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South Korea and Japan towards a delicate reconciliation

South Korea and Japan towards a delicate reconciliation

Seoul wants to get closer to Tokyo and strengthen defense cooperation between Japan, the United States and South Korea to have a common front against North Korea.

– I hope Japan will respond positively to our big decision today and that Japanese companies will voluntarily contribute and make a comprehensive apology, says South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin.

In a televised speech, Park describes how the victims will receive compensation through a fund that relies on donations. However, it was not clear about the source of the funds.

– I think this is the last chance. If we compare this to a glass of water, I think the glass is more than half full and we expect the glass to be more full as we go, based on Japan’s candid response,” Park said.

Discontent in South Korea

Then Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi held his own press conference where he said he appreciated South Korea’s initiative. But according to him, there are no requirements for Japanese companies to contribute.

In South Korea, discontent was immediately aroused. Several activist groups involved in the case have called on the government to withdraw its solution and called on Japanese companies to provide direct compensation to the victims – and a proper apology.

The main opposition Democratic Party is calling on President Yoon to withdraw the proposal. The party describes it as “insulting diplomacy”.

Japan colonized the Korean Peninsula between 1910 and 1945 and the wounds caused by the occupation have not yet healed. 780,000 Koreans were forced to work in slavery-like conditions during the 35 years of rule.

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It is believed that the decision received some criticism at home. Victims and their relatives demanded for decades the Japanese companies that exploited the labor to compensate them, which Japan resisted.

on the victim line

In 2018, the South Korean Supreme Court sided with the victims, which led to a diplomatic crisis and a sharp deterioration in relations between the two countries.

Japan, for its part, claimed that all irregularities related to the agreement signed in 1965 that led to the normalization of relations had been resolved. It included a comprehensive economic aid package of grants and cheap loans to South Korea.

The United States welcomes the rapprochement plans between Japan and South Korea, and President Joe Biden calls them a “historic breakthrough.”

He writes: “We are heading towards a more secure, stable and prosperous future.” Twitter.

In another step towards reconciliation, South Korea’s Trade Ministry announced that South Korea would suspend the ongoing dispute at the World Trade Organization.

In 2019, under the larger diplomatic crisis, South Korea launched an operation against Japan’s export barriers to South Korea. Now the governments of the two countries have agreed to resolve the matter through bilateral negotiations, so that the situation can return to normal, according to the ministry in Seoul.

Activists immediately came out to protest the compensation solution proposed by the government. Here, several of them stood with banners in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Seoul. Photo: Lee Jin-man/AP/TT

Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi welcomes South Korea's announcement.

Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi welcomes South Korea’s announcement. Photo: Eugene Hoshiko/AP/TT

A statue in Seoul symbolizing Korean forced laborers.  Archive the photo.

A statue in Seoul symbolizing Korean forced laborers. Archive the photo. Photo: AP/TT