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S. Korea vows to work with Japan to resolve forced labor row amid Tokyo's protest over asset sale procedure

All News 16:28 June 04, 2020

By Kim Seung-yeon

SEOUL, June 4 (Yonhap) -- South Korea will continue talks with Japan to resolve a row over wartime forced labor, the foreign ministry said Thursday, as Tokyo strongly protested a local court's decision to start a procedure to forcefully sell off assets of a Japanese firm to compensate victims.

On Monday, the Pohang branch of the Daegu District Court said it will serve Nippon Steel Corp., the defendant, with a notice of the asset seizure by publishing the notice on its website since the Japanese foreign ministry failed to deliver the documents to the company.

The public notice set in motion a process that would enable the court to order the sale of Nippon Steel's assets after Aug. 4. The firm owns a 30 percent stake in a joint venture firm, with South Korea's POSCO, worth about 973 million won (US$80 million).

Seoul's foreign ministry declined to comment, citing that it's "a judicial procedure."

"We have nothing to say since it is a judicial procedure," foreign ministry spokesman Kim Il-chul told a press briefing, adding that the government maintains its basic position on the forced labor issue.

"We respect the judicial decision and we are committed to working out a reasonable solution that realizes victims' rights and that comprehensively takes bilateral relations into consideration," he said. "We are making our best efforts to consult closely with Japan."

The court granted the seizure of Nippon Steel's assets in January last year after the company refused to comply with the South Korean top court ruling that ordered to compensate four Korean victims for forced labor in the 1940s when the Korean Peninsula was under Japan's colonial rule.

Japan has warned of strong countermeasures should the asset sales go ahead.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Thursday that Tokyo would "consider every possible option" in order to protect the economic activities of Japanese businesses.

He repeated that cashing out of the seized assets would lead to a "a serious circumstance" and that "must be avoided by both sides," adding that it was what Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi emphasized when he spoke to his South Korean counterpart, Kang Kyung-wha, over the phone on Wednesday.

But Kim said during the briefing that there was no mention of the issue between the top diplomats.

Observers have predicted that Tokyo could come up with more retaliatory measures, such as tariffs and financial restrictions.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Kim In-chul speaks during a press briefing in Seoul on April 23, 2019. (Yonhap)

elly@yna.co.kr
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