National / Politics

Abe urges new South Korean envoy to properly handle wartime labor issue

Kyodo

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe asked the new South Korean Ambassador to Japan Nam Gwan-pyo on Tuesday to deal properly with a dispute over compensation for wartime labor, the Japanese Foreign Ministry has said.

Relations between the two countries have shown no signs of improving after a series of court rulings in South Korea ordered Japanese companies to compensate for forced labor during Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

The 15-minute meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office was closed to the press.

Tokyo maintains the court rulings breach a 1965 bilateral accord that it says settled the issue of compensation related to wartime labor “finally and completely.”

On Monday, the Foreign Ministry said it had asked for the establishment of an arbitration panel involving members from a third country, as provided for under the accord — a request the South Korean government said it would “carefully review.”

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga met separately with Nam on Tuesday.

“I explained the Japanese government’s stance on various issues of bilateral concern and expressed hope that Ambassador Nam will work to improve bilateral ties,” the top government spokesman said at a news conference.

When asked about the possibility of a summit between Abe and South Korean President Moon Jae-in on the fringes of the Group of 20 summit in late June in Osaka, Suga said “nothing has been decided.”

Nam worked at the South Korean Embassy in Tokyo between 1992 and 1995.