With the 100th anniversary of Japan's annexation of Korea approaching, 214 Korean and Japanese intellectuals issued a joint declaration that the annexation was unjust and therefore invalid from the outset.
In two separate press conferences in Seoul and Tokyo at noon on Monday, they said, "The annexation of Korea, as the term suggests, was a sheer illicit act of imperialism that cast aside the strong protests of everyone from the masses to the emperor of Korea with military might. The entire preamble and body of the treaty were lies. The procedure of signing the treaty was also seriously flawed. Since the process leading to the annexation was unjust, the treaty was also unjust and wrong."
Commenting on disagreement over the meaning of a clause in the Korea-Japan Normalization Treaty in 1965 -- that all treaties signed on Aug. 22, 1910 or before are "null and void" -- the group declared, "Based on the facts that have been uncovered since then, the Korean interpretation of 'null and void' should be recognized as the consensus."
The Japanese government has argued that the annexation treaty was valid as the two parties signed it as equals of their own free will, and that only the establishment of the Republic of Korea in 1948 invalidated it. But the Korean government has insisted that the treaty, which was the fruit of Japanese imperialism, was void from the outset.
"On a new tide of justice, Japan should start thoroughly reflecting on its history of invasion, annexation and colonial rule," the declaration said. The 109 Korean and 105 Japanese intellectuals negotiated their statement since December last year.