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National Assembly speaker stresses need to resolve Seoul-Tokyo row

National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-sang on Wednesday stressed the need to lay the grounds for resolving the latest Seoul-Tokyo friction within the year, while Japanese media reported that Tokyo would not accept the plans Moon proposed the previous day.

Speaking at a meeting with leaders of a Korean school in Japan, Moon said that legislative processes regarding the matter must be resolved within the year. 

National Assembly Speaker Rep. Moon Hee-sang speaks at a press conference in Tokyo on Wednesday. Yonhap
National Assembly Speaker Rep. Moon Hee-sang speaks at a press conference in Tokyo on Wednesday. Yonhap

“There are two important turning points on Nov. 23 and at the end of the year. On Nov. 23, termination of GSOMIA is finalized, and end of the year is when liquidation of assets of Japanese firms is expected,” Moon said.

GSOMIA stands for the General Security of Military Information Agreement, which Seoul decided to terminate in response to Tokyo’s recent changes to its export control system. The changes are widely viewed as economic retaliation after the South Korean Supreme Court sided with several Korean plaintiffs who were forced to work for Japanese firms during Japan’s occupation of Korea.

The Korean Supreme Court also authorized the seizure of assets from the concerned Japanese firms when they refused to compensate the victims.

On Tuesday, Moon proposed a so-called “1+1+alpha” plan to resolve the issue. The plan would see Japanese and Korean companies raise funds to pay the victims, with donations also being invited from the public in both countries.

Public donations have been added to the earlier “1+1” plan proposed by the Korean government. Japan rejected the “1+1” proposal, claiming that reparations were covered by a 1965 treaty between the two countries.

“(The fund) will be donations from the two countries’ companies, voluntary donations from companies that have responsibilities as well as other companies. Public donations from the citizens of the two countries will also be added,” Moon said in his speech at Waseda University.

“Clauses that enable the Korean government to contribute to the foundation that manages the fund need to be created,” Moon said, adding that the remaining funds from the Reconciliation and Healing Foundation would also be added to the forced labor fund.

The Reconciliation and Healing Foundation was established to manage the 1 billion yen ($9.2 million) given by the Japanese government in accordance with a Seoul-Tokyo agreement to compensate Korean survivors of Japanese military sexual slavery.

But survivors rejected the agreement, saying they had not been consulted about the plans and that the Japanese government had yet to acknowledge its responsibility.

The foundation, established under the Park Geun-hye administration, was disbanded after an independent panel found that the agreement had been reached under pressure from former President Park Geun-hye’s office. Although the foundation was disbanded, about 6 billion won remains in the fund.

Meanwhile, Japanese media reported that National Assembly Speaker Moon’s proposal will not be accepted, citing Japanese government sources and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

Japan’s NHK also reported that the Japanese government will not be responding to any plans that involve financial contributions from Japanese firms, and that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made Tokyo’s position clear during the meeting with President Moon Jae-in.

Moon Jae-in and Abe met on the sidelines of the ASEAN Plus Three summit in Bangkok on Monday.

National Assembly Speaker Moon’s plans appear likely to face resistance from victims of forced labor.

According to the lawyer who represented the victims, Moon did not inform the victims about the idea.

The lawyer, Lim Jae-sung, told a local news agency that he finds the fact that Moon made the suggestion without any communication with the victims “hard to understand,” and that using money raised from Korean companies and citizens would “lighten the responsibility of Japanese companies.”

By Choi He-suk (