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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Nov. 8)

2018/11/08 06:57

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Escalating diplomatic row

Japan should respect court ruling over forced labor

A diplomatic conflict between Seoul and Tokyo has escalated after South Korea's Supreme Court made a ruling last month in favor of four Korean victims of forced labor during World War II. On Oct. 30, the court ordered Japanese steelmaker Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp. to pay each victim 100 million won ($89,000) in compensation.

The Japanese government immediately denounced the ruling as unacceptable, saying victims of forced labor had no right to file a compensation suit due to the 1965 basic treaty that normalized diplomatic ties between the two countries. It added that all colonial-era compensation claims were settled under the accord.

However, the top court's decision rejected the Japanese stance. It stated the victims' right to compensation was not terminated by the treaty. It would be better for Tokyo to respect the court ruling in order to reflect its wartime crimes and other atrocities committed against Koreans during its 1910-45 colonial rule of the peninsula. Japan also needs to do so as part of efforts to foster a future-oriented relationship with South Korea.

To the contrary, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has threatened to take the forced labor case to the International Court of Justice in an attempt to nullify the Korean court's action. Japan is also taking steps to file a complaint with the Word Trade Organization (WTO) against South Korea, claiming the Seoul government provided $11 billion in "suspicious" financial subsidies to companies such as Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co.

It is regrettable that Japan is trying to link the court ruling to the trade issue. It seems as if Tokyo is trying to retaliate against Seoul by using trade as a weapon. If the row between the two countries worsens, Japan might be ready to impose trade and economic sanctions on Korea.

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono is at the forefront of Tokyo's offensives against Seoul. He said in a Bloomberg interview Sunday that "it would be difficult for any country to do anything with the South Korean government" if a court can reverse Seoul's agreements made under international law.

Instead of sincerely apologizing and making reparations for its wartime crimes, Japan is stepping up its efforts to legitimize its past aggression, atrocities and wrongdoings. Such efforts are a clear manifestation of the nationalist government of Abe who has been certainly attempting to revive Japan's militarism.

In this regard, we have to express deep worries about Japan's moves to deny its responsibility over the mobilization of Koreans as forced laborers among other war crimes, including forced sexual slavery for Japanese troops during WWII.

Tokyo should realize it cannot resolve the frictions related to the occupation of Korea and war-related misdeeds without facing up to history and acknowledging its shameful past. On the part of Seoul, the Moon Jae-in government must mobilize all possible means to prevent Japan from going too far in glossing over its past imperialism and militarism.

(END)

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