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(LEAD) S. Korea launches gov't-private task force on Japan's wartime forced labor

All News 15:37 July 04, 2022

(ATTN: UPDATES with the body's launch in first three paras; CHANGES headline, photo)
By Kim Eun-jung

SEOUL, July 4 (Yonhap) -- South Korea launched a government-private consultative body Monday tasked with exploring ways to resolve the long-standing diplomatic row with Japan about compensation for the Korean victims of wartime forced labor, a sticking point in their relations.

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

Legal representatives of Korean forced labor victims hold a press briefing in front of the main building of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Seoul on July 4, 2022, ahead of the first meeting of a consultative body composed of government officials, experts and other stakeholders. (Yonhap)

It marks 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.


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