Korean to take pension case higher

The Tokyo High Court on Thursday upheld a lower court ruling and rejected a demand by a South Korean veteran wounded while fighting for Japan in World War II that Japan pay him some 240 million yen for refusing him a war pension because the country stripped him of his Japanese citizenship.

Kim Song Su, a 75-year-old resident of Pusan who lost his right arm serving in the Imperial Japanese Army in World War II, said he plans to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.

Kim had argued that the Japanese government’s failure to pay the pension violated the principle of equality, guaranteed under the Constitution.

However, presiding Judge Koetsu Okuyama rejected the claim, saying, “Even if the Japanese nationality clause leads to discrimination, nationality rules (in the war victim relief pension law) are constitutional.”

The high court went even further than the lower court in rejecting his appeal, deleting part of the Tokyo District Court ruling that said some kind of legislative measures should be carried out so that Kim could receive compensation.

Kim had previously gone to court to get the Management and Coordination Agency’s Pension Bureau pay him the pension.

The Tokyo High Court rejected his claim in December.

Under a 1952 law, the government is required to provide pensions to Japanese injured in the war or to the families of Japanese who were killed.

Koreans who fought in World War II were made Japanese nationals under Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula but automatically became Korean nationals again after the war, thereby losing eligibility for a pension.

Kim joined the Imperial Japanese Army as a volunteer in 1942 and lost his right arm and the use of his left leg on the battlefield in Burma.

He returned to South Korea after the war and in the 1970s began a movement to seek compensation from the Japanese government.

The Management and Coordination Agency, which is in charge of state pensions, said in 1994 that pension claims by South Korean nationals were waived under the 1952 San Francisco peace treaty, and refused to pay Kim a veteran’s pension.

POW lawsuits in U.S.

WASHINGTON (Kyodo) The Rhode Island state Senate has passed a bill that would allow former prisoners of war or their next of kin to file damages suits against Japanese companies over forced labor, the bill’s sponsor said Wednesday.

The state Senate approved the bill 45-0 Tuesday, Sen. John Patterson said.

The bill is expected to become law, because the state House of Representatives is expected to approve it by July and the governor is not expected to veto it.

The enactment would make Rhode Island the second U.S. state to establish a law allowing slave labor victims from World War II to bring legal action for damages. California is the first.

The bill would allow victims and their heirs to take legal action to claim compensation over unpaid labor imposed by Nazi Germany, Japan and their Axis allies between 1929 and 1945.

Under the bill, such action would have to be taken by the end of 2010.

“This bill is modeled after existing California law, which has resulted in a number of class-action lawsuits being filed against Germany and Japanese companies which used slave labor and aided in their countries’ war effort,” Patterson said in a statement.

The senator indicated the bill is targeted at Japanese companies, noting that Germany is taking action to compensate victims of the Nazi regime, while other countries that had been Germany’s allies are not offering any compensation.

Germany has established a $5.1 billion fund to compensate the victims, Patterson said. German companies are contributing to the fund and U.S. corporations with German subsidiaries have also agreed to donate, he added.

Last July, California enacted a law that stipulates that as long as former POWs file suits at California courts by the end of 2010, any applicable statute of limitations will be overridden.

Based on that law, about 20 lawsuits have been lodged by former POWs against Japanese companies over their wartime forced labor.

The California law originally targeted victims of Nazi Germany, but those who took legal action have interpreted it as also covering victims of forced labor imposed by Japanese companies.

Japan maintains that the 1951 San Francisco peace treaty stipulates the final and complete resolution of the compensation issue between Japan and the Allied nations.