'Don’t go toe-to-toe on Japan’s misdeeds'
By Lee Tae-hoon
A law expert in the forefront of a move to prove the invalidity of the Korea-Japan Annexation Treaty of 1910 said Thursday that Seoul should refrain from seeking a head-to-head confrontation with Japan for the latter’s colonial atrocities.
“In order for the two countries to achieve true reconciliation, Korea should not make such a dramatic action as attempting to settle the issue of Japan’s colonial rule at the International Court of Justice (ICJ),” said Doh See-hwan, a research fellow at the Northeast Asian History Foundation (NAHF).
“Only hatred will be left if we take a Samurai-like approach and resolve the issue in a court ruling,” Doh said.
He noted that what is more important than taking such a measure against Japan is revealing the truth behind the illegitimacy of the annexation treaty and help the former imperialist country voluntarily confront its historical misdeeds.
There has been a growing call to bring the colonial issue to the ICJ since a group of intellectuals in Korea and Japan issued a joint statement in 2010 that pronounced the annexation treaty "null and void.”
On May 10, 2010, 109 Korean and 105 Japanese scholars declared that the "Japan's annexation of Korea was an imperialistic and illicit act using military power to overcome protests from Koreans.
On July 28, 1,118 intellectuals ― 587 Koreans and 531 Japanese ― issued a joint statement, demanding Tokyo's admission that the Japan-Korea annexation treaty was void because it was flawed and illegal.
“Gay McDougall, a former special rapporteur at the U.N. Human Rights Council, suggested holding Japan accountable for colonial atrocities that it committed against Koreans in an academic conference that I organized in February this year,” he said.
“But I believe such a legal measure should be used as the last resort as there is still a room for the two countries to resolve the long-standing bilateral issue based on rational reasoning and logic.”
He has organized a series of international symposiums that shed light on illegality of the Korea-Japan annexation treaty concluded under military pressure.
Today, prominent scholars from Korea and Japan will gather at the NAHF for a forum Doh organized to present papers countering the Japanese government’s official stance that Tokyo settled all colonial issues through a bilateral treaty in 1965.
Doh is scheduled to deliver a lecture that outlines Tokyo’s moral and legal responsibility to compensate individual victims of the colonial past, including comfort women, and the flaws of the 1965 Treaty on Basic Relations between Korea and Japan.
He argues that Japan refused to compensate the Korean government and its people for its colonial crimes through the 1965 normalization treaty since it has never acknowledged its legal responsibility for the colonial rule.
“Japan insists that the 1910 treaty to colonize Korea was legal because it followed all due processes required by international law and thus it is not accountable for the colonization,” Doh said. “However, Japan will find it increasingly difficult to defend itself since the annexation of Korea was proven to be an imperialistic and illicit act using military power. The treaty itself had serious flaws in its process and form, including the lack of Korea’s state seal.”