Kang calls on Japan to be ‘prudent’

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Kang calls on Japan to be ‘prudent’

On Wednesday, South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha called on the Japanese government to be “prudent” in its response to recent South Korean court rulings against its wartime forced labor program.

Kang delivered the message to her Japanese counterpart, Taro Kono, in phone talks, according to her ministry.

Kang explained the South Korean government’s position on the rulings and called for Japan’s “prudent” response in a two-paragraph press release, but did not elaborate.

This marked their first direct communication since late November, when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of about a dozen South Koreans who demanded individual rights to compensation for forced labor during World War II.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries was ordered to compensate 10 Koreans who worked at its shipyard and other production facilities in Hiroshima and Nagoya in 1944 with no pay, and a bereaved family member of another in two separate suits.

In a similar verdict, the court ruled a month earlier that another Japanese company - Nippon Steel and Sumitomo Metal - should pay four South Koreans for their wartime forced labor and unpaid work. While the Moon administration stated that it respects the rulings, Japan has fiercely protested them.

Japan claims that all reparation issues connected with its 1910-45 colonization were settled in a 1965 bilateral state-to-state accord on normalizing diplomatic ties. Japanese officials point out that their country granted the South Korean government a huge amount of money as part of the deal.

Kono, especially, issued strongly worded statements against South Korea.

He argued that the court rulings have rocked the foundation of Seoul-Tokyo relations. He pressed the South Korean government to compensate its own citizens over the issue.

The relationship between the neighboring countries suffered a heavy blow as well last month when Seoul announced the decision to disband a Tokyo-funded foundation for South Korean victims of Japan’s wartime sex slavery.

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