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Korea, Japan foreign ministers may meet

Japan’s Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi is seeking to meet with his South Korean counterpart Kang Kyung-wha to discuss the issue of wartime forced labor, Japanese broadcaster NHK reported on Thursday.

Arrangements are being made for talks between the two on the sidelines of the Asia and Europe (ASEM) Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on Sunday and Monday in Madrid, NHK said.

At the possible meeting, Motegi plans to call on Seoul to “rectify its violation of the international law in regard to the wartime labor issue and offer a solution Japan can accept,” NHK said.

Foreign Affairs Kang Kyung-wha (left) and her Japanese counterpart Toshimitsu Motegi (right). Yonhap
Foreign Affairs Kang Kyung-wha (left) and her Japanese counterpart Toshimitsu Motegi (right). Yonhap

Relations between the two countries have soured with disputes over trade and wartime history.

The South Korean Supreme Court last year ordered Japanese companies to compensate South Koreans who were forced to work for them during World War II.

The Korean government has maintained that the issue of compensation for wartime forced labor should be resolved in a way that the victims can agree with, and the South Korean public can accept.

Japan insists that the issue of right to claim compensation was settled when a bilateral treaty was signed in 1965.

Tokyo is, however, reportedly showing interest in National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-sang’s proposal to set up a fund with voluntary contributions from the governments, businesses and citizens of both countries to compensate the victims.

Civic groups that have supported the victims are opposing the parliamentary leader’s idea, saying it could exempt the Japanese government and companies from responsibility without proper acknowledgement of facts and apology.

At the possible meeting, Kang and Motegi are also expected to discuss plans for talks between President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the sidelines of a trilateral summit with China in Chengdu, China on Dec. 24.

By Kim So-hyun (