Your editorial “Protectionist Diplomacy Goes Global” (Aug. 3) correctly describes the recent Japanese export-control measures against Korea as “retaliation.” The Japanese government’s argument in its Aug. 23 letter (“Japan Is Adhering to Its Treaty With Korea”) rings hollow given Japan’s shifting rationale.
The Republic of Korea Supreme Court affirmed the right of the plaintiffs—Koreans who “were brought against their will and forced to work under harsh conditions” (in the words of the Japanese delegation to Unesco in 2015) for companies that were part of Japan’s wartime industrial machinery—to be paid compensation by the defendants. The plaintiffs had tried their cases in Japan, encouraged by Japan’s own position that individual rights to claims had not been extinguished.
Korea has faithfully complied with the 1965 claims agreement with Japan and has no intention of breaking it. Without negating the agreement, the Supreme Court ruling points out that damages suffered by the victims of forced labor directly linked to the illegal colonial rule and war of aggression by Japan were not covered by the agreement as Japan had refused to accept legal responsibility for the colonization of Korea during the prolonged negotiations leading up to the agreement.
We have endeavored to find a formula that would fulfill the Supreme Court judgment while keeping the 1965 agreement intact. Unfortunately, Japan has stonewalled dialogue and instead retaliated on the trade front, while propagating its unilateral claim that Korea is violating international law. At the heart of the problem is Japan’s historical revisionism and unwillingness to fully come to terms with the past. But we stand ready to engage in dialogue with Japan to overcome the challenges and work together toward a shared future.
Foreign Ministry Spokesperson
Republic of Korea