South Korea and Japan have tentatively agreed to create a “future youth fund” to sponsor scholarships for students, as part of a deal on settling the issue of compensation for Korean victims of Japan’s wartime forced labor, sources said Sunday.
The fund will be jointly formed by the Federation of Korean Industries, South Korea’s big business lobby, and the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren), according to the government sources.
The South Korean foreign ministry is expected to announce the details along with the details of a broader agreement reached between the two countries to settle the issue of compensation for Korean victims of forced labour during World War II, the sources said.
“There’s a high chance South Korea and Japan will form a fund under the aim of moving toward the future and not the past,” a senior official stated.
In 2018, South Korea’s Supreme Court ordered Japan’s Nippon Steel and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to pay compensation to Korean forced labour victims who were mobilized during Japan’s 1910-45 colonial occupation of Korea.
The two companies are expected to indirectly contribute to the new fund in the form of Keidanren membership fees or donations.
South Korea earlier proposed compensating the victims through a government foundation using donations from local businesses but called on the Japanese companies to also make contributions.
Japan reportedly refused to make any compensation under the court rulings, insisting that all matters of compensation were settled under a 1965 treaty that normalized bilateral ties.
The fund’s creation “should be understood as President Yoon Suk Yeol making a broad-minded decision with a view to the future rather than being caught up in the frame of compensation,” another official said.
As part of the two countries’ agreement, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is also expected to state his government’s intent to inherit a 1998 joint declaration adopted by then President Kim Dae-jung and then Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi.
In the declaration, the two leaders called for overcoming the past and building new relations, with Obuchi expressing remorse for the “horrendous damage and pain” Japan’s colonial rule inflicted on the Korean people.
Yoon is also reportedly considering visiting Japan late this month to hold a summit with Kishida. IANS