South Korea’s opposition political parties and civic groups have raised their voice against the government’s push to resolve Japan’s wartime forced labor issue through a private foundation as it dismissed the victims’ demand for sincere apology from the Japanese government and firms that should be held accountable.
Lee Jae-myung, chief of the main liberal opposition Democratic Party, said on Wednesday that the so-called third-party reimbursement solution was a “de facto surrender document to Japan.”
He noted that people flared up in anger over the government’s “humiliating” compensation plan, saying it was the biggest victory for Japan and the worst humiliation and shame for South Korea.
The government announced a plan Monday to compensate the victims, who were forced by the Imperial Japan into heavy labor without pay during World War II, through a foundation, funded by voluntary donations from the South Korean private sector, rather than direct payment by responsible Japanese companies.
An association of 611 civic groups issued a statement on Tuesday, saying that the South Korean government itself undermined the fundamental order of the country’s constitution stipulating that the colonial rule was illegal.
Some of far-right Japanese politicians denied the existence of wartime atrocities, such as the forced labor and sexual slavery, sponsored by the Japanese government during its colonization of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945, while insisting that its colonial rule was legal.
The association noted that if Japan truly reflects on its imperial history, it should apologize and follow the ruling of the South Korean top court.
In 2018, the South Korean Supreme Court ordered Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Nippon Steel to pay reparations to the forced labor victims, paving a way to sell assets of the accused Japanese companies in South Korea to get compensation.
Japan claimed that all colonial-era issues were settled through the 1965 treaty that normalized diplomatic relations between Seoul and Tokyo, but the South Korean court ruled that the state-to-state treaty did not involve individuals’ right to reparation.
Yang Geum-deok, one of the forced labor victims, told a press conference with foreign media last month that all she wanted was a “sincere apology” from Japanese offenders.
“I’ll have no other wish if I die after being apologized by Japan,” the 95-year-old said.