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Seoul draws fire for snubbing compensation for colonial-era laborers

All Headlines 17:07 August 14, 2009

SEOUL, Aug. 14 (Yonhap) -- Seoul is unwilling to ask Tokyo for overdue payments owed to Korean workers forcibly drafted to serve Japan's colonial regime, court documents showed Friday, saying the issue was settled more than 40 years ago.

Historical records have shown that Japan drafted hundreds of thousands of Koreans to work at coal mines and military facilities or to serve as sex slaves in and outside of Japan in the later years of its 1910-45 colonial occupation of the peninsula.

In a recent document submitted to the Seoul Administrative Court, the foreign ministry cited difficulty "in helping draftees seek compensation for overdue payments dating to the colonial era as it is clear that such payments were included in money given from Japan in 1965."

The document was delivered in response to a legal complaint by a former draftee filed against the government, arguing that its compensation policy towards forced laborers was flawed.

South Korea normalized diplomatic ties with Japan through a 1965 accord with the signing of a treaty on basic relations and supplementary agreements involving property claims, fishing rights, the legal rights of Koreans in Japan and economic cooperation.

The accord, however, has been a stumbling block for South Koreans seeking compensation from the Japanese government for its colonial rule of the peninsula.

The Japanese government frequently cites the accord, under which it insists it paid US$500 million to Seoul and satisfied all compensation claims. Most of the money was put towards the development of South Korean steel companies.

Seoul has maintained an ambiguous position on the issue for some time.

In 2005, the government launched a joint state-private committee to look into past relations between the two countries soon after it declassified documents showing the process of diplomatic normalization.

While the government has stated that justice regarding Japan's past crimes has not been served and that it has the moral responsibility to see that it is, it also maintains that the money it received in 1965 takes into consideration comprehensive issues, including compensation of forced laborers.

"I think there will be more complaints filed against the government," said Kim Chang-rok, a law professor at Kyungpook National University, as the government appears to be neglecting views regarding the state's moral obligations as suggested by the committee.


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