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Seoul Frees Japanese Companies from Forced Labor Compensation

Written: 2023-03-06 14:29:29Updated: 2023-03-21 11:12:03

Seoul Frees Japanese Companies from Forced Labor Compensation

Photo : YONHAP News

Anchor: South Korea has proposed a plan to compensate Korean victims of Japan's wartime forced labor on its own in a bid to resolve the long-disputed issue and improve ties with Japan. A South Korean foundation will pay the victims but the defendant Japanese corporations that forced Koreans to work in their factories will not have to contribute to the solution.
In anticipation of the positive effect the solution will have on bilateral relations, Seoul announced that it will retract its complaint filed with the World Trade Organization over export controls imposed by Tokyo in 2019.
Kim Bum-soo has more on the solution put forth by South Korea.

Report: Seoul-Tokyo relations meandered toward a new rock bottom after the 2018 South Korean court rulings on Japan's wartime forced labor.

Instead of enforcing the Supreme Court decisions that ordered Japanese companies to pay reparations to the victims, the Yoon Suk Yeol administration announced Monday that a government-led fund will compensate the victims.

[Sound bite: Foreign Minister Park Jin (Korean-English)]
"... the Foundation for Victims of Forced Mobilization by Imperial Japan under the interior ministry will provide compensation and interest on the delayed payment to the plaintiffs of the final rulings on the three 2018 Supreme Court cases in order to pay reparations for the victims and their families. The same foundation will cover the compensation and interest for the plaintiffs of pending cases if the court rules in their favor.”

Under the plan introduced by foreign minister Park Jin, the fund will be created through donations from the private sector.

Around four billion won, or some three million U.S. dollars, will be paid to 15 victims who won the legal action against Nippon Steel and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

[Sound bite: Foreign Minister Park Jin (Korean-English)]
“The (South Korean) government hopes that the two countries will inherit and improve the spirit of the South Korea-Japan Partnership toward the Twenty-first Century (Kim Dae-jung-Keizo Obuchi Declaration) announced in October of 1998, and overcome the unfortunate past, and walk toward future-oriented ties based on reconciliation and amicable relations."

Contributions are expected from South Korean companies that benefited from a 1965 treaty normalizing diplomatic relations under which Japan provided economic aid and loans.

Victims and supporting civic groups strongly protested the plan. Critics have argued that Seoul's proposal is only a "half solution" without the full participation of Japan.

[Sound bite: Foreign Minister Park Jin (Korean-English)]
"This is a broad-minded decision by the (South Korean) government to find a breakthrough to the strained South Korea-Japan relations, and we hope Japan responds with the Japanese government's comprehensive apology and the voluntary participation of Japanese corporations. Receiving a new apology from Japan for its wartime wrongdoings isn't everything."

The foreign minister said that it is important that the Japanese government honors the spirit of reflection and apologies included in the Kim Dae-jung-Keizo Obuchi Declaration issued in 1998.

The 2018 court ruling led to diplomatic friction with Japan, which in turn delisted South Korea from its so-called "trade whitelist" of countries with fast-track trade status.

Strained ties meant weaker security collaboration for the two neighbors that face rising nuclear threats from North Korea.
Kim Bum-soo, KBS World Radio News.

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