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(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on March 7)

Editorials from Korean dailies 06:58 March 07, 2023

Normalization of ties with Japan

In a positive sign, Japan prepares to take corresponding actions to the solution Korea announced Monday to address the thorny wartime forced labor issue. But the solution presented by the Yoon Suk Yeol administration is being criticized for the non-participation of Japanese companies responsible for the forced labor during World War II in a foundation to be set up under the Ministry of the Interior and Safety to compensate the surviving victims.

Given the non-participation of related Japanese companies in contributing to the foundation despite the Supreme Court's ruling in favor of their direct compensation, it could be a half-baked solution. But taking into account the need to normalize ties with Japan, we must support the solution.

The conservative Yoon administration has come up with the solution five years after the top court delivered the ruling in 2018. At that time, the Japanese government resisted the ruling, citing "the complete and final conclusion of all war claims" through the 1965 treaty on normalization of diplomatic relations between the two countries. After the Japanese companies did not comply with the highest court's ruling, the two sides could not find a breakthrough since 2018.

But the Yoon administration has rolled up its sleeves to solve the conundrum through various diplomatic channels. The solution is based on Japan's "voluntary contribution" and "comprehensive apology." The foundation under the interior ministry will first pay the compensation amount the court determined for 15 plaintiffs and the interest for five years since 2018.

Foreign Minister Park Jin plans to fund the foundation through voluntary contributions from the private sector and expand it. In 1965, the Park Chung Hee administration signed on the war claims treaty in return for $300 million in grants and $200 million in loans from Tokyo. About 16 Korean companies, including Posco, which benefited from the aid, will voluntarily contribute to the fund in what is called "third-party" compensation.

Tokyo started to respond. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi expressed the will to "succeed past Japanese Cabinets' position on history recognition." They reaffirmed the willingness to inherit the 1988 Kim-Obuchi joint declaration, which included sincere regrets over Japan's colonial rule. Tokyo also decided to consult with Seoul about how to lift its export ban on Korea.

U.S. President Joe Biden welcomed the move for marking "a groundbreaking new chapter of cooperation and partnership between two of the United States' closest allies." But the opposition in Korea denounced it for "shaming the country again." We hope the government continues to make up for deficient parts. We also urge Tokyo to take corresponding measures for a better future.

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