The Finance Ministry in 1962 considered allowing South Korean individuals to seek damages for World War II-linked suffering during Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula, according to diplomatic records disclosed recently, a civic group said Monday.
The records were among classified documents on negotiations conducted between 1951 and 1965 on the normalization of Japan-South Korea ties. In October, the Tokyo District Court ordered full or partial disclosure of some of the documents to South Koreans seeking damages and a group of historians, the group said.
According to the records, the Finance Ministry in 1962 prepared to earmark around ¥2.2 billion to be paid as cash stipends, instead of compensation, to South Korean citizens who served with the Japanese forces or were forced to provide labor for Japanese companies during the Pacific War.
The ministry estimated the total amount to be claimed by South Koreans, including property confiscated by Japan, would amount to around ¥5.1 billion, the records show.
Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry estimated the cash stipends to be paid at ¥10.2 billion, with the total amount to be claimed by South Koreans at ¥24.8 billion.
The records also show that during a November 1961 summit, then-Prime Minister Hayato Ikeda told South Korean President Park Chung Hee that Tokyo was ready to make payments based on the “principle that the rights of (South Korean) individuals seeking damages would be similar to those of Japanese.”
On the classified documents disclosed as of this month, Fumitoshi Yoshizawa, a professor at Niigata University of International and Information Studies, whose group is involved in the suit, said, “It’s significant that the estimated amount of damages and methods of calculation have been revealed.”
Japan’s position is that with a 1965 agreement between Tokyo and Seoul forged as part of normalizing bilateral ties, all issues of reparations, property and claims arising from World War II have been legally settled.