I International

Japan shoots back after South Korea's President Moon urges Tokyo to take humble stance on wartime labour issues

Japan and South Korea have been in an intensifying dispute since October 2018. South Korea’s Supreme Court ordered two Japanese companies, Mitsubishi and Nippon Steel, to compensate four South Korean citizens for wartime labour.

During South Korea’s annual New Year’s news conference, South Korean President Moon Jae-in criticised Japan’s “ politicisation” of the issue and said that it is “not a wise stance” – urging Tokyo to take “a more humble stance”. This Friday, Japan’s government refuted President Moon’s accusation.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said during a news conference that “it is extremely regrettable that President Moon tried to shift South Korea’s responsibility to Japan…”.

The four South Korean citizens were recognised as plaintiffs who were forced to work during Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula from 1910-1945.

Subsequently, Tokyo requested Seoul to begin talks as Nippon Steel faced seizures of its assets in South Korea after having refused to conform to the Supreme Court’s ruling.

“We believe South Korea will, as a matter of course, comply with our request with sincerity,” Suga said.

Japan’s request of starting intergovernmental talks on the court’s ruling while ensuring developments are based on a bilateral accord to settle property claims and the 1965 Japan-South Korea treaty which established diplomatic ties between the two countries.

Since then, Japan has generally taken the stance that the issue of compensation has been finalised under the bilateral agreement.

Accordingly, Suga added that “This state in breach of the pact was created by South Korea when last year’s Supreme Court rulings were finalized. It is South Korea that should take responsibility to address the situation…”.

President Moon voiced to reporters on Thursday that his government must respect and follow judicial decision as power separation among the three government is a necessity in a democracy.