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Moon says gov't ready to discuss wartime forced labor at any time with Japan

President Moon Jae-in (Yonhap)
President Moon Jae-in (Yonhap)

President Moon Jae-in said Saturday his government is ready to sit down with Japan at any time to resolve a longstanding dispute over compensating Korean victims of Japan's forced labor during World War II.

"The (South Korean) government has consulted with Japan on a smooth resolution, on which victims can agree, and leaves the door of consultations wide open now as well," he said during his nationally televised Liberation Day speech. "Our government is ready to sit face to face with the Japanese government at any time."

Tokyo has argued that all reparation-related issues were settled in a 1965 bilateral treaty. In October 2018, South Korea's Supreme Court ruled that the individual rights to compensation remain valid despite the state-to-state deal. 

During a national ceremony at the Dongdaemun Design Plaza in Seoul to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Korea's liberation from Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule, Moon said his government respects the judiciary's view and will "endeavor together with Japan to keep the universal values of mankind and the principles of international law."

He said, "I believe that joint efforts by Japan and South Korea to respect an individual's human rights will become a bridge of friendship and future cooperation between the two countries."

Moon also made peace overtures toward North Korea, saying, "The true liberation is that the dreams and lives of each person are guaranteed in a peaceful and safe, unified Korean Peninsula."

He stressed the need to protect "life and safety" of all people on the peninsula.

"I hope that (the two Koreas) will cooperate more closely in the new security situation of the COVID-19 era" to realize a community of "peace, economy and life," he added. (Yonhap)