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  • <Explanation W> After South Korea announced a solution to the former forced labor issue, Posco was the first company to respond, donating 400 million yen to the foundation
<Explanation W> After South Korea announced a solution to the former forced labor issue, Posco was the first company to respond, donating 400 million yen to the foundation
In connection with the former forced labor lawsuit, which is the biggest pending issue in Japan and South Korea, the Korean steel giant POSCO on the 15th agreed with the Korean government's solution to pay the plaintiff the amount equivalent to the compensation of the defendant's Japanese company, and he revealed that he donated 4 billion won to the foundation. It was the company's first donation after announcing the solution.

In October 2018, the South Korean Supreme Court (Supreme Court) ordered former employers Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Nippon Steel (former Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corporation) to pay compensation. However, the two defendants refused to fulfill the 1965 Claims Agreement between Japan and South Korea, as Japan had already settled the wartime reparations issue. For this reason, the plaintiffs have proceeded with the procedure of 'cash' in which the Japanese company sells its assets in South Korea and uses them for compensation.

Under these circumstances, the South Korean government announced on the 6th of this month a solution in which a South Korean foundation will take over the compensation of the defendant's Japanese company, which was confirmed by the Supreme Court judgment. At a press conference, South Korean Foreign Ministry Minister Park Jin said that cooperation between Japan and South Korea is extremely important in all areas, including the economy and security, and said, "We must not neglect long-term, rigid relations. From the perspective of national interest, we should break the cycle of vicious circles for the sake of the people. I hope that Japan will work together to overcome the unfortunate history of the past and develop a future-oriented relationship based on reconciliation, good-neighborly friendship and cooperation," he said. In addition, President Yoon emphasized that the solution is the result of the government's efforts to find a way to meet the common interests and future development of both South Korea and Japan while respecting the position of the victims.

The "solution" announced by the South Korean government is that the "Foundation for Supporting Victims of Japanese Forced Mobilization" under the South Korean government, which supports former forced laborers, will pay the plaintiffs an amount equivalent to compensation, including late interest. The fund will be covered by "voluntary donations from the private sector," and it is not assumed that the defendant's Japanese company will contribute funds. So far, 15 plaintiffs have won their lawsuits in Supreme Court rulings, and the damages are said to be about 4 billion won, including late interest. In addition, the lawsuits currently pending will be dealt with in the same way if the plaintiff's victory is confirmed.

Companies that donate to the foundation are assumed to be Korean companies that benefited from Japan's economic cooperation based on the 1965 Japan-Korea Claims and Economic Cooperation Agreement. It's a corresponding shape. POSCO said, "We have decided to voluntarily donate in line with the purpose of the government's announcement." The foundation announced on the 15th that it had confirmed the payment from POSCO. Using POSCO's funds as a source of funding, the foundation is expected to begin making payments to the plaintiffs who have applied for compensation.

With the conclusion of the Japan-Korea Claims and Economic Cooperation Agreement, the South Korean government received $500 million (approximately ¥67 billion at the current rate) in economic cooperation funds in exchange for giving up claims against Japan. A portion of this money was used to support companies, with $119.48 million, or 24% of the $500 million, invested in Pohang Steel Works, the predecessor of POSCO.

Korean companies that have benefited from Japan's economic cooperation based on the agreement include Korea Expressway Corporation, Korea Railroad Corporation, Korea Exchange Bank (now Hana Bank), Korea Electric Power Corporation, KT, KT&G, and Korea Water Resources Corporation, in addition to POSCO. There are 16 companies such as Attention will be paid to whether these companies will follow POSCO in donating in the future. However, according to Yonhap News, the South Korean government has indicated a policy of not contacting companies regarding donations, stating that the financial resources will be covered by voluntary donations from the private sector. Some private companies are reportedly reluctant to make donations without a request from the government, citing issues such as breach of trust.

Meanwhile, three of the plaintiffs, who are still alive, have indicated that they intend to refuse to receive the money from the foundation. The families of the deceased are entitled to compensation for the 12 plaintiffs, and some families have accepted the government's solution.

The South Korean government intends to continue persuading the plaintiffs who refuse to receive the money, but there is strong resistance to the plaintiffs' solution, and difficulties are expected. Nonetheless, it can be said that the South Korean government was able to demonstrate its stance of steadily implementing solutions ahead of President Yoon's visit to Japan on the 16th.

Published : 2023/03/22 13:14 KST

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