A South Korean government committee called “absurd” the claims of Japanese economic bodies that all compensation to forced laborers during World War II were already covered by the 1965 treaty that normalized relations between Japan and South Korea. The committee said that the Japanese companies should also be held accountable for their human rights violations during the war.
On Wednesday, three major economic organizations from Japan, including the Keidanren and the Japan-Korea economic association, made a joint announcement referring to the compensation ordered by several South Korean courts the past few months as being already covered “completely and finally” by the 1965 agreement. They also added that these kinds of lawsuits could do nothing but harm the already fragile relations between the two East Asian countries, who are currently at odds because of a dispute over the Takeshima/Dokdo islands as well as other lingering historical issues. On Friday last week, a South Korean court ordered Mitsubishi Heavy to pay four women $141,510 each who were victimized during the war. Earlier this year, the Seoul High Court ordered Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal to pay 400 million won to four plaintiffs, while last July 30, Mitsubishi Heavy was also ordered to pay the same amount to five South Koreans.
South Korea’s Forced Laborer Investigation Committee, which is under the Prime Minister’s Office immediately criticized their statement, saying these companies enjoyed great profit at the expense of their forced laborers which they should have rightly compensated. He said it’s not the Japanese government that is liable for their inhumane practice but also the businesses who benefited from it. These former laborers have the right to file their lawsuits, regardless of the 1965 treaty. “Japanese economic groups’ announcement stems from fears that they will have to bear great burdens once the door for compensations opens,” said the committee’s chairman, Park In-whan. Around 23,500 Koreans are believed to have been victims of forced labor during World War II and the committee estimates that 901 died because of the harsh working conditions.
[ via Global Post ]
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