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THE South Korea today officially announced its plan to offer reparations to its nationals who were forced to work against their will in Japan during the imperial occupation, with which the Seoul hopes to end bilateral tensions to strengthen bilateral relations, amid tensions with North Korea.

South Korea and Japan are key US security allies in the region, which the governments of the three states say is threatened by North Korea. However, their bilateral relations have been strained for decades due to Tokyo’s colonial occupation of the Korean peninsula (1910-1945).

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According to Seoul’s numbers, approx 780,000 Koreans they had been forced to work during the 35 years of Japanese military occupation, not counting the women who were sexually enslaved by Japanese imperial troops.

South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin announced the establishment of a South Korean foundation to compensate the victims and their families, without any direct Japanese involvement.

He stated that “hopes that Japan will respond positively to the major decision we are announcing today, with voluntary contributions from Japanese companies and an apology».

In Japan, media had already reported that Japanese companies were considering making some donations, while Tokyo is expected to again express its regret for the slavery endured by Koreans, something it has done in the past.

Tokyo insists that bilateral treaty of 1965which allowed the two countries to re-establish diplomatic relations and provide some $800 million in grants and soft loans, had already closed the issue of colonial-era claims.

The government’s plan in Seoul calls for a Korean foundation to be tasked with collecting donations from major South Korean businesses — which received funds from Japan in 1965 — to compensate the victims.

According to the South Korean foreign minister, the “historic” plan is necessary to improve Seoul-Tokyo relations.

Cooperation between (South) Korea and Japan is very important in all fields, diplomacy, economy and security, in today’s environment of very serious international situation and difficult global crisis“, he said.

I believe that the vicious circle must be broken, for the good of our people” and “for the national interest“, he insisted.

Although the proposal was immediately welcomed by Tokyo, it has drawn fierce criticism from victims and the opposition, which has accused President Yoon Seok-geil’s government of being neither more nor less “Delivered” In Japan.

Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi insisted that the compensations will not be given directly by Japanese companies, while he expressed the hope that Seoul’s plan will lead to a further deepening of the bilateral relationship, which according to him will become more “healthy”.

A source close to Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida noted that Washington was pushing the two sides to reach a compromise, but the factor that pushed President Yun to decide was the geopolitical threats from North Korea and China.

When Seoul outlined the proposal in January, victims and their relatives reacted strongly, especially because it does not provide for compensation from Japanese companies, even though they have been ordered by South Korean justice to pay.

Some citizens protested outside the venue as Mr. Park announced the plan.

It’s about “a total victory for Japan, which insisted that it would not pay a single yen for slavery“, Lim Jae-sug, the advocate of several victims, emphasized via Facebook yesterday Sunday.

The Democratic Party (official opposition) called the plan “diplomacy of subjugation”. “Today is a day of shame,” said Ahn Ho-yang, a representative of the faction, recalling that Japanese companies are involved in “war crimes” but remain unpunished, while the Japanese government gets rid of this headache in bilateral relations simply by “repeating statements that had been done earlier’ than Tokyo.