|Japan's Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Democratic party Shinzo Abe delivers a speech on a street ahead of the Upper House election, in Funabashi, near Tokyo Sunday, July 7. AP-Yonhap|
By Kim Yoo-chul
South Korea has adjusted its proposal to settle wartime forced labor compensation claims with Japan in an attempt to normalize the strained diplomatic relations between the two countries. Seoul proposed the use of Korean government money to settle all future claims, in addition to the creation of a joint fund between the countries to pay compensation to the successful plaintiffs of last year's Supreme Court case. The adjusted proposal is aimed at resolving the trade dispute between Korea and Japan, a source at the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) said Thursday.
"In addition to the creation of a joint fund between South Korean and Japanese companies to compensate Korean victims from before and during World War II, Seoul recently suggested the idea of compensating additional victims with government money. But Tokyo has yet to respond to this," the source said asking not to be identified.
Japan argues that the ruling by the South Korean court ordering Japanese companies to compensate four South Koreans forced to work for them during World War II, goes against a 1965 treaty in which Seoul agreed to settle all relevant claims in return for financial compensation and soft loans during the establishment of diplomatic relations.
Last year, South Korea's top court dismissed an appeal by Japan's Nippon Steel against the ruling, ordering it to pay around $85,000 in compensation to each victim of forced labor.
"South Korea was seeking to settle wartime compensation-related issues by paying the seven plaintiffs in rulings by the court with a joint fund created by Japanese and South Korean companies. Plus, the adjusted proposal included South Korea's plan to handle all other similar cases. This is a suggestion which isn't against the core principles of the 1965 treaty," the DPK source said.
Bilateral tensions between the two countries have been deteriorating since July 4 when Japan imposed restrictions on the exports of materials to South Korean technology companies. Experts said the imposition of the restrictions was a retaliatory measure by Tokyo in reaction to the court ruling.
President Moon Jae-in said Wednesday Seoul was trying its best to come up with a diplomatic solution, saying, "I hope the Japanese government will respond." At that time, President Moon didn't elaborate on the details of his possible new offer. Presidential National Security Office adviser Kim Hyun-chong flew to Washington D.C. to seek U.S. support; while Samsung Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong was in Japan in exploring ways to end the dispute.
According to data from the foreign ministry, the Supreme Court has ruled that 40 South Koreans should receive compensation so far ― 952 cases are still pending.
Regarding the reported renewed offer, Cheong Wa Dae spokeswoman Ko Min-jung told reporters, "South Korea has not offered a new plan to Japan."