March 06, 2023 13:40
The government has come up with a proposal to compensate Koreans who were forced to work in Japanese munitions factories and mines in World War II in a bid to improve fraught relations with Japan.
The government announced Monday that it will compensate the victims from a government foundation instead of direct payment from responsible Japanese businesses like Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Nippon Steel, which were ordered by the Supreme Court here in 2018 to compensate them.
The foundation under the Ministry of Interior and Safety will gather donations from private companies like POSCO and other conglomerates that benefited from lump sum reparations Japan paid under a 1965 treaty.
"We hope to take relations with Japan to the next level based on the alliance we have built since the normalization of bilateral ties," Park said.
He said the measure will solve the issue, one of the biggest bone of contention between the two nations, and help them "work together to bring peace and prosperity in the region and the world."
"We will do our utmost to remedy the pain and sufferings of the victims and their families," the minister added.
Separately, Seoul and Tokyo will create a scholarship fund financed by the business lobbies of both countries -- The Federation of Korean Industries and the Japan Business Foundation, according to government sources.
In turn, the Japanese government is expected to promise to uphold a joint declaration by President Kim Dae-jung and Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi in 1998 pledging to overcome the past while Tokyo voiced remorse for its wartime atrocities.
Talks are likely to follow to lift Japanese export curbs on certain vital semiconductor materials to Korea, which were put in place in retaliation for the Supreme Court ruling.
They will also discuss a visit to Japan by President Yoon Suk-yeol this month to meet Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.
The opposition has already protested. Park Sung-joon, a spokesman for the main opposition Minjoo Party, said, "Having a third party compensate the victims is a humiliating agreement that only benefits Japan and hides its responsibility. It will inflict fresh pain on the victims, enrage the [Korean] public and be remembered as a historic mistake."
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