S. Korea, Japan establish channel between top offices to negotiate forced labor issue

SEOUL, South Korea’s presidential office and Japan’s prime minister’s office have established an additional channel to negotiate a settlement to the issue of compensation for Korean forced labor victims, a senior official said Friday.


The channel has been established between the presidential National Security Office and the National Security Secretariat under the prime minister’s office amid reports the two countries are nearing a deal on the dispute.


Until now, the foreign ministries of the two sides have served as the main negotiation channel.


“There are other channels in operation in addition to the foreign ministry,” the senior presidential official told Yonhap News Agency. “Sufficient discussions are also taking place between the two countries’ security offices.”


South Korea’s Supreme Court issued rulings in 2018 that ordered Japan’s Nippon Steel and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to pay compensation to Korean forced labor victims who were mobilized during World War II when Korea was under Japanese colonial rule.


Japan has refused to pay compensation in any form, arguing that all such matters were settled under a 1965 treaty that normalized bilateral ties.


The South Korean government has proposed compensating the victims through a government foundation using donations from local businesses but called on the Japanese companies to also make contributions.


Both Japan and the victims have rejected the proposal.


Skepticism about a quick settlement increased this week after President Yoon Suk Yeol angered some South Koreans in his speech on the anniversary of the March 1, 1919, Independence Movement by describing Japan as a “partner,” with no mention of its past wrongdoing.


“A negotiation is only over when it’s over,” the presidential official said.


Source: Yonhap News Agency

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