The Court's "Opinion": Redeeming Credibility for the Judiciary
When declaring the compromise, the Tokyo High Court stated in its "Opinion" as follows;
"This Court, ….took account of the serious sufferings experienced by the appellants, and believed that the appealed dared not deny this point, either. Accordingly, the Court attached importance to the "Joint Statement" which was a valuable achievement of the voluntary negotiations between the parties concerned, and considered it appropriate to aim at an overall solution on the basis of the Statement. Thus, on September 10, 1999, the Court recommended a compromise ex officio", implying that the spirit of the Statement provided the foundation of the compromise.
The Court also stated that it "expressed its opinions openly from time to time in the process of recommending the compromise and took account not only of the particular circumstances and problems of the Incident as such, but also of the efforts and achievements of several foreign countries to retrieve the damages brought by the war", so as to clarify that it took into account the compensatory projects for the victims of the forced labor in Germany, a former "ally" of Japan. For the purpose of liquidating war damages such as this case, the Court "has tried to think in a robust way, instead of being constrained by conventional ways of compromise, in an effort to find solutions to each and every pending problem concerning the Hanaoka Incident." The Court even stated that the compromise plan suggested by it "is nothing but an expression of the determination and conviction of the Court depicted above."
The "Opinion" is truly moving and sonorous. It also helps to redeem the credibility of the judiciary which was eroding because of its negative stance on the matter of war compensations of this kind, typified by the decision of the trial court.
Some critics are saying that 500 million yen is too modest in comparison with the amount paid by the Federal Republic of Germany. However, if we consider the difference in the achievements on this issue between the German and the Japanese society, the amount of 500 million yen should be regarded as the first step toward a full-scale settlement of the forced migration and labor problems, which is one of the myriad problems of post-war compensation.
This settlement by compromise has made it clear that other companies having the same kind of problems and, above all, the Japanese government which planned and carried out the forced labor, are no longer allowed to shirk their responsibilities. The headlines of the Japanese papers clearly showed this point; " A significant milestone in the post-war settlement (November 30th, Asahi Shimbun, editorial,); "History should be told correctly (Mainichi Shimbun, ditto,); "Thus, a homework has surfaced: the Japanese cliche that 'the problems of compensation have already been settled by the Treaty of San Francisco and other bilateral treaties' is no longer acceptable (Tokyo Shimbun, ditto.)"
Germany, Japan's former "ally", saw in the summer of the year 2000 the establishment of the "Memory/ Responsibility/ Future" Fund with the total subscription of ten billion deutsche mark (about 520 billion yen,), with five billion being contributed by the government and the other five billion by responsible corporations. This will be used to make compensations for about 1.5 million people who were forcibly transferred and compelled to work. In Japan, however, the post-war compensation problems came to be seriously discussed only after the Asian victims, trampled down by the aggressive war prosecuted by Japan, including the so-called "comfort women", started filing lawsuits in order to demand indemnities directly toward the Japanese government and corporations. In this sense, the compromise by way of establishing the "Hanaoka Fund for Peace and Friendship" can be interpreted as a milestone like the method of the "Memory/ Responsibility/ Future" Fund in Germany.
The Japanese government is shouldering about 75% of the stationing expenses of the U.S. forces in Japan every year, which amounts to about 500 billion yen, under the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty. No other country is doing this.
vol. 684 (February 2001).
Translated by SHIMIZU Nanako