The Diet enacted landmark legislation Wednesday that will provide a one-off payment to foreign veterans who fought for Japan during the war but are currently barred from receiving pensions.
The bill, passed into law following a House of Councilors vote Wednesday, marks a turnaround from the long-standing government policy that only Japanese nationals are entitled to government pensions related to wartime military service.
Under the new law, Koreans, Taiwanese and other foreign veterans who served in the Japanese military during the war will receive a 4 million yen lump-sum payment. Widows of foreign veterans will receive a 2.6 million yen lump-sum payment.
According to the Japanese government, between 2,000 and 3,000 people will qualify for the compensation.
The law limits the payment to foreign veterans or their widows who are permanent residents of Japan.
Claims can be made within three years after the law goes into effect at the start of fiscal 2001, which begins April 1.
The government had previously refused to compensate foreign veterans or their next of kin on the grounds that compensation issues were settled through multilateral or bilateral treaties concluded after World War II.
During the war, citizens of Korea and Taiwan, which were under Japanese colonial rule, were conscripted into the Japanese military.
Korean and Taiwanese veterans have sued the Japanese government over pensions and Japanese courts have ruled against the government, citing the constitutional guarantee of equality before the law as well as the U.N. convention on human rights.
The one-off payment under the new law differs from the pension system for Japanese veterans, whose war-related pension is spread throughout their life.
Some foreign veterans say the amount of money provided under the new law is substantially lower than what Japanese veterans receive, the amount of which was not detailed.
Kang Pu Jung, 80, a South Korean resident of Japan who was drafted and lost the fingers on his right hand during the war, expressed his dissatisfaction, saying he and his former military colleagues should be entitled to compensation equivalent to that given to Japanese nationals.
“I earnestly hope the Japanese government will seriously reflect on the gravity of its infringement upon our human rights and fulfill its war responsibility by compensating us without disparity with regard to Japanese nationals,” Kang said.
Kang, who also sustained injuries to his right eye during the war and is now almost blind in that eye, told reporters in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, that Japanese nationals receive up to 100 million yen in compensation.