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Yoon says S. Korea sought solution to forced labor row in both countries' interests

Diplomacy 11:38 March 07, 2023

By Lee Haye-ah

SEOUL, March 7 (Yonhap) -- President Yoon Suk Yeol said Tuesday that South Korea decided to compensate wartime forced labor victims without Japanese firms' involvement after looking for a way to settle the dispute in the interest of both countries.

Yoon's remark came a day after Seoul announced the decision to compensate the Korean victims of Japan's forced labor through a foundation supported by donations from South Korean businesses, not the Japanese companies accused of forced labor during World War II.

President Yoon Suk Yeol speaks during a Cabinet meeting at the presidential office in Seoul on March 7, 2023. (Yonhap)

President Yoon Suk Yeol speaks during a Cabinet meeting at the presidential office in Seoul on March 7, 2023. (Yonhap)

"It was the result of our government looking for ways to serve the common interests and future development of both South Korea and Japan while respecting the victims' positions," he said during a Cabinet meeting at the presidential office.

"It is clear that future-oriented cooperation between South Korea and Japan will help defend freedom, peace and prosperity not only in South Korea and Japan but also around the world," he added.

The forced labor issue has long been a thorn in bilateral relations after South Korea's Supreme Court ordered two Japanese companies in 2018 -- Nippon Steel and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries -- to pay compensation to the Korean victims.

Japan has maintained that all issues of compensation were settled under a 1965 treaty that normalized bilateral ties after its 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

Yoon noted the efforts of past administrations to "heal the pain" of the victims and provide them with proper compensation.

He also cited the number of South Koreans visiting Japan and vice versa, and the scope of trade and investment between the two countries.

"Japan has transformed from a militaristic aggressor of the past into a partner that shares the same universal values with us and cooperates with us on issues of security, economy, science and technology, and the global agenda," he said, referencing his recent speech on the anniversary of the March 1, 1919 Independence Movement against Japanese colonial rule.

Yoon instructed Cabinet members to establish a cooperation mechanism between the two countries' ministries to build future-oriented cooperation and to come up with detailed plans for exchanges between their business circles and young generations.


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