National

South Korea drafts bill for foundation to resolve wartime labor issue with Japan: media report

JIJI, Kyodo, Staff Report

South Korean National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-sang has drafted a bill that would create a foundation to settle the current wartime labor dispute with Japan, a media report said Tuesday.

According to a report by the South’s Yonhap news agency, the draft bill suggests the foundation would be created with the involvement of governments and companies of both countries.

The foundation would pay a total of about 300 billion won (¥27.7 billion) to 1,500 people, the report states, including former laborers drafted to work for Japanese companies during Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula. According to the draft, related Japanese companies are expected to voluntarily make donations to the foundation, Yonhap reported.

Moon unveiled the draft legislation at a meeting with former laborers and others Tuesday, saying that it could be revised, if necessary, to reflect their opinions. He reportedly hopes to introduce the bill within this year.

But it remains unclear how much support the legislation would attract from lawmakers as some plaintiffs, who are demanding compensation and apologies from Japanese companies, have opposed the proposal.

Moon proposed such a foundation in a speech during his visit to Tokyo earlier this month, but details were not made public.

Yonhap said the bill envisions an existing foundation for former laborers being remade into the new one, to which companies and citizens of both countries could make financial contributions.

The South Korean government would shoulder the roughly 5 billion won needed annually to operate the fund, which would be a vessel for the donations from companies and individuals, according to the report.

Part of the costs of establishing the organization would be funded with 6 billion won left over from a now-defunct Japanese-funded foundation set up to support former “comfort women.” The term is a euphemism used to refer to women who provided sex, including those who did so against their will, for Japanese troops before and during World War II.

It is thought that those funds are likely to be the extent of the Japanese government’s involvement in the new foundation.

In June, the government of President Moon Jae-in proposed that the issue of compensation to Korean plaintiffs in wartime labor cases be resolved by using funds from companies of both countries.

However, the idea was immediately rejected by the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Procedures have begun to seize assets of Japanese companies in South Korea through courts there after rulings awarded damages to plaintiffs in the country. Arrangements to liquidate the assets are now making their way through South Korea’s judiciary.