The Growth of Transnational Interactions, 1965-1988

On June 22, 1965, the Japanese and South Korean governments signed the Treaty on Basic Relations. The treaty dodged fundamental disagreements over how to interpret past relations between the two countries. First, the two sides agreed to disagree about the interpretation of the treaty’s second article, which read, “All treaties or agreements concluded between the Empire of Japan and the Empire of Korea on or before August 22, 1910 are already null and void.”1 The Japanese side interpreted this to mean that the 1910 Japan-Korean Annexation Treaty had previously been valid, only becoming null and void when the Republic of Korea was founded in August 1948, whereas the South Korean side interpreted it to mean that the treaty had been never valid.

Second, both governments evaded Japan’s responsibility for its past wrongdoings when they signed the Compensation and Economic Cooperation Agreement along with the Treaty on Basic Relations. This agreement authorized the Japanese government to substitute economic aid for compensation for the damages that South Koreans had suffered from Japan’s wartime atrocities and colonial rule. With this economic aid, the agreement stated that the “problem concerning property, rights and interests of the two Contracting Parties and their nationals (including juridical persons) . . . is settled completely and finally.”2

Opposition parties in Japan continued to criticize the terms of normalization. JSP member Yokomichi Setsuo pointed to the protests in South Korea and accused Sato Eisaku’s government of substituting economic aid for compensation: “If Prime Minister Sato’s government intends to apologize for the damages and pains of thirty-six years of Japan’s colonial rule, the Korean people might not have opposed the economic aid.”3 Another JSP member, Narazaki Yanosuke, also challenged the government’s interpretation of the treaty’s second article for ignoring the history of the Korean people’s struggle for independence.4 Opposition parties in South Korea similarly rejected the second article, since “it provided a basis for requiring the South Korean side to completely renounce its compensation claims . . . and for retrospectively accepting Japan’s imperialism.”5

As problematic as the normalization treaty was, it did open doors of interaction between the two countries. Specifically, normalization facilitated the formation of a transnational network of NGOs trying to address the plight of South Korean A-bomb victims.

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