SEOUL--The Supreme Court here essentially ignored a 1965 agreement on wartime claims because Japan is an exception when diplomatic considerations come up in South Korea, a former diplomat involved in the accord said.

Mitsugu Machida, 83, a former Japanese minister to South Korea who now resides in Seoul, helped to craft provisions of the agreement that settled property and other claims from World War II.

However, the South Korean Supreme Court on Oct. 30 ordered Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp. to pay compensation to South Koreans who were brought to Japan to work during the war.

“While Japan may not have done everything possible, I do not believe that was a major factor (in the court ruling),” Machida said. “The biggest element is national sentiment in South Korea that says it is all right to overturn past agreements on the basis of current judgment.”

Machida also noted that policy in South Korea changes drastically after the conclusion of each president’s five-year term.

“Any change in government begins with a negation of the achievements of the previous administration,” he said.

Having long served as a diplomat, Machida explained that nations normally show diplomatic consideration for other countries, but in South Korea, Japan is the exception to that rule.

“At the root of national sentiment in South Korea is the feeling that no such consideration is necessary for Japan because it colonized the peninsula and massacred the Korean people,” he said.

Machida remembers various events leading up to the 1965 normalization of diplomatic relations between Japan and South Korea and the agreement on property and claims settlement.

In November 1962, Machida said Foreign Minister Masayoshi Ohira held a meeting in his office with visiting South Korean official Kim Jong-pil, who was then director of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency. The purpose of the meeting was to find ways to move toward normalization of diplomatic relations.

South Korea had demanded at least $1 billion from Japan for its 1910-45 colonization of the Korean Peninsula.

But through the course of discussions between Ohira and Kim, the two sides agreed on an outline that would be maintained in large part in the 1965 agreement.

Japan would pay $300 million in grants-in-aid and $200 million in loans, while additional private-sector loans would provide at least $100 million.

According to Machida, Japan’s foreign reserves at that time only amounted to about $2 billion.

Reflecting on those discussions, Machida said, “Both Japan and South Korea were well aware of the issue of wartime laborers brought to Japan.”

But he said various other issues had emerged over the more than three decades of Japanese colonial rule.

“If we discussed all those issues, we would never have been able to normalize diplomatic relations,” Machida said. “It was a political decision made after both sides understood the various circumstances.”

At that time, he said, the only unresolved case of conflict that both nations were aware of was sovereignty over the Takeshima islets, known in South Korea as Dokdo.

South Korea used the funds from Japan to construct expressways, steel factories and subway systems.

“While the South Korean people may have been dissatisfied at the amount paid, they are also well aware of the fact that their society developed on account of the agreement on claims settlement,” Machida said.

Concerned that Japan and South Korea now face a possible collapse of their bilateral ties, Machida said the only road to improving relations would be to “hold thorough discussions with the other side in a public setting.”