Seoul, Aug 15 (efe-epa).- South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Saturday offered to meet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe “face to face” to resolve the dispute between the two countries over the compensation for Koreans forced into slave labor under the Japanese occupation during World War II.
Moon made the proposal during a speech on Saturday to mark the National Liberation Day, also being commemorated in Japan as the 75th anniversary of the end of the War.
“The (South Korean) government has consulted with Japan on a smooth resolution, on which victims can agree, and leaves the door of consultations wide open now as well,” the president said in a televised speech, according to local news agency Yonhap.
“Our government is ready to sit face to face with the Japanese government at any time,” he added.
“I believe that joint efforts by Japan and South Korea to respect an individual’s human rights will become a bridge of friendship and future cooperation between the two countries.”
However, Moon reiterated that his government would respect the 2018 verdict of the South Korean Supreme Court that ordered Japanese company Nipon Steel to compensate South Korean citizens who were forced into slave labor for a former subsidiary of the company during World War II.
This was followed by an order to seize of the assets of PNR – a joint venture of Nippon Steel and South Korean steel giant POSCO, – to pay the compensation, a decision which was recently challenged in court by the Japanese company.
The court orders have led to further deterioration of the already tense ties between Seoul and Tokyo over issues dating back to Japanese occupation of the Korean peninsula (1910-1945), and triggered trade and diplomatic sanctions by Japan and similar retaliatory measures by the South Korean government.
Japan maintains that all compensation for the more than a million victims enslaved by Japanese companies was settled during the 1965 Treaty on Basic Relations.In accordance with the treaty, Japan donated $300 million to the neighboring country.
The compensation, however, did not reach the intended victims under the South Korean military dictatorship of Park Chung-hee – which invested the funds in industries and basic infrastructure – resulting in thousands of the victims suing the Seoul government in recent years. EFE-EPA