South Korean officials have unveiled a plan to settle a longstanding issue with Japan. They say South Korean companies will compensate people who say they were forced to work during World War Two.
Foreign Minister Park Jin said, "We are willing to develop the relationship between South Korea and Japan to a higher level, to a more future-oriented one."
Park announced that a government-affiliated foundation will pay damages in place of Japanese companies. It will be given to those who say they or their relatives were the victims of wartime forced labor. In 2018, the country's Supreme Court ordered two Japanese companies to pay compensation.
Officials in Tokyo are welcoming the move. Japanese Foreign Minister Hayashi Yoshimasa said, "We will continue to closely cooperate with South Korea to further develop bilateral ties in a healthy manner."
The foundation is a public service corporation under the South Korean government. The plan says the funds will be raised from the private sector, including donations from South Korean businesses. However, some plaintiffs have opposed receiving payments from the foundation.
Civic groups protested the announcement outside the foreign ministry building in Seoul on Monday. Some are pushing for an apology or compensation from Japanese companies.
Tokyo has said any right to claims was settled completely and finally in 1965, when Japan and South Korea normalized ties. As part of the deal, Tokyo provided Seoul with economic assistance worth 500 million dollars.