Based on the recent behavior of South Korean President Moon Jae-in and South Korean National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-sang regarding the ruling on requisitioned workers, we cannot help but think that South Korea is not particularly eager to mend its ties with Japan.
On Nov. 4, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe urged President Moon to rectify South Korea’s violation of international law based on the principle of abiding by the Japan-South Korea claims agreement concluded in the 40th year of the Showa Era (1965). Abe’s stance is perfectly appropriate.
We hope the prime minister will continue to adhere to this principle in order to protect national interests and build a truly sound bilateral relationship.
The leaders of the two countries talked for 11 minutes at a hotel in a suburb of Bangkok, Thailand, when they were both visiting the country. It was their first sit-down conversation in 13 months. Although President Moon was the one who suggested holding the meeting, South Korea did not express its intention to rectify its violation. Japan must not be deceived by what is no more than a pose of reconciliation.
When National Assembly Speaker Moon visited Japan, he did not officially apologize for his grave discourtesy and insult to the Emperor Showa and His Majesty the Emperor Emeritus. Instead, he kept talking about his idea of drawing up a bill to collect donations from Japanese and South Korean companies and provide the money to former requisitioned workers. But Japan should not accept this “suggestion,” as it is fraught with problems.
During World War II, requisition of labor was carried out based on the law of that time (National Requisition Ordinance). It was a legal wartime mobilization of labor services that took place in every country and the workers were actually paid for their labor.
Japan and South Korea normalized diplomatic ties after the mutual right to claim compensation for Japan’s rule of the Korean Peninsula was “settled completely and finally” by the Japan-South Korea accord. During the process of negotiations on diplomatic normalization, the South Korean government vowed to take responsibility for providing individual compensation. Therefore, there is absolutely no need for Japan to pay anything, including donations.
The ruling by the South Korean Supreme Court on the requisitioned workers is having a negative impact on other issues as well. The ruling claimed that Japan’s rule of the Korean Peninsula itself, in addition to corporate activities, was illegal, and acknowledged the individual right to claim compensation. The ruling, which runs counter to an international agreement, could lead to a steady stream of unreasonable damage suits to be used as political tools to condemn Japan. Assembly Speaker Moon’s “suggestion” would not resolve this fundamental problem in any way.
South Korea’s violation of international law cannot be rectified by a simple compromise. Some Japanese media outlets are calling on both Japan and South Korea to split the difference. But this is an absurd idea that neither recognizes the seriousness of the issue nor considers Japan’s position as a victim of South Korea’s illegal behavior.
The Japan-Korea and the Korea-Japan parliamentarians’ unions held a joint general meeting on Nov. 1 and issued a statement urging the two countries to hold a summit at an early date. This seems to indicate that South Korea is in the driver’s seat. It is questionable whether Japan has been able to sufficiently make its own case. Discussions must be held on how to defend Japan.