The government is gearing up to launch this month a government-civilian committee to tackle the issue of compensation for Koreans victimized during Japan`s colonial rule, government officials said yesterday.
Related ministries have prepared for the joint committee as a follow-up to the government`s disclosure last month of some records on the 1965 Seoul-Tokyo normalization accord, which provoked civil appeals from victims of the 1910-45 colonial period.
The Office for Government Policy Coordination said it will complete selection of committee members soon to enable them to hold their first meeting this month.
The body will consist of 20 members - 10 government officials including related ministers and 10 civilian experts from legal and history fields - and will be headed by Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan and possibly another leader from the civilian side, the office said.
Foremost on the list of issues to be addressed by the committee is the number of Korean victims who were conscripted for Japan`s workforce or military during the colonial period.
The declassified documents on the South Korea-Japan Treaty showed the Park Chung-hee administration estimated the number of victims at 1.03 million, but scholars and civic activists claim the figure should be between 2 million and 4 million.
"It is really difficult to come up with the exact number of victims as it happened long time ago, so we will have to depend on civil appeals," said an official at the Prime Minister`s Office who is in charge of the matter.
He said the government will have a ballpark figure after it completes getting applications from victims at the end of June.
Government officials said there has been no decision on the amount and ways of compensation.
A recent survey showed more than 70 percent of the public believe the government should bear responsibility to pay for those victims.
There have been growing calls for the government to compensate the victims after the declassified documents revealed that the Park administration had absolved Japan of any indemnity demands at both government and individual levels after receiving $800 million in grants and soft loans from Japan.
The administration used most of the grants for economic development, failing to provide adequate compensation to victims.
By Seo Hyun-jin