Sat, Mar 23, 2019 - Page 6 News List

S Korea minister warns against plan to label Japan goods ‘made by war crimes’


South Korea’s foreign minister has intervened over a provincial proposal to apply stickers to some Japanese-made items in schools as “made by a Japanese firm responsible for war crimes.”

South Korea and Japan are both democracies and US allies faced with an increasingly assertive China and the long-running threat of nuclear-armed North Korea.

However, their own ties have remained icy for years due to bitter disputes over history and territory stemming from Japan’s rule over the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945, with forced labor and wartime sexual slavery key examples.

Now, 27 members of the Gyeonggi provincial legislature have proposed ordering all schools in the region to put stickers on items such as cameras and photocopiers made by Japanese firms they believe are implicated in abuses.

They have put together a list of 284 companies, including household names like Toshiba, Mitsubishi and Hitachi.

“These Japanese companies caused Koreans serious harm during colonial rule, taking their lives and causing physical harm and financial damage by organizing forced labor, among other actions,” the proposed label would read.

Gyeonggi surrounds Seoul and is one of the South’s richest provinces, with a population of 12 million people — almost one-quarter of the national total.

South Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs Kang Kyung-wha on Thursday told the South Korean National Assembly that the proposal needed to be “reviewed with caution” and that “diplomatic relations should be taken into consideration.”

Japan has maintained that all historical compensation issues between the two nations were settled under a 1965 treaty that re-established diplomatic relations, which included a reparations package of about US$800 million in grants and cheap loans.

Conservative South Korean lawmakers have criticized the proposal, with Kim Jeong-hwa, a spokeswoman for the minor opposition Bareunmirae Party saying in a statement: “We urge the ruling party to differentiate the past and the present, as well as our diplomacy and our emotions.”

She also accused South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s administration of spreading anti-Japanese propaganda to “cover up its incompetence.”

The Korea Herald yesterday condemned what it called “outmoded nationalism” in an editorial, saying that the war ended more than 70 years ago and some companies have since changed hands.

“Their current employees can hardly be said to be related to the war or war crimes,” it added.

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