Agreement reached on WWII forced labor – media
Japan and South Korea reportedly plan to set up a youth scholarship program under an agreement to move on from decades of conflict over Tokyo’s use of Korean sex slaves and other forced labor during World War II.
The deal, which is expected to be announced on Monday, will likely be controversial in South Korea because it won’t require Japan to directly compensate its surviving victims or issue a new apology, according to media reports. Japanese companies will pay into the youth fund, which will provide scholarships and promote bilateral exchanges.
However, Tokyo won’t contribute to a foundation that’s expected to compensate victims. Nor will it abide by a 2018 South Korean court ruling ordering Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Nippon Steel to pay compensation to the forced laborers who were mobilized during the 1910-1945 occupation of the Korean Peninsula.
Japanese officials have argued that all issues of compensation were settled under a 1965 treaty that normalized relations between the countries. That deal included $800 million in aid and loans as a “reparation fee.” South Korea’s government will now look to beneficiaries of that aid, such as steelmaker Posco Holdings, to fund the foundation for slave labor victims.
The issue has flared up repeatedly in the ensuing decades, with South Koreans decrying Japan’s alleged lack of contrition and its use of textbooks that fail to teach Japanese children about their country’s colonialist atrocities. Past settlements have failed to end the controversy. For instance, a 2015 agreement that was billed as “irreversibly” resolving compensation claims unraveled amid criticism from surviving victims.
Under the new deal, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is expected to state his government’s intent to adopt a 1998 joint declaration in which then-PM Keizo Obuchi expressed remorse for the “horrendous damage and pain” inflicted on the Korean people during the occupation.
The new agreement calls for strengthening trade and diplomatic ties between the countries. South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol has been under pressure from the US to mend fences with Japan so the three countries can work more closely together on responding to security threats posed by North Korea.
Yoon is scheduled to make a state visit to Washington next month. His national security adviser, Kim Sung-han, began a five-day trip to the US on Sunday, after telling reporters that the agreement with Japan aimed to help future generations as the countries enter “a new era in bilateral relations.”