South Korea on Monday announced a plan to compensate victims of the country’s Japanese occupation. But the Asian country does without direct involvement of Japan. The South Korean government is seeking to improve relations with Japan. This should ensure that both countries can better take 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 from 1910 to 1945. According to South Korea, 780,000 Koreans were used as forced labor during the 35-year Japanese occupation. That figure doesn’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. Instead, the country now says it relies on “voluntary contributions” from Japanese companies.
Japan welcomed South Korea’s plan, saying it would help restore “healthy” ties after years of tension. US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken even called the announcement “historic”. Seoul and Tokyo are “the most important allies of the United States, and we are impressed by the work they have done to improve the bilateral relationship,” he added.
However, the plan has met with opposition from some victims and South Korea’s main opposition party. He has accused the government of bowing to pressure from Japan with the plan.
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