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ROK urges Japan to hold back on labor ruling

Jiji Press SEOUL (Jiji Press) — South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak Yeon urged the Japanese government on Wednesday to refrain from excessive criticism of a recent ruling by his country’s top court on wartime requisitioned workers.

Lee claimed in a statement that Japanese government leaders are making extreme remarks about the Supreme Court ruling in favor of the South Korean workers, in a lawsuit against a major Japanese company.

He expressed deep concern about the Japanese response to the ruling.

The statement by Lee, well versed in Japanese affairs, came on top of the South Korean Foreign Ministry’s similar criticism of Japan on Tuesday.

The South Korean government has maintained the view that the issue of individual damages claims for former requisitioned workers has been resolved, in line with the Japanese government’s position that the issue was settled completely and finally under a 1965 bilateral agreement concluded when Japan and South Korea normalized their diplomatic relations.

The ruling, however, ordered Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp. to pay compensation to the plaintiffs for wartime forced labor.

In the statement, Lee said the Supreme Court did not deny the 1965 bilateral accord but ruled on its scope.

The prime minister stressed that he is trying not to comment on the issue as much as possible, while striving to come up with appropriate response in consultation with related government divisions and private experts.

Also on Wednesday, a senior official of the South Korean president’s office said Seoul needs to rethink its position as the decision by the top court is different from the government’s view.

It will take some time to decide a government position, the official said. In this situation, excessive criticism from the Japanese government is not useful to resolve the issue, the official added.

The remarks showed clearly that the ruling is out of line with the South Korean government’s standard position.

Still, the official stressed that the government is unable immediately to show a position different from the ruling.

The official also said that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Moon Jae In are unlikely to hold a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of gatherings related to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations next week.

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