Opposition leader claims forced labor compensation plan may lead to military consequences

SEOUL, Opposition leader Lee Jae-myung again denounced the government's compensation plan for victims of wartime forced labor on Saturday, claiming that the solution may result in Japan's Self-Defense Forces entering the Korean Peninsula.

Lee, chairman of the main opposition Democratic Party, made the remarks in a rally protesting against the government's plan to compensate the Korean victims of Japan's forced labor through a foundation supported by donations from South Korean businesses, not the Japanese companies accused of forced labor during World War II.

Opposition parties, victims and activists have strongly denounced the decision, saying that it makes no sense to compensate forced labor victims with public donations, rather than money from Japanese companies that exploited forced labor victims.

"There is the possibility of the military boots of the Self-Defense Forces again disgracing the Korean Peninsula under the excuse of joint drills between South Korea, the United States and Japan," Lee said in the rally held in central Seoul.

"What awaits after the enforcement of the humiliating compensation plan are a munitions support agreement between South Korea and Japan and a joint military alliance between South Korea, the U.S. and Japan," he said.

His remarks were seen as expressing concerns that South Korea could fall victim to Japan's renewed militarism and face a fate similar to the 1910-45 colonial rule if the government pushes ahead with the third-party compensation plan.

Lee also lashed out at President Yoon Suk Yeol, saying Yoon has further slashed the wounds of the victims and trampled on the people's pride with the decision.

Mentioning Yoon's upcoming trip to Japan, the opposition leader claimed that Japan has not compromised over any of the thorny issues in Korea-Japan ties except sending an invitation for the visit.

Yoon is set to visit Tokyo next week for a summit with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. It marks the first bilateral presidential trip to Japan in 12 years made possible after Seoul announced a solution to the forced labor row.

The ruling People Power Party (PPP) swiped back at Lee and the main opposition party, saying that the government made a difficult decision for the future of the two countries.

"This was a difficult decision made for the sake of improving Korea-Japan relations despite knowing the public criticism regarding it," PPP spokesman Jang Dong-hyeok said in a statement.

"If there is no best plan the people want, a nation must select the second best plan," Jang said. "The government of Moon Jae-in gave up on that and the government of Yoon Suk Yeol made a decision. Because that is what a responsible president should demonstrate."

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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