Foreign ministry files argument in forced labor case
The Supreme Court is expected to rule on whether to allow the liquidation of assets of two Japanese companies to compensate forced labor victims as early as this month.
Forced labor compensation is one of the thorniest issues between Tokyo and Seoul.
“Korea is continuing diplomatic consultations with Japan, and is making various diplomatic efforts, such as collecting public opinion on the matter, including from victims of forced labor, through public-private council meetings,” a Foreign Ministry official told the JoongAng Ilbo on Sunday.
“A written opinion explaining this position was submitted to the Supreme Court.”
By law, a government organization like the Foreign Ministry can submit a written statement of opinion or argument to the Supreme Court if a case concerns the public interest.
In 2018, the Supreme Court made landmark rulings ordering two Japanese companies to individually compensate Korean victims of forced labor during World War II.
Tokyo protested the decision, saying that a 1965 bilateral treaty that normalized bilateral ties resolved all compensation issues.
The issue escalated into a trade dispute between the two countries, and even the suspension of the General Security of Military Information Agreement (Gsomia) in 2019.
The Yoon Suk-yeol government has been trying to improve ties with Japan, sending its foreign minister to Tokyo last month to meet with Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and its top envoy Yoshimasa Hayashi.
Tokyo has repeatedly stressed in its communications with Korea that resolving those compensation rulings is a prerequisite for improving relations with Korea.
It’s not the first time that the Foreign Ministry submitted a statement of argument to the Supreme Court on the issue of compensation of forced laborers.
In November 2016, during the Park Geun-hye administration, the ministry submitted a statement to the court expressing concerns about the possible impact of a ruling on forced laborers could have on Korea-Japan ties. Cases on compensation have been filed by a number of victims of forced labor since 2005.
BY ESTHER CHUNG, JEONG JIN-WOO [email@example.com]