Unprecedented judicial confusion, inevitable consequences of inciting anti-Japanese sentiment.
The Seoul Central District Court dismissed a lawsuit filed by former mobilized workers for compensation against Japanese companies. In 3 years, it went against the ruling by the Supreme Court’s full bench that recognized compensation liability of Japanese companies. It is difficult to find another case where a district court denied the decision outright by the Supreme Court. In lawsuits of claims for damages by former comfort women against the Japanese Government, two contrary judgements were made within four months. These are the judicial confusion that is difficult to find before. It is the responsibility of the Moon jae-in administration which has used history for political purposes and of Chief Justice Kim Myeong-su who made an extra-legal judgement.
The Seoul District Court said that not only national claims, but also individual claims are covered by the 1965 Claims Agreement signed by both the Korean Government and the Japanese Government. Because of the Agreement where “individual claims are settled completely and finally,” Korean people cannot exercise their individual right to claim through lawsuits for requisition issues, and therefore the court decided to dismiss the case. It denied the ruling in 2018 by the full bench of Supreme Court led by Chief Justice Kim Myeong-su, where individual claims for forced mobilized workers are not covered by the Agreement and thus Japanese companies must compensate them and followed the dissenting opinion at that time. The judiciary itself admitted that there was a problem with the decision at that time.
The Moon Jae-in administration neglected the issue since then, saying, “It respects the Supreme Court’s decision.” For Korea’s diplomacy to Japan, even the Speaker of the National Assembly, who is chosen from the ruling party, offered a political solution, but the administration ignored it completely. Instead, it labeled those who expressing rational opinions as pro-Japanese, referring to “local Japanese”, “Jookchang-ga - the Song of Bamboo Spear” and “12 Yi Sun-sin’s ships.” They did nothing but devote themselves to inciting anti-Japanese sentiment for elections. By mentioning only political utilities, Korea’s diplomacy to Japan was failed and public opinion was divided. Furthermore, they caused judicial confusion in the end. If the Korean Government had been responsible for solving the issue, elderly Korean victims would not have filed a series of lawsuits in vain. The Korean Government made everyone a loser. The ruling this time shows the fact that if international law is ignored as it follows the national sentiment, it will neither be possible to obtain support from the international community, nor will it be possible to obtain consent from the Korean judiciary.
Editorial of the Chosun Ilbo on 8 June