Tokyo Urged to Compensate for Comfort Women
By Jung Sung-ki
South Korea has been asking Japan to take legal responsibility for the Korean ``comfort women,'' sex slaves for Japanese soldiers during World War II, officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said Monday.
But the officials indicated that the country is unlikely to pursue further compensation for those sent by Japan to Sakhalin for hard labor and people who suffered from the atomic bombs detonated in August 1945 in Japan because such compensation has already been covered by a 1965 treaty signed between the two nations.
``The 1965 treaty covers all official indemnities and the compensation has been more or less adequately distributed,'' said a ministry official. ``In addition, many of the issues involving the atrocities Japan committed have already been solved considerably between the governments of South Korea and Japan.''
With the exception of comfort women, Japan has showed much compassion to requests by the Korean government, said another official at the ministry's department on Japan.
The issue of comfort women has yet to be solved because Korea, along with other countries, sees the slavery as belonging to a whole new category of crimes against humanity, he said.
Japan normalized relations with South Korea in 1965 after signing a treaty under which it paid $800 million in grants and soft loans. It currently maintains that all pending compensation between the two governments was settled under the treaty.
However, a Japanese document declassified in 2008 was recently found to contain clauses suggesting that Tokyo believed the 1965 pact had covered only government-level compensation, leaving room for paying individual compensation to Korean victims.
The document is part of a number of documents unveiled in 2008 submitted to a Japanese court in a compensation suit filed against a Japanese company by 23 Koreans who were forced into labor by the Japanese during World War II.
The Nagoya High Court turned down the appeal last week, saying while it acknowledges that the plaintiffs were forced into hard labor, ``there is no longer any obligation for compensation since individual claims have all been settled according to the 1965 treaty.''
Historians believe that more than one million Koreans were forced to work for Japan. They include tens of thousands of young Korean women forced into sexual enslavement at frontline Japanese military brothels.