SEOUL – South Korea launched a foundation Sunday to assist Koreans, or their surviving relatives, who were forced to work for Japanese government institutions and companies during the Imperial military’s vicious colonization of the peninsula.
Yonhap news agency said the Foundation to Support Victims of Forced Labor by Japan “will spearhead diverse projects to honor the victims and to care for their families as well as conduct research on the history of the matter.”
Millions of Koreans are believed to have been forced to work for Japanese government institutions and businesses on the Korean Peninsula, as well as in Japan and across much of Asia, during Japanese rule from 1910 to 1945.
The Japanese government and the companies that used forced labor have refused to pay compensation to the victims. The foundation is expected to continue to press Tokyo and the companies to recompense the victims and their families.
South Korean courts have already ordered compensation in many cases, but Tokyo and Japanese companies argue their responsibility for monetary payments ended with the signing of a treaty normalizing bilateral diplomatic relations in 1965.
The new foundation will be supported with more than 3 billion won (¥302 million) from the South Korean government this year and steel maker Posco has promised another 3 billion won, according to Yonhap. Posco has said it will invest 10 billion won in the foundation over three years.
On Saturday, the Kyunghyang Shinmun newspaper reported that a group of 252 Koreans who were forced to work in Japan before or during World War II or their bereaved families have sued three Japanese firms for compensation in a South Korean court. The suit, launched last December, cites Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., Sumitomo Heavy Industries Ltd. and Showa Denko K.K.
It is one of the largest of a string of similar damages suits filed since South Korea’s Supreme Court in 2012 ruled in favor of the forced laborers. The plaintiffs are expected to increase their number to more than 1,000 and to target more Japanese firms, according to the report.
The South Korean top court ruled that plaintiffs’ right to seek compensation from Japanese companies was not invalidated by the 1965 treaty that normalized bilateral ties.