Professor Nam Ki Jeong “If Japan admits the illegality of colonial rule, let’s acknowledge it as full reparation” 
Professor Nam Ki Jeong “If Japan admits the illegality of colonial rule, let’s acknowledge it as full reparation” 
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  • 기사승인 2019-08-13 23:19:32
  • 최종수정 2019.08.13 23:19
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A Korean protégé of Wada Haruki, ‘a conscience of Japan’ who has been in agony over Japanese army’s sex slaves, speaks of the forced labor by the Japanese Empire. 
Professor Nam Ki Jeong's background shows a door with maps of the Japanese archipelago.

”Isn’t it a way to political solution to acknowledge all the economic measures that Japan has provided so far, as soon as Japan admits the illegality of colonial rule?” 

This is a ‘possible exit’ proposed to the governments of Korea and Japan by Professor Nam Ki Jeong (55) whom we met in Graduate School of International Studies of the Seoul National University Gwanak Campus on August 9. Professor Nam, Research Manager of the Institute for Japanese Studies in the Graduate School, is one of protégés of Professor Wada Haruki of University of Tokyo who has been the secretary general of Asian Women’s Fund founded in 1995, and attempted reconciliation with victims of Japanese army sex slavery on behalf of the Japanese government.

Throughout the interview, Professor Nam contemplated over ‘the nature of money’ just like Haruki. Haruki defined the fund made by the donations of Japanese people as the ‘de-facto reparation’, but the Japanese mainstream named it differently as a ‘present of money’. It was based on the claim that the issue of comfort women had been solved according to the Claims Agreement, and thus the nation was not obliged to provide reparation to individuals. Its naming, which meant offenders comfort victims, enraged victims, and the fund project stopped. 

In the Professor Nam’s contemplation, only the victims of comfort women were changed to the victims of forced labor. The nature of victims that they suffered in the past, and now are entitled to reparation is the same. Professor Nam argued that we rather have to ask the Japanese government “Do you acknowledge the illegal colonial rule?”, which claimed that the right to claim damage reparation had been extinct due to the Claims Agreement. 

Professor Nam said “Because the Japanese government wants to claim it has been covered (in the Claims Agreement), it wants to say in the line that money has been given and it was the reparation,” and “Let’s say the Korean government has received the economy cooperation fund, and then the Korean government should argue the Japanese government has never said the money was related to the Claims.”

Professor Nam’s claim was that we have to check whether Article 1 of the Claims Agreement, based on which 300 million won was provided to the Korean government as an ‘economy cooperation fund’ or ‘congratulatory fund for independence’, and Article 2 of the Claims Agreement specifying “the issue of rights to claim… shall be completely and finally resolved” were related to reparation.

In November 2018, the Supreme Court decision comprising all justices that Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, a war criminal company, was responsible for reparation claimed that Japan did not give money to Korea in return for not asking about the issue of the right to claim. This is because it is unclear whether Article 2 of the Claims Agreement, which declared the settlement of the claim issue, is the result of Article 2 of the Korea-Japan Basic Treaty, "which confirmed that the treaties and agreements signed between Korea and Japan were invalid".

Paradoxically, if the Japanese government raises its voice that all claims have been extinct due to the Claims Agreement, the question remains, 'Does Japan recognize the illegality of its colonial rule?' Only if Article 2 of the Basic Treaty is the cause (that recognized its illegality) and Article 2 of the Claims Agreement is its result (extinction of the right to claim), Article 1 of the Claims Agreement guarantees this relationship (reparation payment). The Japanese government’s stance is like insisting on a 'causeless result' or an 'unguaranteed outcome.'

Professor Nam notes that Japan has never denied the negative consequences of colonial rule on Koreans in the past. He argues that the Korean government should reversely take advantage of these as assets and the Japanese government should inherit them.

Professor Nam said, "Abe Shinzo also acknowledges the 1998 Kim Daejung-Obuchi declaration, which admitted externally that Japan had caused a great deal of damage and pain to the Korean people", and pointed out that however, "Abe didn't say a word" regarding Naoto Kan's 2010 statement that Japan had colonized against the will of Korean people.

Because the Japanese government evaluated the colonial rule at its cabinet level in the past, the Abe's cabinet cannot easily deny it, Professor Nam analysed. In particular, Professor Nam said of the Naoto Kan's statement, which included the expression of "colonial rule against the will of the Korean people," that "it could be a ground for illegality," and stressed that the Korean government should actively respond and let the Japanese government acknowledge that 'a treaty signed against the will of the people' means an illegal treaty.'

If so, what would happen if Abe, as Professor Nam said, makes a surprise admission of the illegality of colonial rule? For example, he metaphorically accepts the illegality of colonial rule at the level of reaffirmation of the 1998 declaration and the 2010 statement.

Professor Nam said “then, Japan has a duty of reparation,” and proposed a solution, “Let’s acknowledge all the economic measures that Japan has provided so far as de-facto reparation.” Professor Nam defined this as a “politically possible route to a solution“, and a ‘task that the Supreme Court decision has left to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs” as the interview came to an end.

Professor Nam Ki Jeong, who is thinking in the middle of the interview.

[WikiLeaks Korea=Yoon Yeojin]

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