September 7, 2022
SEOUL — A South Korean advisory council has agreed that the issue of the lawsuits involving Japanese companies and former wartime requisitioned workers from the Korean Peninsula should be resolved by paying compensation to the plaintiffs through a foundation or fund, instead of from the defendant Japanese companies.
The council of experts was launched in early July, and comprises members from the public and private sectors. It held its fourth and final meeting Monday.
According to a senior South Korean government official, the administration led by President Yoon Suk-yeol will present a solution as early as next month, after communicating with Japan. The administration is aiming to swiftly improve relations with Japan.
Discussions at the council’s meetings centered on who should shoulder the responsibility of paying compensation to the plaintiffs and how funding for that compensation should be secured, a source close to the South Korean government said.
The experts agreed that a new fund, an existing foundation or other entities should shoulder the responsibility of paying compensation to the plaintiffs, and that the payment should be funded by Japanese and South Korean companies, among others.
The council is said to believe, based on legal experts’ opinions, that the plaintiffs’ consent is not required for a fund or other entities to make the payment instead of Japanese companies.
It also was proposed at the meetings that the South Korean government should use public funds for the compensation, but the majority of the participants are said to have opposed the idea.
Some plaintiffs refused to attend the meetings, maintaining their stance that Japanese companies should pay compensation and offer them apologies. The South Korean government listened to their opinions separately.
The plaintiffs have been proceeding with the conversion into cash of assets seized from Nippon Steel Corp. and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. in South Korea. The South Korean Supreme Court may soon issue an order for the liquidation of MHI’s assets.
If the Yoon administration adopts the council’s plan to provide compensation through a fund or other means, it will inevitably meet strong opposition from the plaintiffs and opposition parties. It will be vital for Yoon to make a political decision to achieve a breakthrough on the issue.