“Japan’s No. 1 salesman”: Korean groups blast president’s treatment of forced laborers

Posted on : 2023-03-17 17:05 KST Modified on : 2023-03-17 17:05 KST
Representatives of around 90 student organizations called the “future youth fund” set up between the business sectors in Korea and Japan “an insult to the youth”
Members of the Peace Nabi Network, a network of university students seeking a resolution to the Japanese military’s system of sexual slavery, hold up signs condemning the Korea-Japan summit and rejecting the Yoon administration’s “degrading” solution to the issue of compensation for forced laborers in front of a monument to forced laborers in the plaza outside Yongsan Station in Seoul on March 16. Visible signs read “Japan’s No. 1 salesman” and “Denial of history.” (Yonhap)
Members of the Peace Nabi Network, a network of university students seeking a resolution to the Japanese military’s system of sexual slavery, hold up signs condemning the Korea-Japan summit and rejecting the Yoon administration’s “degrading” solution to the issue of compensation for forced laborers in front of a monument to forced laborers in the plaza outside Yongsan Station in Seoul on March 16. Visible signs read “Japan’s No. 1 salesman” and “Denial of history.” (Yonhap)

Advocates for Korean victims of forced labor during the Japanese occupation reacted furiously to the outcome of the South Korea-Japan summit on Thursday, saying that President Yoon Suk-yeol had “sold the blood” of forced labor victims under the pretext of shuttle diplomacy.

“President Yoon, who has emphasized the rule of law, has practically stated that it is possible to sell the blood of forced labor victims for the future of Korea, and is regarding this as a ‘great decision,’” said Lee Guk-eon, chairperson of the Citizens Association on Imperial Japan’s Labor Mobilization, while speaking to the Hankyoreh.

In reference to Yoon’s statement that Korea and Japan share the universal values of freedom, human rights, and the rule of law, Lee asked, “How can one talk of human rights when the human rights of the victims of forced labor, whose tears and suffering are being blatantly ignored, are being dismissed?”

Criticism also emerged over Yoon’s official rejection of the 2018 Supreme Court ruling on forced labor while speaking to Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. Kim Yeong-hwan, head of external cooperation at the Center for Historical Truth and Justice, said, “The most serious thing is that Yoon officially denied the Supreme Court’s ruling in front of Japan,” adding, “Yoon made a remark that no president should, in an official setting no less.”

Kim also criticized Yoon’s statement after the summit about redress, saying, “The statute of limitations for redress is 10 years, and he made a statement that he cannot be held accountable for.”

Kim said that Yoon had given Japan a “blank check.”

“In the end, I feel angry and aghast that we have to pay such a big price for a certain someone to get his homework checked and then go off to nosh on omelet rice.”

Prior to the summit, there were a series of rallies against the government’s plan to pay out damages to victims of forced labor via a state-run fund. The civic organization Movement for One Korea held a press conference in front of the Yongsan presidential office on Thursday, where participants described the administration’s actions as “the worst diplomatic disgrace in history,” “a pro-Japanese sellout,” and “begging for a Korea-Japan summit,” and expressed “a sense of humiliation and crisis that no words can describe.”

A total of 89 student organizations and groups across the country also held a press conference in front of the presidential office, calling the “future youth fund” which is being characterized as Japan’s “sincere corresponding action” for the forced labor resolution, “an unpatriotic decision to give up on the future and an insult to the youth.”

By Shin Hyeong-cheol, staff reporter

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