July 05, 2022 12:44
A new public-private consultative body has been tasked with finding solutions to the issue of compensation for victims of wartime forced labor for imperial Japan.
The first meeting chaired by Vice Foreign Minister Cho Hyun-dong was prompted by the urgent need to find a diplomatic compromise that will be acceptable to both the victims and the Japanese government before the Korean assets of Japanese companies that employed forced labor during World War II are sold off.
But the victims are demanding direct dialogue with the Japanese companies and have so far been deaf to any compromise solutions from the Korean government and experts.
Tokyo for its part has flatly forbidden the companies, which include Nippon Steel, to comply with Korean court orders to compensate their former slave laborers and refuses even to use the term "forced labor."
The taskforce listened to opinions from 12 participants such as lawyers for victims, experts in Korea-Japan relations, international law experts and journalists.
"The communications we had today here will serve as an important driving force to find solutions," Cho said. Participants agreed to focus on the three decisions the Supreme Court has made so far, the ministry said. Another 67 related cases have been filed, nine of which currently pending at the Supreme Court.
The court has ruled that a 1965 treaty between Korea and Japan that voided all claims for compensation for lump sum reparations cannot overrule individual rights. It has ordered the Japanese employers to compensate their victims and, when they failed to comply, authorized seizure of their assets here. They now stand to be sold in the next couple of months.
Japan insists that the treaty must stand and all individual claims are void.
The Korean government would prefer to pay the victims first on the Japanese companies' behalf and then recoup the money from the firms later.
Academics and politicians have recommended that victims be paid from a fund raised by both Korean and Japanese businesses, but this has been criticized for letting both governments and perpetrators of the atrocity off the hook.
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