Why South Korea is going to compensate victims of Japan's wartime forced labour

DailyBiteMar 06, 2023 | 14:40

Why South Korea is going to compensate victims of Japan's wartime forced labour

South Korea announces plan to compensate victims of forced labour during Japan rule. Photo: Getty Images, Twitter

Between 1910 and 1945, South Korea suffered under Japanese colonisation. Now, South Korea has proposed a plan to compensate the victims of forced labour, but Japan isn't being asked to pay. Instead, the fund, which will be set up, will come from voluntary donations by private South Korean companies as well as willing Japanese companies.

Most surviving victims of forced labour are now in their 90s. Are you also wondering why South Korean victims of forced labour by Japan will be compensated NOT BY Japanese companies? We are too.



  • South Korea proposed a new plan to raise funds locally to compensate the victims. 
  • South Korea's Foreign Minister Park Jin made the announcement on Monday, March 6. However, he didn't elaborate on how the funds will be set up and financed.
  • Earlier in January, it was reported that compensations would come from South Korean companies and voluntary donations. 
  • The decision has been hailed by the US, which said that South Korea and Japan are taking a step to bolster their relations.

  • The announcement was met by protests by South Korea's opposition party, the victims and their supporters who demanded that Japanese companies should directly compensate the victims. 
  • The opposition Democratic Party called it "submissive diplomacy".
It's a day of shame. Japanese companies embroiled in war crimes received indulgence without even budging...
- An Ho-young, Democratic Party spokesperson

Why South Korea did not ask Japan to compensate:

  • The move has been seen largely as an effort to mend ties with Japan in the face of North Korea's nuclear threats. 
  • In 2018, when the South Korean Supreme Court ordered two Japanese companies - Nippon Steel and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to compensate the victims of forced labour, relations between Seoul and Tokyo nosedived. 
  • Japan responded by restricting exports to Korea and Koreans boycotted Japanese products.
Protests in South Korea in January 2023 against the compensation plan. Photo: AFP
  • It also needs to be noted that Japan had in the past compensated and set up funds to help the South Korean victims of colonisation.
  • Japan insists that claims regarding colonisation for forced labour and sex slavery of Korean women (known as comfort women) were addressed when a treaty was signed in 1965. 
  • Under the treaty, Japan gave $300 million in economic aid and some $500 million. It was received by the then-South Korean autocratic leader Park Chung-hee.
  • Much of the aid went to South Korean businesses, the reason why Korean companies are now being called to donate to the latest fund. 
  • In 2015, Tokyo set up a $9.23 million fund to address the "comfort women" issue. However, in 2018, then-South Korean President Moon Jae-in dismissed the fund saying it wasn't enough. 
South Korean "comfort women" after liberation. Photo: US Marine Corps
  • Earlier in January, South Korean officials said their aim was to compensate the victims and the chances of "liquidation of Japanese corporate assets" for compensation were slim. 

What Japan has to say: 

  • Japan said it welcomes South Korea's announcement and will allow Japanese companies to contribute towards the fund. 

It needs to be seen whether the plan marks the conclusion of South Korea and Japan's bitter relations based on historical events. 

Last updated: March 06, 2023 | 14:40
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