South Korea would aid Japan and provide reparations to victims of Japanese occupation
Through this project, the South Korean government hopes to improve relations with Japan. Ultimately, this could lead to both countries taking a joint stand against North Korea.
South Korea and Japan are America’s most important regional allies in Asia. But their relations have long been strained by Japan’s brutal colonial rule on the Korean peninsula. According to South Korea, approximately 780,000 Koreans were used as forced labor during the 35-year Japanese occupation. Those figures don’t even include women forced into sexual slavery by Japanese soldiers.
In 2018, South Korea’s Supreme Court ordered several Japanese companies to compensate forced laborers. But so far this has not been followed. Instead, the country says it expects “voluntary contributions” from Japanese companies.
“We must stop ignoring the bitter relationship between South Korea and Japan and break the vicious circle for the sake of the people,” said South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin. He expects a strong response from Japan, including “following his previous public statements of regret and apology.”
Japan welcomed South Korea’s plan, saying it would help restore “healthy” ties after years of tension. Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi told a news conference that Japan “appreciates” South Korea’s announcement and hopes that political, cultural and economic relations between the two countries will continue to improve.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken even called the announcement “historic”. The strained relationship between the two countries has long been a concern for the United States, which wants to build a united front with its allies against China’s growing power and North Korea’s expanding missile and nuclear weapons threats.
However, the plan still faces opposition from some of the victims and from South Korea’s main opposition party. He has accused the government of bowing to pressure from Japan with the plan.
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