Japanese document confirms individual right to recourse in spite of Korea-Japan Agreement of 1965

Posted on : 2010-03-15 11:34 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
The document is a significant interpretation of the rights of conscripted laborers and “comfort women” affected by Japanese imperialism

It has been confirmed that at the time it signed the Korea-Japan agreement of 1965, which included articles addressing the right to recourse through compensation, Japan believed that even after the finalization of the treaty, the individual right to recourse for damages was still effective. This is highly significant as it reveals the conclusion reached by the Japanese government at the time over individual recourse, which has issued confusing responses since the finalization of the treaty regarding the question of whether the individual right to recourse still exists.

In documents written by the Japanese Foreign Ministry in 1965 in relation to the Korea-Japan agreement, obtained Sunday by the Hankyoreh through a group providing support to Korean victims of conscripted labor who are suing Japan’s Nachi-Fujikoshi Corporation, the Japanese Foreign Ministry wrote that Article 2 of the Korea-Japan agreement was in fact written as a pledge to not exercise the right of diplomatic protection, generally an internationally-recognized right of states, but did not say that national debts that were pledged in the agreement have been satisfied through individual property (the individual right to recourse). The ministry said that Article 2 does not address whether individual rights maintain a right to recourse according to the domestic law of the other state, in this case, Japan.

This suggests that the Japanese government acknowledges the individual right to recourse of conscripted laborers and “comfort women” despite the statement in the agreement that all rights to recourse have been nullified. Old Korean government documents interpreting that individual right to recourse is still alive regardless of the agreement have emerged, but this marks the first document confirming that the Japanese government had reached the same conclusion.

There are three documents that reveal the attitude of the Japanese Foreign Ministry at the time, including the “Legal Interpretation of the Abandonment of Citizen Property and Right to Recourse in the Peace Agreement” that was written on April 6, 1965. Notably, the “Legal interpretation of the Abandonment of Citizen Property and Right to Recourse in the Peace Agreement” has been marked “confidential.”

The text of the 1965 agreement says in Article 2, “The High Contracting Parties confirm that the issues concerning property, rights, and interests of the two High Contracting Parties and their peoples (including juridical persons) and the claims between the High Contracting Parties and between their peoples, including those stipulated in Article IV(a) of the Peace Agreement with Japan signed at the city of San Francisco on September 8, 1951, have been settled completely and finalized.” The Korean government received through the agreement $300 million in grants, $200 million in loans and $300 million in private loans. Regarding the interpretation of Article 2, the Japanese government maintained the attitude through the 1990s that the individual right to recourse still existed. Since then, Tokyo has been denying that stance. Recently, Japanese courts have also been dismissing claims for damages from victims, arguing that the agreement settled all claims.

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