By Shin Hyun Hee
SEOUL (Reuters) – The South Korean government announced on Wednesday that it would compensate victims of forced labor, rather than with funds from Japanese companies.
In 2018, South Korea’s Supreme Court ordered a Japanese company to compensate former forced laborers. Fifteen Koreans have won such cases, but none have been compensated.
The plan, proposed at a public hearing by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Seoul, was funded by South Korean companies that benefited from a 1965 treaty in which South Korea received a package of $300 million in economic aid and a $500 million loan from Japan. It was to compensate them using the fund that was awarded.
The Foundation for Victims of Forced Mobilization by the Empire of Japan said it had secured initial donations totaling 4 billion won ($3.2 million) from steelmaker POSCO. POSCO did not respond to a request for comment.
“We have considered the possibility of a third party making the payment as a statutory bond on behalf of the defendant Japanese company,” said Seo Min-jeong, the ministry’s Asia-Pacific bureau chief, calling for a “creative approach.” added. was needed.
Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno, who is Tokyo’s top spokesman, declined to comment on South Korea’s compensation plans or hearings, saying they were matters within South Korea.
Shim Gyu-sung, chairman of the foundation, said it would encourage Korean companies to donate “from the perspective of social responsibility.”
The unresolved legacy of Japan’s colonization in 1910-45, including its return to Koreans forced to work in Japanese companies and military brothels, has long been a source of contention between the two countries. It has become
After the 2018 ruling, relations plunged to their lowest point in decades and the dispute escalated into a trade dispute. Most of the Japanese companies that were involved said they had withdrawn assets from South Korea to avoid forced seizures.
Seo said the government consults with victims and their families before making decisions, but the proposal is intended to prioritize victim compensation.
But some victims were quick to resist, saying the plan would relieve Japan of its obligation to pay and apologize.
Lim Jae-sung, an attorney for several of the victims, denounced at the hearing for ignoring the victims and “breaking trust” between the two countries.
Kim Young-hwan, who also works with labor victims, said, “They want an apology and compensation as proof of the apology.
Seo did not respond to them at the hearing, and the ministry did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment.
Some attendees mocked officials with slogans “Apologize to Japan.”
Activist groups also held rallies outside the National Assembly, where the public hearings were held, criticizing Japan’s refusal of compensation and the South Korean government’s proposal.
Under the 1965 Agreement, South Korea was required to consider all pre-Treaty compensation issues resolved. Economic aid and loans were mostly spent to rebuild infrastructure and the economy after the Korean War of 1950-53. The former forced laborer began demanding compensation in his 1990s.
The dispute over wartime history has fueled concerns about efforts to strengthen cooperation between the United States’ two major allies to curb North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats.
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, who took office in May, vowed to strengthen bilateral ties with Japan and held the first summit between the two countries since 2019 in September. Separately, Japan’s Matsuno said Thursday’s visit to Tokyo by a group of South Korean lawmakers led by Chung Jin-sook was “an important move to underpin bilateral relations.” ($1 = 1,245.9600 Won) (Reported by Shin Hyun Hee, Yang Hee Kyung, Kantaro Komiya Additional Report, Edited by Jerry Doyle)