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Lawyers seek compensation from Japan

Oct. 10, 2011 - 17:36 By
Details of fund for forced Korean laborers during colonial rule revealed

A record of Japanese enterprises’ wage arrears for forced Korean laborers during the Japanese colonial rule (1910-1945) amounts to 2.7 trillion won ($2.3 billion), the Korean Bar Association claimed Monday.

The survivors and bereaved families of the unpaid workers will take legal steps to claim the money from the Japanese government, said the group of lawyers, adding that it would seek “realistic” compensation.

According to the disclosed document prepared by the Japanese labor ministry in 1950, a total of 317 enterprises with 446 workplaces in Japanese prefectures paid a total of 27,981,050 yen to the Japanese government as a deposit for 133,354 Korean laborers. It is equivalent to 209.51 yen per worker, including severance, delayed payments, health care expenses and more.

Among the employers are business giants including Mitsubishi and Nishimatsu Construction.

Currently, the money is kept in Japanese banks. Because of the 1965 Korea-Japan Claim Treaty exempting the Japanese government from further compensational responsibilities in return for lump-sum financial aid, the Korean government has been paying the wages as “subsidy” to the victims instead. 
Members of the Korean Bar Association urge the Korean and Japanese governments to look into issues regarding victims of the Japanese colonial rule in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul on Monday. (Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald)

The Korean government had assumed 1 yen to be worth 2,000 won, but civic groups and the lawyers’ association said given the inflation rate over the past 60 years, the amount should rise up to 100,000 won per yen. It gives a single worker the right to claim 20 million won for their ancestors’ arrears, the lawyers said.

The KBA urged the government to request the compensation from Japan.

“The 1965 treaty designates the lump-sum payment as payment for the independence and defined it as an aid, not the compensation,” said Choi Bong-tae, a KBA official.

“In 2007, the Japanese high court ordered the Japanese government to pay compensations with the deposit. The Taiwanese forced laborers have received them. But the Korean government remains reserved about the issue.”

Since 2010, the KBA and the Japanese Bar Association have worked on historical issues between the two countries: the Korean sex slaves forced to serve the Japanese military and the forced laborers. The Japanese lawyers have requested the Japanese government and businessmen to create a compensation fund for the victims of the colonial rule and the forced laborers. Mitsubishi and several other companies have reportedly agreed to start negotiation about the issue.

In Korea, some changes have been detected, too.

The Constitutional Court in August ordered the administration to sincerely request that Japan settle the issue. Last year, some lawmakers submitted a bill requiring the Korean government to request the Japanese corporations create funds to compensate the victims, but it is pending at the National Assembly.

‘The German government has shown sincerity in compensation as an expression of regret. The Japanese should do so, too, and the Korean government has every right to ask for it,” Choi said.

By Bae Ji-sook (