South Korea Appeals Court Rejects Claim by A Bomb Victims

David Lee, Jan. 14, 2016, 8:30 a.m.

An appeals court on Thursday ruled in favor of the government and dismissed a compensation suit filed by South Korean atomic bomb victims, who were conscripted into the Japanese military or drafted to work in Japan during its 1910-45 colonial rule. Upholding a lower court's ruling, the Seoul High Court turned down the suit filed by 79 members of an association of Korean victims of the 1945 Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings.

The plaintiffs filed the suit in August 2013, representing some 2,600 other members of the association, seeking 10 million won (US$8,240) for each of the victims in compensation. They said the government neglected its duty to take active measures against Japan to settle the issue, such as organizing a trouble-shooting committee with Japan.

They cited a pact reached between Seoul and Tokyo to normalize their diplomatic ties in 1965, which stipulated that any disputes regarding implementation of the deal should be resolved through diplomatic channels and that what cannot be resolved in such way should be brought to the arbitration committee comprised of the two countries' representatives and one from a third party country.

The court, however, said the deal does not mean that the government is obligated to hold the committee in every case. "The government has been constantly trying to settle the dispute through diplomatic channels," the court said. "Considering the recent Seoul-Tokyo deal on Japanese wartime sex slaves -- though there is a controversy -- it does not seem like (government's) efforts to diplomatically negotiate the (atomic bomb victims') issue are as meaningless as the plaintiffs claim."

The two countries reached a rare deal last month to resolve the issue of Japan's wartime sex slaves during World War II, under which Japan apologized and agreed to offer 1 billion yen (US$8.3 million) in reparations to the victims through a fund to be created by the South Korean government. South Korea said it would end the dispute once and for all if Japan fully implements the deal. There are about 4,300 foreign atomic bomb victims and 2,600 of them are Koreans, according to Japan's official data.

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