Part I: Historical Background of the War Compensation Issue in Japan

Introduction -- Why Now?

The delay in proper response to the compensation issue by the Japanese --a half a century after the end of the war -- has several reasons: distortion of the objectives sought in the Potsdam Declaration with the starting of the Cold War and the resulting change in the American occupation policy; the despotic regimes in post-war Asia, which helped suppress the voice of victimized individuals; the limited perspective of generally self-pitying Japanese intellectuals in regard to war damage, and so forth. The collapse of the Cold War antagonism has finally opened the way for the Japanese to face the compensation issue in earnest.

I-1: Arguments on Postwar Compensation

It was only recently (after 1990) that the expression "postwar compensation" appeared in the vernacular of Japanese society. For the first time, Japanese have started discussing war compensation, either viewing it as a major national responsibility, or denying its necessity. The latter became rampant particularly after the coming-out of Korean former "military comfort women," who were put under sexual slavery for Japanese soldiers during the war.

Typical arguments denying the necessity of compensation include: 1) emphasizing the hardship the entire Japanese population went through during the war in order to reduce the significance of the victimization of Asian neighbors; 2) comparing similar cases in other countries to show that others also have done nothing-- they say for example, "The US has not apologized for its dropping of atomic bombs, nor have the British and French done so for their past colonialism" ; 3) insisting that the issue has been completely resolved with a series of postwar treaties, including the Japan-ROK Basic Treaty of 1965 ; and 4) warning of the potentially huge scale of compensation payment and possible confusion, once private claims are accepted. All these are, however, poorly grounded, Takagi argues.

Given the shift in recent public opinion, especially among young generations of Japanese, into more open and positive attitude toward making compensation, he continues, the Japanese government should revise its traditional position to reflect the conscience of the general public and open the way for compensation for individuals.

Legal Ground for Compensation to Individual War Victims


I-2: What Is Postwar Compensation?

Postwar management refers to the various settlements of affairs in the aftermath of a war. Many different terms are used in relation to these settlements, yet, their meanings are often inadequately understood or confused with other meanings. This sometimes causes disruptions in postwar management. Here are definitions of some key terms which often appear in discourses on the compensation issue in Japan: 1)War Responsibility and Postwar Responsibility, 2) Reparations, Compensation and Claims; and 3) State Compensation and Postwar Compensation.

I-3: Assessment of Japanese Postwar Management

What measures have actually been taken so far by the Japanese government in the name of postwar management? Here are assessments of the quality of these measures, separately in both domestic and international fields, compared with current dominant trends in the international community: 1) Domestic Postwar Management; 2) Postwar Management toward the Outside; and 3) Why Japan Has Neglected Postwar Compensation.

I-4: The History of War Compensation and Foreign Cases

(currently under construction)

For the sake of comparison, some foreign cases of postwar compensation are examined. These include: 1) The History of Compensation; 2) The German Case; 3) The American Case; and 4) The Canadian Case.

I-5: Legal Grounds for Postwar Compensation.

By accepting the Potsdam Declaration on surrendering to the Allied Force on August 15, 1945, Japan accepted that the war was caused by Japan*s aggression and that it was obligated to restore the damages it inflicted on other Asian regions in the course of the war and colonialism. This obligation is arguably confirmed by the post-war Constitution of Japan.

Where then is the basis of postwar compensation in regard to International Law? In Germany, although postwar compensation was carried out based on domestic laws, they have their roots in "Crimes against Humanity," a concept established as international law, together with that of "Crimes against Peace," by the Treaty of the Renunciation of War (August 1928). The same relation can be found in other country*s cases such as the US and Canada.

Where is the legal grounds for individuals to seek compensation in terms of international law? Can a state be legally responsible for redressing the damages resulting from its aggression? If so, do individuals have right to claim compensation, or is such a right limited only to states?

Part Two: Individuals Seeking Compensation: Regional Variations in Damages and Claims


Part II is devoted to a comprehensive and detailed examination of individual cases resulting in various claims from Asia and Pacific regions for compensation. These claims are grouped by several key issues to provide a complete picture.

These issues essentially fall in either of two categories: 1) compensation to those who suffered from the Japanese invasion during the Pacific War ; and 2) compensation to those former colonial residents who were forcibly incorporated into the Japanese war system and thereby suffered

II-1: Yet-To-Be Repatriated Korean Detainees in Sakhalin

Forced Relocation: The 1938 General Mobilization Act allowed the Japanese government to abduct about 1.5-2.0 million Koreans for subjugation to forced labor in coal mines and military facilities in Japan as well as overseas front lines. About 60,000 Koreans were taken to Sakhalin during the war and 43,000 of them, together with some 400,000 Japanese, saw the defeat of Japan on foreign soil. Although most of the Japanese eventually made their way home, virtually all the Koreans were left abandoned.
This chapter describes individual cases of the frustrating struggles of these Korean detainees to return home, and their legal battles since 1990 to claim compensation from the Japanese government, cases that would become the first of many similar court cases to follow.

II-2: Atomic Bomb Victims in Korea


A-bomb victims repatriated to Korea after the war have been ignored by the Japanese government in its medical and financial aid schemes for A-bomb victims. They have faced three-fold suffering --relocation to Japan, then exposure to the A-bomb, and resulting hardships upon their return home. They have been left in poverty with radiation-related illnesses and no access to proper medical treatment.

This chapter focuses on a court case filed by one of these Korean A-bomb victims, Son Jin-Doo, against the Japanese government. Seeking treatment for illness resulting from his exposure to an atomic bomb blast, he illegally re-entered Japan in 1966, only to find himself imprisoned for violation of Japanese immigration law. After lengthy legal battles, he finally won the case in 1978. The Supreme Court ruling was significant in that it admitted the responsibility of the state to compensate for war-related civilian losses, denied the application of the nationality clause to A-bomb-related medical treatment, and dismissed the charge of illegal immigration on moral grounds. This opened the way for other Korean A-bomb victims to visit Japan for medical treatment.

The consequences of the trial are examined to point out the inadequacy of the measures taken by the Japanese government, which lead to a movement that, since 1987, has pushed for claims for monetary compensation. The development of solidarity between these Korean victims and Japanese citizens' groups is also examined.

II-3: Class-B and -C Korean War Criminals

Class-B and -C war criminals refer to those who violated the 1929 Geneva Convention and other international laws of war in certain areas, including Burma, the Philippines, and Indonesia. 148 Koreans were convicted of these crimes because the Japanese Imperial Military used colonial subjects as bottom-ranking prison guards at POW camps. They were forced to carry out inhuman treatment of the POWs and therefore brought to trials held in Allied countries after the war. Unreasonable responsibility was imposed upon them for crimes committed by Imperial Japan.

After serving their prison terms, they were simply thrown out into a Japanese society, to which they were largely unrelated, without receiving any protection or aid from the government. Lacking any means of living in Japan, and denied to return to Korea (because they were still on parole), many found a way out through suicide or mental hospitals. Those who survived and the bereaved families of those who died formed a group to demand compensation as early as in 1955, and to this day are still fighting for it.

II-4: Koreans in The Japanese Imperial Army

This chapter illustrates in detail how Koreans were forced to serve, as soldiers or civilian employees, the Imperial Military of Japan. After largely disappointing attempts to recruit voluntary soldiers from the Korean Peninsula, Japan began general conscription in the colony in 1944, recruiting 130,000 Koreans as soldiers. Additionally, Japan mobilized at least 155,000 Koreans as a civilian work force in the military to construct front-line military facilities as well as to help police occupied areas. Many were abducted from home and died on the battlefields without proper documentation.

An association of Koreans left bereaved as a result of the Pacific War was founded in 1973. The group quickly expanded throughout South Korea, protesting the government's attempt to settle the issue once and for all by paying compensation of 300,000 won to each bereaved family of those died in the war. Ever since, the organization has been fighting for formal acknowledgment of and compensation for the crimes of the Japanese government. In December 1991, the group filed suit against the Japanese government in Tokyo District Court. This trial currently represents the crux of several movements related to the postwar-compensation issue in Japan.

II-5: Korean Military Comfort Women

Detailed explanation is given of the development and consequences of the military comfort women program, a euphemism for the system of sexual slavery designed, organized, and run by the Japanese military during the war.

II-6: Victims in China and Taiwan

China was the major battleground of the Japanese invasion. About 40,000 Chinese civilians were "hunted" to be enslaved in major mining and construction companies in Japan. Toward the end of the war, there was a rebellion by 800 Chinese who were forced to labor in the Hanaoka Mine run by the Kajima Construction group. About half of them were killed during and after the rebellion, and leaders were imprisoned until the Allied Forces found them. The survivors have been demanding compensation from the company since 1987.

Having been colonized for 50 years, Taiwan was put under the most intensive assimilation program by Imperial Japan. During WWII, more than 200,000 Taiwanese served as soldiers and civilian employees of the Japanese military. These Taiwanese war veterans or bereaved families have been excluded from any veteran pension or aid programs by either the Japanese or Kuomintang government.

Hong Kong had been occupied by Japan since late 1941, and people were forced to exchange HK dollars for gunpyo , an interim currency issued by the Japanese military. After the war, the currency lost its value but no compensation has been made for the losses.

II-7: Voices from Asia and Oceania

This chapter introduces the voices of various victims in different areas:

  1. The Philippines --Atrocities and Military Comfort Women
  2. Malaysia --Romusha'(construction levies) at the Taimen Railroad
  3. Indonesia --Former Heiho (special recruits) for the Japanese Military
  4. Palau --Abused Civilian Squads Serving the Japanese Military
  5. Papua New Guinea --Timbunke Village Massacre
  6. Marshall Islands --Atrocities by the Japanese Military
  7. The Aleutians --Relocation and Compensation of Aleuts
  8. Koreans Disabled by the War and Living in Japan
  9. Questions of Corporate Responsibility for Forced Labor

Part III: For the Realization of Postwar Compensation

Since around 1990, there has been some changes in the government's response to the issue of postwar responsibility. After reviewing related developments up to 1994, when the book was written, Takagi proposes what should be done hereafter to realize postwar compensation.


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