Ministry says it’s ‘open’ to various solutions after lawyers’ proposal on forced labor

SEOUL-- The foreign ministry said Wednesday it is "open" to various solutions regarding the compensation of wartime forced labor victims after South Korean and Japanese lawyers proposed creating a joint consultative body to resolve the issue.

On Monday, lawyers and civic groups from the two countries representing the victims made the suggestion in press conferences in Seoul and Tokyo, calling for setting up the joint consultative body consisting of lawyers, civic groups, experts, industry officials and politicians from the two countries.

The envisioned body would be charged with drawing up a solution, they said.

Relations between Seoul and Tokyo have been badly frayed due to a trade row stemming from a dispute over compensating Korean victims who were forced to work at Japanese factories when Korea was Japan's colony from 1910-45.

"The government is open to discussing various reasonable solutions, as we respect the decision of the judiciary and take into account realizing the victims' rights and the bilateral relations between South Korea and Japan," the foreign ministry said in a message to reporters.

"Including the proposal, we will continue to listen to various opinions of people from all levels and circles and consult closely with the Japanese side to find a solution," the ministry said.

Japan has reacted negatively to the lawyers' proposal, with Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga saying in an interview with a local broadcaster that he is not interested in the offer.

Tokyo has rejected Seoul's so-called one-plus-one proposal it made in June last year, under which South Korean and Japanese firms would jointly create a fund to compensate the victims.

South Korea's parliamentary speaker Moon Hee-sang is pushing for a bill calling for the creation of a 300 billion-won (US$257 million) fund to provide compensation to the victims.

The thorny issue came to the fore last year after the South Korean Supreme Court in late 2018 upheld victims' claims for compensation from Japanese firms. Tokyo strongly protested and imposed economic restrictions against Seoul in apparent protest at the court decisions.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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