Vice Foreign Minister Cho Hyun met Thursday with his Japanese counterpart Takeo Akiba in Tokyo in a chilly meeting on Thursday and discussed a controversial 2015 agreement compensating Korean women who were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese Imperial Army.
Akiba expressed regret at Seoul's decision to shut down a foundation set up with 1 billion yen in Japanese money to compensate the women and insisted Seoul must faithfully abide by the agreement.
The meeting came after President Moon Jae-in last month told Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of his decision to close the foundation. Neither some of the victims nor the Korean public at large are happy about the agreement, which was concluded in murky circumstances by the Park Geun-hye administration and lets Tokyo off without admitting responsibility.
The two officials also discussed the Korean Supreme Court's expected ruling on compensating Koreans laborers who were forced to work in Japanese factories during World War II. The court is to rule soon on a compensation suit filed by four victims against Nippon Steel.
For a long time the two neighbors worked on the assumption that all claims against the former occupying power were settled by a 1965 lump sum payment that normalized ties between the two countries.
But the Supreme Court in 2012 ruled that an agreement between the two governments cannot void individual compensation claims. In 2013, the Seoul High Court ordered Japan to pay compensation to the Korean individuals, drawing vehement protest from the Japanese government.
On Thursday, Akiba again insisted that the matter has already been settled. If the Supreme Court finds in favor of the claimants, Japan is expected to take the matter to the International Court of Justice.
Former Korean Ambassador to Japan Shin Kak-soo said, "Japanese companies will probably refuse to pay, while the Japanese government will portray Korea as having no regard for the law."
Japan has had enormous trouble coming to terms with its colonial and war crimes, and denying them is a solid vote-winner for rightwing parties there.
President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attend a meeting in New York on Sept. 25. /Yonhap