Japanese Foreign Affairs Minister Taro Kono made a mentioning of the forced labor issue on Tuesday at a regular press conference, requesting South Korean President Moon Jae-in take the main responsibility for responding to the issue. It is the first occasion for a Japanese government official to call on President Moon to take direct action regarding the forced labor issue.
Minister Kono remarked that Seoul may not want its relationship with Tokyo to be soured further. “The Japanese government has taken limited action as South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon is known to be in charge of resolving the forced labor issue,” the Japanese minister said. “Japan has been aware that it will take some time to get it addressed, but I heard that Lee said there is a limit for the Korean government can do.” Kono added that there are few options left in Japan’s hands, emphasizing the significance of this issue in the South Korea-Japan bilateral relationship. Previously on May 15, Lee mentioned at a forum by the Korea News Editors' Association that any intervention by the administration at this stage violates the principle of separating legal, administrative, and judicial powers as legal procedures are underway.
Minister Kono also remarked that Japan is open to take the case to an international judiciary institute, if necessary, so that it can end up with a clear-cut solution. His remark implies that Tokyo may file an appeal case with the International Court of Justice if failed attempts are to be made to have bilateral discussion and hold an arbitration committee as per the 1965 agreement between South Korea and Japan.
South Korean presidential office Cheong Wa Dae reportedly gave an indirect answer to Japan’s request for arbitration, stressing that it is a matter that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should respond. It was told that the ministry answered that it would review the issue prudently, said the South Korean presidential office. Meanwhile, some Cheong Wa Dae staff have shown enragement regarding Kono’s request for President Moon’s greater responsibility, arguing that his remark will only be ineffective in resolving the current status quo. “The Korean government is determining to refrain from intervening in any rule by Korea’s Supreme Court while continuing to find a solution,” said a Korean government official.