Yoon calls for Japan's reciprocity in forced labor issue

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Yoon calls for Japan's reciprocity in forced labor issue

President Yoon Suk Yeol and first lady Kim Keon Hee arrive at Haneda International Airport in Tokyo, Thursday. AP-Yonhap By Lee Hyo-jin President Yoon Suk Yeol called on Tokyo, Thursday, to take reciprocal steps in response to Seoul's plan to compensate Korean victims of Japan's wartime forced labor, just ahead of a milestone summit with his Japanese counterpart Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. Describing the settlement of the forced labor issue as a "grand decision" for Korea's national interest and its people, Yoon urged corresponding action from Japan. "Both countries should step up efforts to open a window of historic opportunity for the future, putting behind conflicts and hostility," he was quoted as saying in a joint interview with Japanese media outlets. The written interviews were published on the front pages of major Japanese newspapers ― the Asahi Shimbun, the Mainichi Shimbun and the Nihon Keizai Shimbun ― hours before Yoon's bilateral summit with Kishida which took place later in the day in Tokyo.

It was the first time in 12 years for a Korean president to visit Japan for a summit with a Japanese leader. Yoon describes Japan as 'close neighbor' sharing democratic values 2023-03-16 17:07 | Foreign Affairs "Japan has also responded with expressions to inherit historical views of its previous governments and build a future-oriented bilateral relationship," Yoon said. "We hope for corresponding actions." Although he did not say what specific actions he expects from Tokyo, Mainichi Shimbun speculated that the president was calling on Japanese firms to participate in the planned launch of a joint scholarship foundation, an idea proposed by the Korean government. Front pages of the morning editions of three major Japanese newspapers ― the Asahi Shimbun, Mainichi Shimbun and Nihon Keizai Shimbun ― featuring interviews with Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol / Yonhap On March 6, the Yoon administration announced a plan to compensate Korean victims who were forced to labor at Japanese factories during World War II through a government-run fund, without the direct involvement of the Japanese companies responsible.

Instead of making direct payments, Seoul proposed the launch of a joint fund between the Korean and Japanese firms aimed at bolstering future partnerships. The settlement, which has drawn backlash from the Korean public, was aimed at restoring bilateral ties with Tokyo which have been strained in recent years due to renewed disputes over history and territory dating back to Imperial Japan's 1910-45 occupation of Korea. In response to the Korean government's demand's for a "sincere response," earlier this month, Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said that the Japanese government upholds the historical position held by its past administrations, including the 1998 joint declaration announced by then South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi. In the declaration, Obuchi expressed his deep remorse and apology for the "tremendous damage and suffering" to the Korea people during the colonial occupation. Such an indirect expression of apology from Japan, however, had infuriated victims of forced labor and their advocates here who have been demanding a fresh apology and direct payment to the victims.

Diplomatic observers here also viewed that Kishida should give more meaningful gestures in response to Seoul's diplomatic concessions, by showing visible efforts to compensate the forced labor victims. Meanwhile, in the interviews with the Japanese media, the Korean president also expressed hopes that a resumption of bilateral policy dialogues ― which have been suspended for the past three years ― will accelerate ongoing talks in Japan about ending export curbs on Korea.

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