Japan Hails Korean Plan to Compensate Forced Labor Victims

  • By Sung Ho-chul

    March 07, 2023 11:37

    Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Monday welcomed the Korean government's proposal to compensate victims of wartime forced labor.
    The government here on the same day announced that it will compensate the victims through a government foundation by gathering donations from private companies like POSCO and other conglomerates that benefited from lump sum reparations Japan paid under a 1965 treaty, rather than making responsible Japanese businesses pay. 
    Kishida hailed the proposal as the "return to healthy relations between Japan and Korea," saying, "I look forward to continuing to work closely with President Yoon Suk-yeol to further develop bilateral ties." 
    Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi also welcomed the proposal. "I hope that this announcement will serve as impetus for the implementation of the measures and the strong expansion of exchanges between Japan and Korea in the political, economic, cultural and other fields," Hayashi told reporters.  
    Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi speaks to reporters at the Ministry of Foreign Affair in Tokyo on Monday. /AP-Yonhap
    "Our position has been consistent with the 1965 agreement, and that has not changed. As a government, we also maintain the position taken by previous Japanese cabinets on historical recognition as a whole, including the Japan-Korea joint declaration issued in October 1998." 
    Korea wants Japan to commit itself to upholding the 1998 declaration, where President Kim Dae-jung and Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi pledged to overcome the past while Tokyo voiced remorse for its wartime atrocities.
    Hayashi stressed that Japanese companies will not be asked to contribute to the victims' compensation fund, but he added Tokyo will not take a position on any voluntary steps private companies may choose to take over the matter. 
    U.S. President Joe Biden also welcomed the proposal and said, "Today's announcements between Korea and Japan mark a groundbreaking new chapter of cooperation and partnership between two of the United States' closest allies. As we move ahead, I look forward to continuing to strengthen and enhance the trilateral ties between Korea, Japan, and the United States."  
    Activists protest against the government's plan to compensate wartime forced labor victims at Seoul Plaza on Monday. /Yonhap
    Yoon hopes to visit Japan on March 16-17 and also attend the G7 meeting in Hiroshima in May to hold a three-way summit with Biden and Kishida. 
    However, some former forced laborers and civic groups supporting them have criticized the proposal and accused Yoon of "absolving" Japan of legal responsibility for the crime.
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