Most Forced Labor Victims Accept Compensation from Korean Fund

  • By Kim Eun-joong

    April 14, 2023 10:55

    Ten out of 15 Korean victims of wartime forced labor or their families have accepted compensation from a Korean fund rather than their abusive Japanese employers.
    Last month, the Korean government proposed compensating them from a fund financed by Korean businesses to break an impasse in relations with Tokyo.
    However, five of the surviving victims or families have refused the Korean government's offer because they want an apology from Japan.
    "The government contacted 15 victims who are subject to compensation under a Supreme Court ruling [of 2018] and 10 of them said they wished this matter to be resolved quickly and agreed to accept compensation according to the government's proposal," Seo Min-jung at the Foreign Ministry told reporters on Thursday.
    Under the plan, victims would be compensated by the government's Foundation for Victims of Forced Mobilization by Imperial Japan with money from Korean businesses like POSCO that benefited from Japanese lump sum reparations under a 1965 treaty.
    POSCO has already donated W4 billion and the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea has also pledged to chip in.
    People look at a memorial to wartime forced labor victims in Seoul on March 5.
    The Supreme Court in 2018 ordered Nippon Steel and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to compensate the Korean victims, but they refused to comply, and Japan retaliated with export curbs.
    The foundation contacted the Korean victims last month and provided guidance on how to receive the compensation. "Two people have already received compensation, and we plan to provide the money to the remaining eight on Friday."
    Each victim will be paid more than W200 million, which is the amount the Supreme Court ruling stipulated, plus back interest (US$1=W1,310).
    The families of some victims said they wished to "wrap up" the decades-long lawsuits and "wish to resolve the dispute and improve Korea-Japan relations," Seo said.
    But three surviving victims -- Yang Geum-deok, Lee Choon-shik and Kim Sung-joo -- said they will not accept the compensation from Korea. Civic groups supporting the victims said on Thursday that the government must "immediately halt its ridiculous endeavor to cover up the issue."
    Seo said, "The government will continue sincere efforts to seek the understanding of the victims to help their wounds heal a little."
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