South Korea plans to establish a foundation in March to support victims of colonial Japan's forced labor and their bereaved families, a commission handling the issue said Sunday.
Historians say millions of Koreans were forcibly drafted into the Japanese workforce during its colonial rule in 1910-45, and more than 200,000 women from Korea and other Asian nations were sexually enslaved to serve Japanese soldiers.
Seoul's forced labor investigation commission under the Prime Minister's Secretariat said it has wrapped up preparations to establish the entity after two-year discussions with bereaved families and relevant organizations.
The foundation, tentatively named "The Foundation to Support Victims of Forced Labor by Japan," is expected to be tasked with leading diverse projects to remember the victims, care for bereaved families and launch research into grievances by Koreans, among other things.
The government earmarked 2 billion won (US$1.8 million) budget this year for the envisioned organization and plans to continue its support for its operation, according to the commission.
The country's top steelmaker, POSCO, will also donate some 10 billion won for the foundation, with several local firms including the state-run Korea Electric Power Corp. and Korea Railroad Corp. considering contributions, according to the commission. The firms were established using war reparation money from Japan under a 1965 package agreement with Tokyo that normalized relations between the two countries.
Chances are that the Japanese government and its companies that used Korean labor during the colonial era would make a contribution to the envisioned foundation, commission officials said.
"Following a series of lawsuits, some Japanese firms expressed their willingness to settle the issue via such a foundation," said an official.
The Japanese government as well as the companies that used forced laborers have refused to make any compensation, saying all issues regarding its colonial rule, including sex slavery and monetary reparations, were covered by the 1965 agreement. (Yonhap News)