OSAKA — Refusing a state pension to Korean residents of Japan simply because they are not Japanese nationals might run counter to the constitutional principle of equality under the law, the Osaka High Court said Friday.
The high court, however, still upheld a lower court’s decision and dismissed the appeal of a South Korean resident of Shiga Prefecture who has been seeking pension payments for injuries sustained during service with the Imperial Japanese Navy.
Presiding Judge Masayuki Matsuo said that not providing pensions to Korean residents of Japan may violate Article 14 of the Constitution. Koreans have not been eligible for compensation for wartime service since 1965, when it became clear that they would not receive payments from either the Japanese government or its South Korean counterpart.
Under the Japanese-South Korean Treaty, concluded in 1965, neither government is held liable for compensating Koreans who were drafted and forced to fight for Japan during the last world war.
“And because Japan has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, not providing pensions might also violate that covenant,” the judge said. “So the government should promptly pass new legislation or change the law so that Korean residents are not discriminated against.”
Both Article 14 and Article 26 of the covenant guarantee the equality of all people under the law.
Kang Pu Jung, 79, a resident of Kosei, Shiga Prefecture, had demanded a government pension under the war pension law but had been turned down as he is not a Japanese national.
The law grants pensions to former members of the Imperial Japanese armed forces and former civilian workers working for the Japanese military who were wounded during the war or to their families. It requires that any recipient be a Japanese citizen.
Kang, who was a Japanese citizen at the time, was drafted in 1942 as a civilian employee of the navy. He lost four fingers from his right hand and the sight in his right eye in 1945 during an Allied attack on his unit as he was transporting ammunition in the Solomon Islands.
“I am very angry (with the ruling). This is not democracy,” Kang said after the hearing. His lawyers said they plan to appeal the case to the Supreme Court.
Yoshinori Kan, an official at the Health Ministry, said that although it would be difficult for the law to be changed, the ministry is cooperating on the matter with the Cabinet Councilors’ Office on External Affairs.
Kang had filed the suit with the Otsu District Court in August 1993, demanding the government decision be retracted and 20 million yen in damages, but another ruling in November 1997 had refused his claim.
After the appeal earlier this year, the high court tried to mediate a settlement on the matter, but a compromise presented by the court was dropped as the state refused to discuss it, saying it would be impossible to solve the issue through mediation.
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