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(2nd LD) Biz lobbies of S. Korea, Japan to create 'future partnership funds' in sign of thawing ties

All News 15:47 March 16, 2023

(ATTN: ADDS more details, background in paras 6-9 and 12; TRIMS; CHANGES photos)
By Kim Seung-yeon

SEOUL, March 16 (Yonhap) -- Business lobbies of South Korea and Japan said Thursday that they will each create a fund to support various cooperation projects, such as joint research on common global issues and youth exchange programs, as part of the resolution to the row over Japan's wartime forced labor.

The announcement by the Federation of Korean Industries (FKI) and the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren) came hours before the summit between President Yoon Suk Yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Tokyo.

"To solidify the path to establishing future-oriented Korea-Japan relations, we decided to conduct joint projects and create future partnership funds, respectively," the FKI and Keidanren said in a joint statement.

"Through the partnership fund, the two countries will further expand and strengthen their economic ties, including research on future plans and cooperation in the new international order, implementing projects to solve common challenges facing the two nations and promoting youth exchanges," it said.

Acting FKI chief Kim Byong-joon (L) and Keidanren chief Masakazu Tokura explain the "future partnership funds" the two business lobbies have agreed to create as part of a solution to the row over Japan's wartime forced labor, during a joint press conference in Tokyo on March 16, 2023, in this photo provided by the FKI. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Acting FKI chief Kim Byong-joon (L) and Keidanren chief Masakazu Tokura explain the "future partnership funds" the two business lobbies have agreed to create as part of a solution to the row over Japan's wartime forced labor, during a joint press conference in Tokyo on March 16, 2023, in this photo provided by the FKI. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

The FKI and Keidanren plan to donate about 100 million yen (US$752,350), or approximately 1 billion won in the Korean currency, each, to start the funds, Keidanren chief Masakazu Tokura was quoted by the FKI as saying during the joint press conference in Tokyo.

Thursday's announcement, however, did not make it clear whether the accused Japanese companies, including Nippon Steel and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, will make contributions to the fund. Both companies are Keidanren members.

"The funds will be launched with the donations from the FKI and Keidanren, not by the individual companies," acting FKI chief Kim Byong-joon said.

"It is up to the intent of each company whether it will participate," Kim said.

Creating such funds at the industry level was a part of South Korea's proposed resolution to the longstanding row over compensating Korean victims of Japan's forced labor during World War II.

Last week, Seoul said it will compensate the victims through a public foundation funded by donations from South Korean businesses, instead of the accused Japanese companies, a decision seen as a show of Yoon's commitment to improving bilateral relations badly frayed over wartime history and other issues.

The dispute over compensating Korean victims has remained one of the major thorns in bilateral relations. Many Koreans were forced to work in Japanese factories under harsh conditions when Korea was under Japan's colonial rule from 1910-1945.

As part of the solution, the government suggested the business communities lead efforts to create the funds, separate from the one to be run by the public foundation.

On Wednesday, South Korea's POSCO Holdings Co., one of the beneficiaries of the economic funds offered by Japan under the 1965 treaty, said it donated an additional 4 billion won (US$3.04 million) to the public foundation to help compensate the victims.

POSCO had pledged to contribute 10 billion won in total and donated 6 billion won to a similar foundation under the two previous governments.

The American Chamber of Commerce in Korea, consisting of some 800 U.S. companies based in Korea, also donated an unspecified amount to the public foundation earlier this week.

elly@yna.co.kr
(END)

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