We Demand Restoration of Human Rights and Dignity for the Victims of Forced Labour.

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In 2018, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Korea (ROK) made rulings ordering Nippon Steel Corporation and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to pay reparations to the victims of forced mobilization (former forced labourers and former Women’s Volunteer Labour Corps members). [See endnote] The Japanese government reacted to the rulings by arguing that these matters had been “already settled” by the Japan-Republic of Korea Claims Agreement (Agreement on the Settlement of Problems concerning Property and Claims and on Economic Co-operation between Japan and the Republic of Korea, 1965), condemned the rulings as “outrageous” and “violating international law,” and went so far as to impose economic sanctions on the ROK by tightening export restrictions. The Japanese government’s attitude, which disrespects the Korean court, disregards the victims’ human rights, and on the contrary puts blame on the ROK, has basically not changed as of today. Of particular note is that the Japanese government also reacted strongly to the legal procedures in preparation for the seizure and sale of the companies’ assets, which commenced when they refused to pay the reparations.  The Japanese government even expressed its readiness for further retaliatory measures if the sale of assets moves forward.

Former forced labourers and former Women’s Volunteer Labour Corps members are people who were mobilized from the Korean Peninsula under the Japanese colonial rule during the Asia-Pacific War. They were victims of serious human rights violations such as mobilization by deception and threat, unpaid wages, bondage, and physical abuse. These people are undoubtedly victims of illegal “forced labour,” as has also been recognized by Japanese courts, as seen in the Osaka District Court ruling of 2001 in the Nippon Steel Corporation Forced Labour Lawsuit.

Did the Japan-Republic of Korea Claims Agreement compensate for this damage? Not at all. The Agreement, to begin with, was an agreement on “economic cooperation” and was not meant to be a reparations agreement. This cooperation (“supply and loans”) was designed to be “conducive to the economic development of the Republic of Korea” (Article 1). That the Agreement did not include reparations is clear from the statement, made by then-Foreign Minister Shiina Etsusaburo in the Diet in November 1965, that the economic cooperation for the benefit of the ROK was meant to “celebrate the start of the new country” and had “no relation” to reparations. Thus, the issue of human rights violations, including those related to forced mobilization, was never settled by the Japan-Republic of Korea Claims Agreement, and has been left unresolved to date.

It is true that the Japan-Republic of Korea Claims Agreement stipulates that the issue of claims between the two states was “settled completely and finally” (Article 2). However, what this meant was the mutual extinguishment of the right of diplomatic protection (the right of the victim state to demand reparations from the other state), and not the extinguishment of the right of individuals to make a claim. In fact, the Japanese government has repeatedly admitted this in the past. For example, Yanai Shunji, then-director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Treaties Bureau, said in the Diet in August 1991 that the Agreement “did not extinguish the right of individuals to make claims in domestic legal terms.” In November 2018, then-Foreign Minister Kono Taro also said in the Diet, “I am not saying that individuals’ right to claim was extinguished...” As long as the individual’s right to claim still exists, it is possible for the Japanese companies to provide reparations to the victims, and the past Claims Agreement does not constitute grounds to preclude such reparations.

With regard to the Chinese forced labour issue, there have been instances in which Japanese companies admitted their responsibility, apologized, and established funds for the relief of the victims as a means of settlement. There have also been multiple cases of settlement with regard to the Korean forced labour, including the Fujikoshi Lawsuit, in which a settlement was reached in the Supreme Court (July 2000). Reference to such precedents, along with international cases like the “Memory, Responsibility and Future” foundation established in Germany to pay compensation to the war-time forced labour victims, should pave the way to the resolution of the forced labour issue in this case. The defendant companies should accept the rulings of the ROK Supreme Court, willingly admit their responsibility for the human rights violations, and take sincere actions including apologies and reparations.

The Japanese Government should first do away with the fiction that the issue is “already settled,” and instead of interfering in the concerned parties’ efforts to resolve the issue, it should support them. At the same time, the Japanese Government should stop its export restrictions and other hostile policies towards the ROK. It would be outrageous for the Japanese Government to take further retaliatory measures in the case of the sale of the defendant companies’ assets.

We also urge the Japanese Government to make sincere efforts with regard to the Japanese military “comfort women” issue, concerning which a separate ruling was given by an ROK court ordering the Japanese Government to pay reparations to the victims. We call on the Japanese Government to sincerely face its historical responsibility regarding its colonial rule as a whole, to aim to overcome the past in a way that centres the victims’ experiences, and to endeavour to build friendly relations with the governments and the people of the Korean Peninsula.

Note: During the Asia-Pacific War, Japan forcefully mobilized approximately 800,000 Korean people from Korea, which was under Japanese colonial rule, in such forms as “recruitment,” “official mediation,” and “conscription.” The government developed the “labour mobilization plan,” and private corporations used the power of the authorities to systematically mobilize labour. (Reference: “Q&A on the Korean Forced Labourer Issue” by the Joint Action for Resolution of the Forced Labour Issue and Settlement of Past Issues).

January, 2021

Advocates (In the order of Japanese alphabetical order. * are organizers):

Asato Eiko, Co-chair of Okinawa Han No Hi No Kai

Asano Kenichi, Former Professor of Doshisha University Graduate School

Adachi Shuichi, Attorney

Lee Young-chae, Faculty Member of Keisen University

Iikura Erii, Faculty Member of Kobe Women’s University

Ikeda Eriko, Women's Active Museum on War and Peace

Igeta Midori, VAWW RAC(Violence Against Women in War Research Action Center)

Ishikawa Itsuko, Poet

Ishikawa Motomu, Faculty Member of Tokyo Metropolitan University*

Ishihara Nen, Playwright/Novelist

Ishihara Masaie, Professor Emeritus of Okinawa International University

Ichiba Junko, Chair, Citizens’ Group Supporting Korean Atomic Bomb Victims

Uchida Masatoshi, Attorney

Otsuki Tomoe, Researcher of the University of Montreal

Okimoto Fukiko, Special Researcher of Okinawa University Area Studies Institute

Okimoto Yuji, Okinawa People’s Solidarity/Association for Connecting Nanjing and Okinawa

Okumoto Kyoko, Faculty Member of Osaka Jogakuin University

Ochiai Eiichiro, Professor Emeritus of Juniata College (U.S.)

Kajimura Taichiro, Journalist (based in Berlin)

Kajimura Michiko, Member of Berlin Women’s Group

Katsukata-Inafuku Keiko, Professor Emeritus of Waseda University

Katumori Makoto, Former Faculty Member of Akita University*

Kado Satsuki, Chair, Steering Committee of Peace Week in Nagasaki

Kim Puja, Faculty Member of Tokyo University of Foreign Studies

Kimura Akira, Professor Emeritus of Kagoshima University

Kubota Ryuko, Faculty Member of the University of British Columbia

Kumagai Shinichiro, Chief Editor, Sekai

Rachel Clark, Interpreter, Global Coordinator, Lifetime Member of Veterans For Peace

Saito Masami, Instructor of Toyama University, Member of Korea Project@Toyama

Sakiyama Noboru, Director, Oka Masaharu Memorial Nagasaki Peace Museum

Saso Yoko, Researcher, Peace Culture Research Institute, Keisen University

Shimabukuro Makato Yoko, President, Tokyo Ryukyu-kan

Shin Hae-bong, Faculty Member of Aoyama Gakuin University

Shinkai Tomohiro, Executive Director, Supporters for the Chinese Forced Labourers’ Lawsuits of Nagasaki

Sugita Satoshi, Former Faculty Member of Obihiro University of Agriculture and Veterinary Science

Zushi Minoru, Staff Member of the Association for Connecting “Museum of Japanese Colonial History in Korea” and Japan

Seguchi Noriko, Faculty Member of Kyushu University

Sonoda Naohiro, Professor Emeritus of Nagasaki University

Takao Kikue, Organizer, Hiroshima/Gender/Zainichi Resource Center Preparatory Committee

Takashima Nobuyoshi, Professor Emeritus of the University of Ryukyus

Takada Ken, Co-chair, No War/Do Not Destroy the Article 9! Total Action Steering Committee

Takahashi Tetsuya, Faculty Member of the University of Tokyo

Takahashi Hiroko, Faculty Member of Nara University

Takahashi Makoto, Chair, Supporters of the Former Korean Women’s Volunteer Labour Corps Members’ Lawsuit Against Mitsubishi in Nagoya

Takahara Takao, Faculty Member of Meiji Gakuin University

Takamura Ryuhei, Faculty Member of Akita University

Takeuchi Yasuto, Historian

Tashiro Masami, Citizen of Nagasaki City

Tanaka Hiroshi, Professor Emeritus of Hitotsubashi University

Taniguchi Isao, Citizen of Kawasaki City

Tonohira Yoshihiko, Resident Priest of Ichijoji Temple

Tonomura Masaru, Faculty Member of the University of Tokyo

Toyonaga Keizaburo, Hibakusha, Organizer of the Hiroshima Branch of the Citizens’ Group Supporting Korean Atomic Bomb Victims

Nakagawa Miyuki, Hokuriku Liaison Office for Supporters of Fujikoshi Forced Labour and Forced Mobilization Lawsuit

Nakata Mitsunobu, Supporters of the Forced Labour Lawsuits Against Nippon Steel Corporation

Nakano Toshio, Former Faculty Member of Tokyo University of Foreign Studies

Nakano Masahiro, Faculty Member of Aoyama Gakuin University

Nagahara Yoko, Faculty Member of Kyoto University

Narusawa Muneo, Journalist

Nishioka Yuka, Manga Artist

Nogawa Motokazu, University Lecturer

Nohira Shinsaku, Co-chair, Peace Boat

Norimatsu Satoko, Director, Peace Philosophy Centre*

Ha Kyung-hee, Eclipse Rising

Hasegawa Sumi, Former Lecturer of McGill University

Bang Ching-ja, Japanese Military “Comfort Women” Issue Kansai Network

Hida Yuichi, Director of Kobe Student Youth Center, Co-chair of the Network for Fact Finding on Wartime Mobilization and Forced Labor

Hirano Nobuto, Director of Peace Activism Support Center, Co-chair of the Association for Supporting Overseas Atomic Bomb Survivors

Fujioka Atsushi, Professor Emeritus of Ritsumeikan University

Fujiwara Noriko, Co-chair of Citizens’ Movement Network Nagasaki

Pae Ann, Citizen of Yokohama

Hong Yunshin, University Lecturer

Maeda Akira, Professor of Tokyo Zokei University

Matsumoto Chie, Editor of Unfiltered

Moon Yeong-suk, Financial Institution Staff

Morimoto Takako, Co-chair, Association for Opposing the Exclusion of Korean Schools from the Japanese Government Subsidy Program

Yasukawa Junosuke, Professor Emeritus, Nagoya University

Yano Hideki, Executive Director, Japan-Korea Joint Action for Legislation for Compensation for Korean Victims

Yamaguchi Tomomi, Faculty Member of Montana State University

Yamamoto Seita, Attorney

Yunli Yeong-ae, Organizer, Association for Eliminating Discrimination Against Zainichi Koreans

Yokoyama Chie, Captain of a Henoko Protest Ship

Yoshizawa Fumitoshi, Faculty Member of Niigata University of International and Information Studies

Yonaha Keiko, Former Professor of Meio University

Yang Ching-ja, Co-chair of the National Action for Resolution of the Japanese Military “Comfort Women” Issue

Ryang Yong-song, Chair, Anti-Racism Information Center

Yang Nagayama Satoko, University Lecturer, Steering Committee member of Femi Zemi, Member of the Elimination of Gender Discrimination Committee of the Human Rights Association for Korean Residents in Japan

Watanabe Mina, Women’s Rights Activist


To contact us, email choyokomondai@gmail.com

Organizers (Katsumori Makoto, Ishikawa Motomu, and Norimatsu Satoko)

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