DP lambasts forced labor compensation plan in parliamentary meeting snubbed by ruling party
By Lee Minji
SEOUL, March 13 (Yonhap) -- The main opposition Democratic Party (DP) unilaterally convened a parliamentary foreign affairs committee meeting featuring an elderly wartime forced labor victim Monday, denouncing the government's decision to compensate such victims on its own without Japan's involvement.
The ruling People Power Party boycotted the meeting, accusing the DP of organizing the session without agreement in an attempt to negatively affect an upcoming visit to Tokyo by President Yoon Suk Yeol for a summit with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.
Yoon's visit, set for Thursday and Friday, marks South Korea's first bilateral presidential trip to Japan in 12 years. It was made possible after South Korea announced a decision last week to compensate forced labor victims with public donations, rather than money from Japanese companies that used such labor.
The plan, however, has come under heavy criticism from some victims, civic groups and opposition parties. Critics have stressed that it makes no sense for South Korea to compensate victims when they were exploited for labor by Japanese companies.
The DP has denounced the decision as the worst diplomatic humiliation the country has ever seen.
"The National Assembly could not stay still in a situation where the government announced a solution to the forced labor issue, disregarding the opinions of the victims and the public, and is preparing for summit diplomacy," DP Rep. Lee Jae-jung said in her opening remarks for the meeting.
Yang Geum-deok, a 94-year-old victim, also attended the parliamentary meeting.
"I want to tell the president to resign," Yang said. When asked if she is willing to receive compensation from the government, she said, "I will never receive such money even if I starve to death."
Yang's legal representative said earlier in the day that she and Kim Seong-joo, another surviving victim, have delivered an official document to reject the solution to the Foundation for Victims of Forced Mobilization, a public foundation in charge of the controversial process.
The forced labor row began after the South's Supreme Court ordered Japanese companies, Nippon Steel and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, to pay compensation to Korean forced labor victims in 2018, and Japan imposed export curbs against Seoul in apparent retaliation the following year.
The Japanese government has long claimed all reparation issues stemming from its colonial occupation were settled under a 1965 treaty under which Seoul normalized relations with Tokyo in exchange for US$300 million in grants and $200 million in low-interest loans.
The Yoon administration put forward the idea of using a public foundation to compensate victims.
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