Japanese-controlled southern region of Sakhalin Island for hard labor during Japan's colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945.

All eyes now are on how the Japanese court will decide on the Sakhalin Koreans' right to claim compensation, as a ruling against it would likely escalate tension between the two countries especially when the issue of Korean "comfort women," or sex slaves forced into service by the Japanese military, has yet to be resolved.

Arirang News / Mar. 23, 2010 11:22 KST