S.Korea announces plan to settle wartime labor compensation issue with Japan

The South Korean government has announced a plan to settle the long pending issue with Japan of wartime labor compensation.

South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin made the announcement in a news conference on Monday. The measure is intended to improve bilateral ties, which are said to be at their worst level of the postwar era.

The plan is to have a South Korean government-affiliated foundation pay damages in place of Japanese companies to those who say they or their family members were forced to work for the firms during World War Two.

In 2018, South Korea's Supreme Court ordered the Japanese companies to pay compensation to the plaintiffs.

The plan says the necessary funds are to be raised through voluntary contributions from the private sector, such as donations from South Korean businesses.

Seoul has been working on the plan in its effort to solve the biggest pending issue in bilateral relations before the Japanese companies' assets are liquidated to pay for the compensation.

Park said that in making its decision, the government took account of the aging of plaintiffs and relations with Japan.

After the top court rulings, the countries saw their ties strained over Japan's tightening of export controls and a bilateral intelligence pact known as GSOMIA.

Park said the chilly ties have been left as they were. He stressed hope that the newly announced measure will help raise bilateral relations to a future-oriented, higher level.

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol has shown strong willingness to improve ties with Japan since he took office.

He attaches importance to trilateral cooperation of the US, South Korea and Japan in dealing with North Korea's nuclear and missile development and other regional issues.

But some of the plaintiffs say they won't accept any payments from the government-affiliated foundation. They say an apology and compensation from the Japanese businesses are indispensable.

The Japanese government says any right to claims was settled completely and finally in 1965, when Japan and South Korea normalized ties.