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S. Korea set to launch gov't-private task force on Japan's wartime forced labor

All News 10:06 July 04, 2022

By Kim Eun-jung

SEOUL, July 4 (Yonhap) -- South Korea plans to launch a government-private consultative body later Monday on ways to resolve the longstanding diplomatic row with Japan about compensation for the Korean victims of wartime forced labor, one of the major sticking points in their relations.

First Vice Foreign Minister Cho Hyun-dong is scheduled to preside over the inaugural session of the team composed of government officials and experts, as well as legal representatives of the victims and their families, according to his ministry.

It would mark the beginning of the Yoon Suk-yeol administration's full-fledged efforts to resolve the thorny matter and mend ties between the neighboring countries amid a stated push for strengthening trilateral security cooperation involving the United States. Yoon took office in May following years of intensified Seoul-Tokyo stand-offs under the previous Moon Jae-in government over their shared history. The liberal Moon government openly sought a "victims-centered" approach.

In separate rulings in 2018, South Korea's top court ordered Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Inc. and Nippon Steel Corp. to compensate Korean forced labor victims during Japan's brutal colonial rule of Korea from 1910-45, but the companies refused to pay them. They cited Japan's official position that all reparation issues were settled under a 1965 accord to normalize bilateral diplomatic relations.

The Korean victims then filed suits to seize the Japanese firms' assets here, and local courts have accepted their requests. But the liquidation process has not begun yet, as the companies have lodged appeals.

Finding a resolution to related disputes has gained urgency, with the Supreme Court's final call expected in the coming weeks or months. Japanese officials have urged the South Korean government to come up with measures to avoid the liquidation of the companies' assets.

South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Yonhap)

ejkim@yna.co.kr
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