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7 Mar 2023

Si-young Choi, The Korea Herald (South Korea)

S. Korea: Govt. to compensate wartime forced labour victims instead of Japanese companies

S. Korean foundation to compensate victims of Japan’s forced labor, 7 March 2023

South Korea said Monday it will compensate Korean victims forced to work for Japanese companies during World War II while awaiting Japanese participation in a potential fund meant to bolster ties [...] The settlement, revealed by Foreign Minister Park Jin, is a “practical compromise” in the face of Japan’s refusal to uphold Korea’s 2018 Supreme Court ruling holding Japanese companies liable for damages. [...] Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi welcomed Monday’s decision to end the decades-old dispute, saying the government upholds its latest public apology that former Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi and Korean President Kim Dae-jung jointly made in 1998. The two leaders then set the terms for a new Korea-Japan partnership, discussing Japan’s “genuine reflection on its wartime past and sincere apology for it.” [...] Lim Jae-sung, the attorney who won the landmark 2018 Supreme Court case, publicly downplayed the significance of Monday’s settlement. During negotiations with Japan dating back to May last year, the Korean government had reached out to Lim for input from the victims and their families. The lawyer routinely claimed that little was done to actually reflect victims’ concerns. “The Japanese haven’t paid a penny. … It’s a complete victory for them,” Lim said Monday, calling a joint scholarship fund a total non sequitur because it unduly releases Japan from any and all burdens of blame. Reaffirming past apologies are no more relevant, Lim noted, because that is not an apology for this particular case and that Japan would not reverse the current position that there was nothing illegal in the way labor was organized at the time. “The victims alive today had all rejected to agree to what the government proposed,” Lim said referring to three complainants out of the 15 affected by the 2018 ruling. Many more are still fighting similar court battles. [...]