Representatives of civic groups from Japan, South Korea and the Netherlands signed an agreement Friday to cooperate in seeking compensation from the Japanese government for their sufferings during and after World War II.
The three groups are a Japanese group and a South Korean group of former detainees seeking compensation for hard labor they were forced to undergo in camps in Siberia, and the Foundation of Japanese Honorary Debts, a Dutch group of former prisoners of the Japanese army in the then Dutch East Indies.
“We are joined by the same pain and suffering,” said Barend Cohen, vice president of the Dutch group, during a press conference following the signing. Cohen, 58, who was a toddler when he was interred in Jakarta, bit his lip and said he could not talk about his experience.
Because of differing legal strategies, the groups have yet to agree on how and to what extent they can cooperate, he said. While Tomoya Kambayashi, head of the Japanese group, called for a joint appeal to the U.N. human rights panel so that the Japanese government would recognize the rights of former detainees, the Dutch group is concentrating its efforts on gaining Japan’s recognition of individuals’ rights to seek compensation for suffering during war.
The three groups are preparing for a possible meeting in May, when the Dutch group will come to Japan for the reopening of its suit against the Japanese government.
The Tokyo District Court had acknowledged the inhumane treatment of the Japanese military but dismissed the case in November, based on the argument that international law does not give individuals the right to seek redress for suffering during war.
Lee Byong Joo, head of the South Korea group, said, “Even in the case of the ‘comfort women,’ the South Korean government offered some compensation, while Japan’s government offered neither that nor an apology.”
Soviet forces captured about 630,000 Japanese soldiers toward the end of the war and kept them in labor camps in Siberia and Central Asia that also held about 10,000 Koreans.
As many as 140,000 soldiers and civilians of the Netherlands are said to have been detained by Japanese forces in the Dutch colony, which is now Indonesia, during World War II.