A Japanese court ordered the government in Tokyo on Thursday to make public hundreds of documents relating to the Korea-Japan Normalization Treaty of 1965 in a case relating to victims of Japanese wartime atrocities.
The court subpoenaed 328 documents, 212 of them to be revealed fully and 56 partially. The court ruled that documents whose contents Koreans could find insulting or humiliating, as well as those that could impact talks on normalizing ties with North Korea, must remain sealed.
The Japanese government declassifies sealed documents after 30 years but has kept some relating to the controversial 1965 treaty classified. Tokyo has insisted that the treaty voids all individual claims for compensation because a lump sum was paid to atone for the colonial occupation.
The Japanese government is expected to appeal so the final verdict could take several years, but Japanese courts rarely overturn earlier rulings.
Attorney Choi Bong-tae, who spearheads the lawsuit, also sued the Korean government in 2005 to reveal documents related to the 1965 treaty and has been pressing Japan to do the same since 2006.
Tokyo has 60,000 pages of documents related to the treaty, of which the court ordered 40,000 to be revealed. "If the Japanese documents are made public, it would provide a new turning point in individual compensation for Japan's past wartime victims," Choi said.
The Japanese court also ordered 39 documents concerning Dokdo be revealed fully or in part. The documents, which Tokyo has kept sealed for fear of jeopardizing its flimsy claim to the Korean islets, include proposals made by the two sides about the islets when they established the 1965 treaty and conversations between Emperor Hirohito and Korean officials.
The Mainichi Shimbun said the documents "could affect Korea-Japan relations."