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S. Korea urges Japan to show more sincerity to resolve forced labor row

Shigeki Takizaki (Yonhap)
Shigeki Takizaki (Yonhap)
South Korea urged Japan on Thursday to show more sincerity to resolve a prolonged row over wartime forced labor and swiftly remove its export curbs on Seoul, the foreign ministry said.

Kim Jung-han, director general for Asia and Pacific affairs at the foreign ministry, delivered the position during a meeting in Seoul with his Japanese counterpart, Shigeki Takizaki, in their first talks since Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga took office last month.

"Director General Kim again explained our stance regarding the force labor and highlighted the need for the Japanese government and defendant companies to show a more sincere attitude to resolve the problem," the ministry said in a release.

Kim also urged Tokyo to swiftly retract the export restrictions against Seoul, it said.

Relations between Seoul and Tokyo remain chilled over the issue of compensating Korean forced labor victims and Tokyo's export restrictions on Seoul imposed in retaliation for South Korean court rulings that ordered Japanese companies to pay damages to the victims.

South Korea has taken steps to auction off some of the South Korea-based assets owned by Nippon Steel Corp. to cash them out for the compensation.

Japan has warned of countermeasures if the procedure goes ahead and urged South Korea to come up with a solution, based on its claim that reparation issues stemming from the 1910-45 period when Korea was a Japanese colony were settled by a 1965 treaty that normalized their bilateral relations.

In Thursday's talks, Kim also "recalled the need for Tokyo to actively respond to the Seoul government's efforts to host the trilateral summit with Japan and China within this year," the ministry said.

On Japan's potential discharge into the sea of contaminated water from its Fukushima nuclear plant, Kim stressed that South Korea is acutely aware of the issue and has serious concerns.

Ahead of the talks with Kim, the Japanese official also met separately with Seoul's top nuclear negotiator, Lee Do-hoon, for discussions on the Korean Peninsula and North Korea's denuclearization. Takizaki doubles as Japan's chief nuclear envoy.

"The two sides, in particular, shared the view that major countries in the region, including Japan, support the resumption of dialogue with Pyongyang and that they should cooperate to that end," the ministry said in a separate release.

They also exchanged views on ways to cooperate with each other, and with the United States, so as to stably manage the current situation and to bring progress toward the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and settlement of permanent peace, it said.

Thursday's talks also marked the first in-person meeting between Kim and Takizaki since February, as the coronavirus pandemic has put restraints on physical meetings. Their last working level talks took place virtually in June. (Yonhap)

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