South Korea's government says it alone cannot resolve the wartime labor issue between the country and Japan.
South Korean courts have since last October issued a series of rulings ordering Japanese firms to pay compensation to those who say they were forced to work for them during World War Two. Some plaintiffs have begun a process to sell off assets they seized from the firms.
Japan's government has repeatedly lodged protests and called on Seoul to take proper measures. It says the issue of the right to claim compensation was settled completely and finally under a bilateral agreement in 1965, when the two countries normalized ties.
South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon spoke about the issue at a debate event in Seoul on Wednesday. He has been in charge of efforts to decide what measures the government should take.
Lee reiterated the government's position that it honors judicial decisions. He added that the government concluded that what it can do is limited, as court procedures are still going on.
But Lee expressed hope that the two countries' leaders will have a chance to discuss the issue on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Japan in late June, so that the issue will not affect overall bilateral relations.
Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said on the same day that the ties are in severe circumstances due to negative moves by the South Korean side and the issue of former workers from the Korean Peninsula.
Suga said South Korea should show how to resolve the issues, and that Japan will continue to urge the country to take appropriate measures.