SEOUL – The foreign ministers of South Korea and Japan are scheduled to hold talks in Paris this week on the sidelines of a gathering of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the South Korean Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.
The talks between Kang Kyung-wha and Taro Kono, slated to coincide with an OECD ministerial council meeting to be held Wednesday and Thursday, come as the two countries remain at odds over wartime labor issues.
On Monday, Japan asked South Korea that a third-party arbitration panel be established over South Korean court orders against Japanese firms to compensate laborers made to work during Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.
The South Korean government said it will “carefully review” the request, based on a 1965 bilateral accord that addressed issues of property and claims between the two nations.
It remains unclear, however, whether Seoul would agree to Japan’s arbitration request.
In Tokyo on Tuesday, Kono told a news conference that he hopes to discuss the wartime labor issue with Kang, saying, “I don’t think South Korea wants relations with Japan to further worsen.
“They have to accept our request for arbitration. If necessary, we are prepared to dispute the issue under international law.”
Last October, South Korea’s top court ordered Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp. to compensate former Korean laborers for forced work. Since then, similar rulings have been passed against other Japanese companies.
Japan has called on South Korea to resolve the matter internally in such a way that would not hurt the interests of its firms operating there.
South Korea, in contrast, has taken the stance that it is difficult for the government to intervene in judicial decisions due to a separation of powers.
The two foreign ministers last held talks in mid-February in Germany.