As Seoul seeks to forge closer ties with Tokyo, US top diplomat Antony Blinken praised plans unveiled by South Korea on Sunday to compensate victims of Japan’s forced labor during World War II.
Japan and South Korea are “two of the United States’ most important allies, and we are inspired by the work they have done to advance their bilateral relations,” the Secretary of State stated in a statement.
He continued, “Our shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific region is fundamental to the trilateral relationship.
We praise (Seoul and Tokyo) for their bravery and foresight, and we ask the rest of the world to join us in praising this historic accomplishment.
Seoul’s choice coincides with increased security cooperation between South Korea and Japan in response to North Korea’s growing security threats.
But the brutal Japanese colonial rule of the Korean peninsula from 1910 to 1945 has long soured relations between the two countries.
According to data from Seoul, Japan forced around 780,000 Koreans into forced labor during the 35-year occupation, excluding women who were sold into slavery by Japanese troops.
According to South Korea’s Foreign Minister Park Jin, Seoul intends to use funds taken from significant South Korean businesses that benefited from a 1965 reparations agreement with Tokyo to compensate victims.
The proposal has drawn criticism from the victims because it falls far short of their demands for a comprehensive apology from Tokyo and immediate compensation from the responsible Japanese companies.