S.Korea offers compensation for victims of Japan's wartime forced labour

by IANS |

Seoul, March 6 (IANS) The South Korean government on Monday formally proposed compensating more than a dozen victims of Japan's wartime forced labour through a Seoul-backed public foundation, instead of direct payment from responsible Japanese firms.

The proposal announced by Foreign Minister Park Jin is intended to resolve the issue of compensating 15 Koreans who won legal battles against two Japanese firms accused of mobilising them for hard labour during World War II, reports Yonhap News Agency.

In 2018, South Korea's Supreme Court ordered Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and Nippon Steel Corp. to pay them compensation.

Under President Yoon Suk-yeol's administration scheme, the Foundation for Victims of Forced Mobilization, affiliated with the Interior Ministry, will collect "voluntary" donations from the private sector.

It also plans to use the foundation, created in 2014, to compensate other plaintiffs who win pending cases.

The government is expected to seek donations from South Korean companies that benefited from a 1965 bilateral treaty, such as steelmaker POSCO, under which Tokyo offered $300 million in grants to Seoul.

Still, victims and supporting civic groups have strongly protested the plan floated earlier during a public hearing.

Tokyo has maintained that all reparation issues related to Japan's 1910-45 colonisation of Korea were settled in a 1965 deal to normalise bilateral diplomatic ties.

The neighbouring countries held several rounds of official talks on the thorny matter over the past several months in line with the conservative Yoon administration's push for strengthening the trilateral security partnership with the US and Japan to counter North Korea's military threats.

The two sides have tentatively agreed to create a "future youth fund" to sponsor scholarships for students, an informed source said.

Meanwhile, Seoul's top diplomat expressed hope in a statement that the two nations will honour a 1998 joint declaration adopted by then President Kim Dae-jung and then Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi.

In the declaration, the two leaders called for overcoming the past and building new relations, with Obuchi expressing remorse for the "horrendous damage and pain" Japan's colonial rule inflicted on the Korean people.

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