President Moon Jae-in met with a delegation from the Japan-Korea Parliamentarians’ Union at Cheong Wa Dae from 10:00 this morning.
The President began by saying that Korea and Japan have advanced cooperation in a wide range of areas since the normalization of ties between the two countries in 1965. He went on to say that Korea and Japan have been able to build forward-looking relations while facing up to history thanks to endeavors made by both nations and their people. He urged the Japanese delegation to remember that political leaders in both countries should encourage and support the friendly sentiment of our two peoples.
Fukushiro Nukaga, a member of Japan’s House of Representatives and the current Chairman of the Japan-Korea Parliamentarians’ Union, said that he was looking forward to Korea taking appropriate steps and countermeasures in regard to Korea’s disbandment of the Reconciliation and Healing Foundation (established in 2016 primarily through funds raised by Japan in connection with the “comfort women” issue) and the Korean Supreme Court’s ruling that the Korean victims of forced labor during World War II should be compensated by the relevant Japanese businesses.
In response, President Moon said, “The activities and functions of the Reconciliation and Healing Foundation have long been suspended and most of its board members have stepped down, making the mere passage of a decision difficult. Even though the Foundation was dormant, operation and maintenance fees still had to be paid, so it was disbanded entirely. I hope Korea and Japan will continue to consult each other to put the remaining funds and 100 million yen to an appropriate use that serves the original purpose.”
President Moon went on to say, "The recent ruling regarding forced laborers was made by Korea's judiciary. As in Japan, the separation of legislative, executive and judicial branches is strictly upheld in Korea, so the Korean Government has to respect decisions from the court. The Supreme Court’s ruling does not negate the Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea. However, it indicates that, while the  Treaty is valid, the right of individual laborers to claim damages against Japanese companies was never terminated. The Korean Government is planning to allocate enough time to seek a resolution by bringing together officials from the relevant ministries and agencies and private sector experts."
In addition, President Moon called for calm by noting, "Concerning this matter, cautious and restrained language is required in order to avoid inciting antagonistic emotions between the peoples of our two countries. Disturbing the amicable sentiment between our two countries is not conducive to future progress in Korea-Japan relations."
In reply, Kazuo Shii, an advisor to the Union, said that the essence of the forced labor issue was the infringement of human rights arising from the colonial rule, adding that both Korea and Japan have to work together to restore the victims’ honor and dignity. The Japanese lawmaker added that in a parliamentary hearing, the Japanese Government had, in effect, recently replied that the Treaty on Basic Relations had not terminated individual workers' right to claim damages. He expressed the hope that, in this context, the two countries would continue to make efforts in a forward-looking manner.
Chairman Nukaga pointed out that the Japanese Government also admitted that the right of an individual to claim damages had not yet expired. The Chairman went on to say that since there was a perception that the right of diplomatic protection had been given up, the Korean and Japanese Governments needed to verify this issue with each other.
While praising President Moon for taking the role of a mediator for the North Korea-U.S. summit and the inter-Korean summits, the Chairman stressed the necessity for communication among Korea, the United States and Japan as well as between Korea and Japan.
In reply, President Moon said, “There is no change in my thought that Korea needs to cooperate closely with Japan in regard to denuclearization and the peace process on the Peninsula. Prime Minister Abe and I have consulted with each other through summits, telephone conversations and the dispatch of special envoys, and we will continue to do so. I request Japan’s active support for peace on the Korean Peninsula.”
President Moon asked for endeavors to sustain future-oriented bilateral relations and concluded by saying, “There has been no change in my position to date since my inauguration: looking squarely at and solving historical issues should proceed separately from the development of forward-looking bilateral relations.”