The Daily Manila Shimbun


Japan to Seek Bilateral Talks with S. Korea on Wartime Labor

January 9, 2019

Tokyo--Japan will shortly ask South Korea to hold bilateral talks on the issue of wartime labor, under a 1965 bilateral agreement on claims and property, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Wednesday.

Suga made the remark at a meeting of relevant ministers after a South Korean district court was revealed Tuesday to have approved the seizure of assets in South Korea of Japan's Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp. <5401> over wartime labor.

The seizure was requested by South Korean plaintiffs in a damages lawsuit against the company, which refuses to pay compensation over the issue.

It will be the first time for the Japanese government to request bilateral talks under the 1965 agreement.

It is uncertain whether South Korea will agree to hold bilateral talks, however, and Japan-South Korea relations may deteriorate further.

The Japanese government believes that any court order seeking compensation from Nippon Steel over wartime labor is unacceptable as the claim issue was fully and finally resolved under the agreement concluded by Japan and South Korea in 1965, when they normalized their diplomatic relations. The Korean Peninsula was under Japan's colonial rule from 1910 through the end of World War II in 1945.

At a press conference earlier on Wednesday, Suga again criticized a ruling from the South Korean Supreme Court in October last year that ordered Nippon Steel to pay compensation, saying that the ruling was a violation of international law.

"Since the ruling, the Japanese government has been calling on the South Korean government to take appropriate measures, but concrete responses have yet to be taken," Suga said.

The approval for seizing the assets of a Japanese company is very regrettable, he said, adding that the Japanese government is taking the situation very seriously.

At the ministerial meeting, Suga told land minister Keiichi Ishii, other relevant ministers and state ministers to work together and address the compensation issue resolutely.

As the 1965 agreement stipulates that disputes between the two countries should be resolved through diplomatic channels, the Japanese government decided to ask the South Korean government to hold discussions on the issue, officials said.

If the South Korean government refuses to discuss the issue bilaterally, the Japanese government plans to call for setting up an arbitration panel including third-country members under the agreement.

If the panel cannot resolve the dispute, Japan is believed to consider brining the issue to the International Court of Justice. Jiji Press