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S. Korea, Japan foreign ministers to meet in Paris

  • May 21, 2019
  • , Kyodo News , 2:20 p.m.
  • English Press
SEOUL — The foreign ministers of South Korea and Japan are scheduled to hold talks in Paris this week on the sidelines of a gathering of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the South Korean Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.


The talks between Kang Kyung Wha and Taro Kono, slated to coincide with an OECD ministerial council meeting to be held Wednesday and Thursday, will take place as the two countries remain at odds over wartime labor issues.


On Monday, Tokyo asked Seoul for a third-party arbitration panel to be established following South Korean court rulings ordering Japanese companies to pay compensation for forced labor during Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.


The South Korean government said it will “carefully review” the request, based on a 1965 bilateral accord that addressed problems of property and claims between the two nations.


It remains unclear whether Seoul will agree to Japan’s arbitration request.


In Tokyo on Tuesday, Kono told a press conference that he hopes to discuss the wartime labor issue with Kang, saying, “I don’t think South Korea wants relations with Japan to worsen further.


“They have to accept our request for arbitration. If necessary, we are prepared to dispute the issue under international law.”


Besides the issue, the foreign ministers are also likely to discuss a possible meeting between South Korean President Moon Jae In and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the occasion of a Group of 20 summit in Osaka in June.


While Moon has expressed his readiness to meet, Japanese Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasutoshi Nishimura indicated earlier this month that such a meeting would be difficult to arrange unless South Korea takes action on wartime labor issues.


Last October, South Korea’s top court ordered Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp. to compensate former Korean laborers for forced work. Since then, similar rulings have been passed against other Japanese companies.


Japan has called on South Korea to resolve the matter internally without hurting the interests of its companies operating there.


The South Korean government has said it cannot intervene in judicial decisions due to the separation of powers.


The two foreign ministers last held talks in mid-February, in Germany.

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