U.S. Firms to Pay into Fund for Korean Victims of Wartime Forced Labor

  • By Kim Eun-joong

    March 09, 2023 13:37

    The American Chamber of Commerce in Korea has pledged donations to a government fund that will be set up to compensate Korean victims of wartime forced labor under Japanese rule.
    This will pose some pressure on Japanese firms under the Korean government's plan to seek business donations to compensate the victims.
    AMCHAM chairman James Kim said in a meeting with Finance Minister Choo Kyung-ho Wednesday, "I would like to take this opportunity to welcome the historic agreement announced by the Korean and Japanese governments concerning the conclusion of discussions on sensitive historical issues."
    He thanked the Korean government for helping to develop the trilateral partnership between Korea, Japan and the U.S., which is "critical to the peace and prosperity of the region." Kim promised that AMCHAM will encourage member companies to back the initiative and make donations to the fund to support the "epoch-making" agreement.
    Established in 1953, AMCHAM consists of about 800 American businesses and some 1,500 American businesspeople based here.
    Kim told the Chosun Ilbo he agrees 100 percent with the Seoul-Tokyo agreement and would like to help. "The improvement of Seoul-Tokyo ties is also important to the U.S.," he added.
    AMCHAM has already started talking with member companies so that they can make donations voluntarily.
    "We welcome it," an official with the fund under the Ministry of Interior and Safety said. "We also expect Japanese firms that hope for better ties between Seoul and Tokyo to join." 
    The fund is to pay about W4 billion to 15 victims who won a historic case in the Supreme Court in 2018 ordering Japanese companies to pay reparations. It will seek voluntary donations from 16 big companies like POSCO that benefited from lump-sum reparations paid by Japan under the 1965 normalization treaty (US$1=W1,321). 
    Separately, the Federation of Korean Industries and the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren), the top business associations of the two countries, will set up a scholarship fund timed with President Yoon Suk-yeol's visit to Japan next week. The fund will be used to promote exchange of young people between the two countries.
    Keidanren is expected to tell its 1,400 member companies soon how to donate to the fund.
    Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Nippon Steel, the two Japanese companies that were ordered to pay reparations to the Korean victims, will probably not make any immediate contribution to save face.
    "Formally, Japan maintains that it can't accept the Korean Supreme Court's decision because it violates international law, but it seems ready to tolerate voluntary donations from Japanese companies," said a government source here. 
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