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Tension simmer between FMs of Seoul and Tokyo as they discuss forced labor ruling Updated: 2019-05-24 19:27:48 KST

The foreign ministers of Seoul and Tokyo met in Paris on Thursday, on the sidelines of an OECD meeting, where they discussed issues including the rulings on Japan's use of Koreans for forced labor before and during World War Two.

"I hope to have an honest and productive discussion with you, minister, on how we can wisely manage our ties."

Things got tense, though, as the Japanese foreign minister criticized a Seoul foreign ministry spokesperson for having said earlier in the day that there would be no problem if the Japanese companies would follow the Korean court's orders and compensate their victims.

"For him to have said that is a serious failure to understand the gravity of the issue. This is the kind of thing that complicate our ties."

In 2018, South Korea's Supreme Court ordered two Japanese companies -- Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corporation and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries -- to compensate the Koreans they forced into labor.
Tokyo argues that the issue was resolved in 1965 when the two sides signed an agreement normalizing their ties.
Japan has asked the South Korean government to intervene, but Seoul says it respects the independence of the courts.
And to Tokyo's request to an arbitration by a third country, it says it is reviewing it.

But in Thursday's meeting, Japan went a step further and targeted the South Korean President.
According to NHK, Kono reportedly told Kang that unless President Moon Jae-in takes responsibility and finds a solution, the issue will not be resolved.
Minister Kang, for her part, called for the use of prudent words, but it's not clear if that was before Kono's remarks or in response to them.

Kono had made a similarly indirect demand of President Moon in a briefing earlier in the week, and it was seen as a diplomatic faux pas for an official of one country to blame and urge action on another state's leader.

After their meeting, Kono told reporters that Japan cannot allow Seoul to continue what he called its "violation of international laws" and that he hopes Seoul will find a solution, possibly before the G20 summit in Osaka at the end of June.

Minister Kang, meanwhile, said the two sides should stay in close communication and urged Japan to do more to heal the wounds of the victims.
Lee Ji-won, Arirang News.
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